What Should the Orioles Do?

Overview

With their 10-4 loss to the Marlins last night the Orioles are now 19-51, last place in the majors by six full games. That puts them on pace for a 44-118 season, which would put them in company with the 2003 Tigers and 1962 Mets. It would also be a 20-game downturn from last season, when they went 64-98. There are a few bright spots and plenty of potential, but these Orioles are a bad team that has underperformed. There’s not much anyone can do to fix that.

Buy Or Sell

The O’s face a conundrum as the deadline approaches. They do have a number of players who other teams will find attractive. The Orioles stand to improve future teams by cashing in on those players, so in an ideal world they’d be aggressive sellers. But the Orioles have to deal with reality, and in reality those trade chips rank among their top performers. To sell them off could be what pushes the Orioles past that 120-loss mark. No team wants to face that possibility.

Orioles president and CEO Andy MacPhail might not have a choice. He knows what lies ahead for his team. There is no mercy for the weak in the AL East, and the division will only get tougher as Toronto reloads. For Baltimore to keep its best trading chips would be to miss an opportunity to help build a stronger future. That is not something they can afford right now. If it means a new low in the loss column, well, that’s the price that teams sometimes have to pay for future wins.

After a strong start Kevin Millwood has pitched poorly lately, which certainly hurts his trade stock. As Dave wrote yesterday, however, he could present a bargain for a contending team looking for an additional arm. This is good for the contender, but bad for the Orioles. According to Eddie Bajek’s reverse engineering of the Elias rankings Millwood still rates as a Type B free agent, and unless he completely collapses probably won’t lose that designation. The Orioles can likely do better — they did, after all, nab Josh Bell for George Sherrill last year — but they shouldn’t expect a huge return for Millwood.

Ty Wigginton has made the most of his playing time. He started the season as a reserve, but became a starter when Brian Roberts hit the DL with back problems. He would have gotten at-bats anyway, considering Garrett Atkins‘s horrible bat, but he has taken advantage regardless. His .367 wOBA still ranks high on the AL charts, though it is dropping. Since May 19th he’s hitting .223/.339/.282. He’s clearly better than that, but he’s not as good as his early season hot streak either. Because he is versatile he should find a few suitors, but because he is a free agent at the end of the year teams likely won’t give up much for the rental.

The player that could probably fetch the greatest return is outfielder Luke Scott. This is his sixth season in the majors, but he has accumulated only three full years of service time, meaning he has two more dates with the arbitration panel before becoming a free agent. His production this year, a .365 wOBA, is in line with his career .360 mark. His best defensive innings have come at the outfield corners, where he has a positive career UZR. The production and service time combination means the Orioles could get more for Scott than they could for Millwood and Wigginton. In a year when offense is down, there are certainly a few contenders who could use an outfielder with an .838 OPS.

The rest of the roster features nothing attractive. The Orioles want to hang onto their younger players, and the rest are veterans who probably wouldn’t help a contender. Even Miguel Tejada looks pretty terrible right now. The only other name that approaches attractiveness is Jeremy Guthrie, and it’s unlikely the O’s trade him. Like Scott, he has two more years of arbitration which, combined with his mere $3 million salary in 2010, could yield some decent offers from other clubs. But to lose Guthrie would be to lose veteran presence in the rotation next year. It’s not something that we can really quantify, but I’m sure the Orioles would like to avoid relying on a rotation of pitchers 25 and younger.

On The Farm

This is where things get interesting for the Orioles. They have already tapped a couple of pitchers from their top 10, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta, and could again dip into that pool later this season. LHP Zach Britton, their No. 3 prospect entering the season, has pitched very well at AA and might take a trip to Baltimore before season’s end. Switch-hitting Josh Bellhasn’t hit that well at AAA, but considering the poor production the O’s are getting from third base he could also crack the roster this season. First base prospect Brandon Snyder has heated up of late and could find himself with the big league squad in September. Again, it’s not like they’re getting anything from their current first basemen.

Beyond those guys the O’s have a number of high-ceiling guys at the lower levels. Some of them might be able to help next year, but as the team has learned this year it’s not something they can count on. It looks like the O’s could use more in the way of middle infield prospects. They have plenty of pitching on the farm.

Budget

The O’s opened the season with a $73.8 million payroll, their highest since 2007. That shouldn’t matter much, though. Budget is probably the last item on the team’s collective mind. It’s all about rebuilding now. Even if that means losing 120 games.



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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


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David Coonce
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David Coonce
5 years 11 months ago

It seems like Wigginton is tailor-made for the Yankees, with his versatility and decent bat. Any chance Baltimore trades him within the division, though? Discuss.

James Feldman
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James Feldman
5 years 11 months ago

I think the Orioles would trade him to the Yankees for the right return, particularly since he’s a pending free agent so he won’t be with them when the Orioles aren’t the worst team in baseball.

