The Orioles’ 2011 Trading Season

The Orioles are 35-40, 9.5 games out of first place in the AL East, and 2.5 games behind the Blue Jays. I’m not ragging on the team; these are facts. Things have obviously not gone as well as expected for the team overall, even if there have been a few bright spots (Hardy, Jones, Wieters, Britton, Reynolds at the plate). So as we move into July, it’s not inappropriate to shift focus a little and think about what the trade market holds. Given how the team’s various players are developing, the course of action that would maximize the organization’s chances of making the playoffs in the next, say, 10 years, would be to blow up the current roster and start rebuilding again. But that obviously has pretty much a 0% chance of happening, as it would give up on the Quest for .500*. So what will the team do? I’m guessing… not much.

* The Quest for .500 is the name given to the O’s apparently making moves whose primarily goal is to get the team to .500 or above this year. It’ll be a recurring theme in this post.

Here are the available players, more or less:

Nick Markakis
Mark Reynolds
Jeremy Guthrie
JJ Hardy
Luke Scott
Derrek Lee
Vlad Guerrero
The bullpen

Markakis will not be dealt because (1) he’s one of the faces of the franchise, and (2) he doesn’t have much value. Corner outfielders who don’t walk or hit for power making $12-15 M a year are not in high demand.

Reynolds will not be dealt because (1) they just got him and don’t want to give up the offense (Quest for .500!), and (2) he doesn’t have much value given his defense.

Guthrie will not be dealt because (1) he has a fair amount of value to the O’s as he’s a stable rotation spot, but (2) he’s not actually that great a pitcher overall (though still solid). He’s honestly probably worth more to the Orioles than to other teams.

Hardy will not be dealt because his great season is aiding the Quest for .500. He should be dealt, because (though I’m a huge fan) the O’s won’t – and likely shouldn’t – match the offers he’ll get when he becomes a free agent (could be more than 3-4 years at $10-12 M a year). They made the mistake of not extending Hardy early, and will likely exacerbate it by just letting him walk at the end of the season.

Scott will not be dealt because he doesn’t really have much value at this point. He should have been traded in past seasons, but wasn’t (Quest for .500!) – and now he’s worse, older, and more expensive. It’s hard to know what offers were actually out there, but I have a hunch there was some deal worth taking*. At the moment, it seems many fans want him gone because he’s not hitting (Scott: .329 wOBA, Vlad: .309 wOBA), doesn’t have much defensive value (Scott: not good left-fielder, Vlad: doesn’t own a glove), and is taking away playing time that could go to Nolan Reimold and Felix Pie, to see what they can do (where have I heard that before?).

* If me and a couple Rays bloggers were put in charge, he’d have been in Tampa Bay last year – or perhaps even the year before.

Lee will not be dealt because he has no value. If the O’s eat most of his salary for the rest of the year, maybe they get a mediocre prospect. But what team actually needs a player of Lee’s current caliber enough to give up other players for him at this point?

Vlad will not be dealt for the same reasons as Lee, plus the O’s (and the fans – rarely do I hear a bad word said against him on the radio, for example, and when they do mention his lack of hitting they still throw out the veteran presence/line-up protection junk) seem to really like him.

Relievers like Kevin Gregg and Koji should be available, but I doubt the team wants to weaken the pen (Quest for .500!). What will it do for the confidence of the young pitchers if their leads are blown and their wins taken away?!?

Really, the Orioles probably will make a trade or two. But for the reasons outlined above, I don’t think July will be a very busy month for the team. Unfortunately.