Reassessing the Orioles' place in the AL playoff picture after Monday's trade deadline

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

With the recent additions of shortstop Tim Beckham and pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, combined with the subtraction of no major Orioles players, the end of July gave a clear indication that the Orioles are a team still harboring hopes for a playoff run in 2017.

Unfortunately for them, so are plenty of other American League teams — and all of them retooled a bit as well. Whether it was the teams the Orioles are chasing adding for a playoff run this month or those mired in the middle class deciding to look toward the future, everyone made moves this week.

Here's how all the teams in the American League, all the way down to the Orioles with the league's 10th-best record entering Monday, fared. They should be heartened that many of the teams in the second tier where they reside did nothing. But the team's they're chasing got much better.

Houston Astros (69-36; 1st place, AL West)

Even as they sputter a bit of late, the Astros are so young, talented, and deep that they didn't have to do much. Their main piece of business was acquiring left-hander Francisco Liriano from the Toronto Blue Jays. He'll fit as a relief piece there, according to reports, and all they had to do was give up spare outfielder Nori Aoki along with prospect Teoscar Hernandez. Considering what they could have paid for a higher-profile reliever, and their comfortable lead, they went small at the deadline.

New York Yankees (57-47, 1st place, AL East)

No one will accuse the Yankees of going small at the deadline. The team made a pair of high-profile trades and a sneakier under-the-radar one. Their work began on July 18, when third baseman Todd Frazier and relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle were acquired from the Chicago White Sox. Then they brought in rental pitcher Jaime García from the Minnesota Twins on Sunday, and completed a major trade for Oakland starter Sonny Gray on Monday.

It cost them dearly in prospect value, but the Yankees stocked up last summer and have drafted well. It's a price worth paying to fix every major hole on your roster.

Cleveland Indians (57-47, 1st place, AL Central)

The streaking Indians were mooted to be a landing spot for all the top trade chips, but they ended up only adding left-hander Joe Smith from the Toronto Blue Jays. Their bullpen already has Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, and Bryan Shaw to pitch behind a strong rotation with a dynamic lineup. They decided it wouldn't take much at the deadline to return to the World Series.

Boston Red Sox (58-49, 1st Wild Card)

Boston's desire to stay under the luxury tax, combined with the high-profile trades they've made in the last two years, made for a quiet deadline there, albeit one that saw both of their needs addressed. For the combined price of five minor league pitchers, they acquired standout utility infielder Eduardo Nuñez from the San Francisco Giants and reliever Addison Reed from the New York Mets. That's all in addition to their annual late-season addition of a top prospect, this time third baseman Rafael Devers. Devers and Nuñez will fill their third base void, while Reed strengthens their bridge to closer Craig Kimbrel. A late-season run like Boston went on last year isn't unreasonable to expect.

Kansas City Royals (55-49, 2nd Wild Card)

Sunday's addition of steady outfield bat Melky Cabrera was the second big piece of business for the Royals, who are surging up the standings in what is their final year with most of their 2015 World Series core intact. The first move brought pitchers Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer, and Ryan Buchter in from San Diego to remake their pitching staff. Cahill had a tough debut as a starter, but the other two have combined for five scoreless outings so far.

Seattle Mariners (54-53, 2 1/2 games out of 2nd Wild Card)

Despite being 3 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, all Seattle did was swap Erasmo Ramírez in for Steve Cishek and acquire Mariners reliever David Phelps. Phelps cost four prospects and allowed the go-ahead runs in his first appearance with the club.

Tampa Bay Rays (54-53, 2 1/2 games out of 2nd Wild Card)

Tampa Bay began adding to their club early with the trade for shortstop Adeiny Hechavarría in late June, and since then, they've added relievers Dan Jennings, Sergio Romo and Steve Cishek plus first baseman Lucas Duda. Their improved bullpen has been evident early, and the addition of Hechavarría allowed them to net a future asset from the Orioles for Beckham on Monday.

Baltimore Orioles (51-54, 4 1/2 games out of 2nd Wild Card)

Even at the relatively low cost that they added to their roster, the Orioles were most aggressive of anyone this far out of the running in bringing in starter Jeremy Hellickson and shortstop Tim Beckham. Hellickson is more of an upgrade over what they have than Beckham, but it's hard to see it all as enough to get them back from this far out.

Minnesota Twins (50-53, 4 1/2 games out of 2nd Wild Card)

Minnesota was five games out entering Monday, but only days earlier, they thought they were going to be buyers. They traded for Garcia, only to flip him shortly thereafter to the Yankees, and also sent out All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler to the Washington Nationals. Five games is clearly farther to climb in Minnesota than it seems in Baltimore.

Los Angeles Angels (51-55, five games out of 2nd Wild Card)

Level with the Orioles at 5 1/2 games back entering Monday, the Angels stayed relatively pat at the deadline, sending reliever David Hernandez to Arizona.

Texas Rangers (50-55, 5 1/2 games out of 2nd Wild Card)

The third team sitting 5 1/2 games back with the Orioles on Monday did the most to punt on the season out of anyone within reach of the playoffs. Texas dealt ace Yu Darvish to the Los Angeles Dodgers, catcher Jonathan Lucroy to the Colorado Rockies, and reliever Jeremy Jeffress to the Milwaukee Brewers.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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