But I don’t see the Yankees having the right players to deal for him. Their prospects are either too good for half a season of Wiggy, or not good enough to make the deal worth making.

Luke
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5 years 11 months ago

Wigginton, along with Markakis, has been the only Orioles’ hitter that has consistently done his earned his paycheck. Wigginton can play multiple positions, although not particularly well — first, second and third base. Wigginton mashed earlier in the year, hitting 13 homers in the first 6-7 weeks of the season and was among the league leaders in wOBA. With Kendry Morales out for the year for the Angels, Wigginton might be an attractive piece for them. Can’t see the Yankees making a move for Wigginton due to the lack of pieces on the farm and that Wigginton would essentially just be a bench player for them. I guess he could DH for them. I just don’t see it happening, though.

Bill
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Bill
5 years 11 months ago

I agree with that the Angels seem like a good fit for Wiggy even though, I’m sure, the O’s have no problem trading him within the division. It’s not like he’ll be good for years to come.

Nicky C
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Nicky C
5 years 11 months ago

The Halos also need 3rd base help, so Wiggy would be a very attractive fit

fjrobinson44
Member
fjrobinson44
5 years 11 months ago

If the Orioles can get some sort of return for Guthrie, it seems like they should do so. They can go sign a pitcher with “veteran presence” on the free agent market in the offseason. With the salaries they’ll shed (around $45M) via the departures of those you mention and other free agents, they should be able to pick up a 1.5 WAR SP.

Jim
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Jim
5 years 11 months ago

That does seem like their best bet, doesn’t it?

I mean, given that guys like Garrett Atkins, Matt Albers, Mike Gonzalez, and Cesar Izturis have little to no worth on the trading block, then Guthrie–aside from Ty Wigginton and Kevin Millwood–seems like their best trading chip.

{That is, short of trading one of their Big Three offensive players–Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Matt Wieters, all of whom have struggled, so it would be selling low on them to trade them now.}

Brian Roberts has been injured and will likely still be so by the time the trading deadline of July 31 comes, and I can’t imagine that, as the face of the franchise these many years, he would actually be traded.

I suppose there’s also Miguel Tejada, but he might have more worth to them at this point.

Beyond that, it’s a bunch of young players like their Big Three starters of the future(Arrieta, Matusz, and Tillman), Nolan Reimold, David Hernandez, Brad Bergesen, and a few others. None of them would likely be traded, as they’re all young and cost controlled and fill a role on the team.

Makes me think that a big name via free agency, like Carlos Pena to play 1B, might not be a bad idea this offseason. They could wait until after 2011 and pursue another 1B like Fielder or Gonzalez should they be available–could they possibly get Fielder and move him to DH? Just a thought. ;)

Resolution
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Resolution
5 years 11 months ago

What about trading people like Nick Markakis or Adam Jones? They’re both solid but I feel like they’re somewhat overrated. Markakis has his breakout year but hasn’t improved much, and Adam Jones has shown flashes of potential but even then doesn’t seem to offer too much power, speed, and patience at the dish.

They might be able to get some really solid returns for those two guys who could help them in a few years… or would trading them just be stupid?

Dave
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Dave
5 years 11 months ago

Resolution – I agree. I’m a huge O’s fan. I’ve been thinking lately that a trade of Markakis may be the best move the O’s could make (I would keep Jones because of CF value). Even though he is my favorite player on the team, I tend to agree that he is slightly overated (although he is at least slightly above average in all aspects of the game). But despite this, on name alone, he could probably net a very big return from the likes of the Red Sox or the Yankees. The O’s have other young outfielders they could plug in and potentially net a big first base prospect (say – move Montero to 1B) and a top pitching prospect. The only thing that keeps me up at night about this move is – moving Markakis to a good environment in a top notch lineup might unlock a beast (if Damon can hit 24 HR/Swisher 29 HR in that lineup, Markakis could hit 30+).

Carligula
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Carligula
5 years 11 months ago

But if the beast would remain locked up if Markakis stayed in Baltimore, it’s really no loss.

I really don’t understand what has happened to the Orioles… a few months ago, it seemed like they had as much young talent as any team. As bad as they look now, I don’t think they should do anything rash with the core players.

Rich
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Rich
5 years 11 months ago

Markakis is good, but I don’t see the Red Sox as having any interest. For right now, Drew is a much better player, and the Red Sox have a couple of toolsy outfielders that are almost in the majors: Reddick, Kalish, Nava (not really toolsy), and Elsbury should be back in a couple weeks.

“but I’m sure the Orioles would like to avoid relying on a rotation of pitchers 25 and younger.”

Why? The Rays the last couple years have had a rotation in the 25 year old range (they’re in the 27 year old range now).

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