The Baltimore Orioles were shut out by the Boston Red Sox on Sunday afternoon, dropping the series 2 games to 1 and now find themselves having lost 5 of 6 overall. With the MLB Trade Deadline falling on Wednesday afternoon, the team has a few days to assess their current situation and figure out what holes they need to fill, and what prospects they are potentially ready to give up in exchange for MLB talent.
There is tons of speculation surrounding the Birds right now, and all the latest rumors can be found here. Despite the team’s recent skid, they are still in a good spot, as they hold the second and final Wild Card spot in the American League, and are still only 5 games behind Boston in the AL East. Having made two trades already this season, bringing in Scott Feldman and Francisco Rodriguez to bolster the pitching rotation/bullpen respectively, do the O’s need to make another deal to stay in contention, or are their recent struggles just a blip on the radar?
Over their last 6 games, the Orioles have given up 4.3 runs per game, and if you take out Chris Tillman’s brilliant performance against Boston, that number jumps to 5.2 runs per game. That, quite simply, isn’t good enough, even with a lineup that has as much potential as any in the league. On the season, the O’s have given up 470 runs, the 7th most in all of baseball. The top 3 guys in the rotation (Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, and Miguel Gonzales) have cemented themselves as guys that Baltimore can rely on, even though Gonzales got blasted by Kansas City in his last start. Feldman has been up and (mostly) down during his short stint in Baltimore, but has proven in the past that he is capable of winning and putting up good numbers. Jason Hammel, the team’s fifth starter, would have probably lost his spot in the rotation on most other teams by now, and his great season a year ago is looking more and more like a flash in the pan. There is always a chance that he regains that magic, however.
If the Orioles are willing to give up one or more of their A-list prospects for an ace, it would certainly help the team. But trading away prospects when, despite what the organization might say, the Baltimore farm system is not terribly deep is risky business, especially when the two big name guys out there (Jake Peavy and Cliff Lee) are not having world-beating seasons themselves, and are aging. They might be fine with the rotation they have in the long run, and the bullpen is now set, but I would not discount the notion of them adding a 5th starter to replace Hammel.
My recommendation: Add a back-end of the rotation starter, if anything at all.
During their 6-game slump, the O’s have scored 2.5 a game, and when paired with them giving up 4.3 a game, it’s easy to see why have been scuffling lately. But the offense overall has been great from the start of the season. The successes of Chris Davis, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado are well documented, although Davis and Machado have been in personal slumps since the All-Star break. Davis has been especially bad, striking out 20 times in 10 games since the break, and has yet to hit another homerun after hitting an MLB leading 37 in the first half. Still, you have to think that the offense will pick the pace back up soon, as the team is too talented to have a prolonged downswing of this magnitude, and they did blow the doors off of the Texas Rangers to open the second half.
If there was one position of need on offense, however, it would be another right-handed bat capable of splitting time with freshly called-up Henry Urrutia, who has performed well in his first eight games. If the Birds could acquire a bat like, for example, Michael Young, who could DH against lefties (or right-handers) if Urrutia struggles, and could also provide insurance for multiple infield positions, that would be a worthwhile opportunity. I do not think Baltimore will give up a ton to get a hitter with how effective their lineup has been thus far.
My recommendation: Go get a righty bat to fortify the bench (Young would be my personal preference)