Even with the Orioles in a tailspin over the last six weeks, executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette said it was “a little premature” to consider whether or not his team will be sellers at the trade deadline, Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun writes. If anything, the O’s are still considering making an upgrade to their struggling rotation.
“Our pitching hasn’t been up to standards,” Duquette said. “We’re going to keep our eye out and try to get our pitching back to a competitive level, and see if we can make some additions to the team and see where we are in terms of contending for a playoff spot.”
The Orioles held the top spot in the AL East for much of the early part of the season, and had a 22-10 record after a victory on May 9. Since that date, however, Baltimore has just a 13-28 mark. Some notable injuries (Zach Britton, Chris Davis, Darren O’Day) have been a factor, and top hitters like Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Mark Trumbo have been below-average contributors at the plate.
The Orioles’ biggest weakness, however, has been a lack of reliable starting pitching. Baltimore starters have combined for the second-worst fWAR (1.6) and ERA (5.79) in all of baseball, ahead of only the Reds in both categories. Orioles starters aren’t missing bats (6.69 K/9, third-lowest of any rotation in the league) while also posting a league-high 4.13 BB/9.
The O’s have acquired the likes of Wade Miley, Scott Feldman and Bud Norris in deadline trades under Duquette’s time running the front office, and the summer trade market is flush with pitching options for teams looking for rotation help. On the other hand, as Meoli notes, the Orioles’ farm system is thin on major trade chips for opposing teams.
Of course, there won’t be any buying at the deadline if the Orioles don’t turn things around in fairly quick fashion. Welington Castillo will only return in 2018 if he exercises a player option, so the Orioles could consider moving him as a rental for other teams. For bigger-picture moves, Meoli points out that Machado, Jones, Britton and Brad Brach are all free agents after 2018. While dealing Machado or Jones would portend at a larger rebuild, it’s possible Baltimore could explore trading one of the relievers for prospects and then keeping the other as the closer for next season (when the team would presumably be looking for a quick return to contention).
One bright side for the Orioles is a crowded American League table, so Baltimore entered today’s action six games behind the Red Sox in the AL East and just 3.5 games out of the second wild card spot. The question would be how much the O’s want to invest in midseason trades when a best-case scenario might be the one-game playoff, though for Duquette, the wild card is still an attractive target.
“If we get a little bit more time, maybe the second wild card gives a lot of teams hope,” Duquette said. “And once you get into that playoff situation, a lot of teams have advanced from that wild-card spot and done well in the playoffs. There’s more baseball to play, and our aim is to try to get back to playing the kind of baseball that fans are used to from the Baltimore Orioles.”