That's something Duquette and Showalter are not taking for granted.
Duquette is actively scouring the trade and waiver markets, as he has done all season. He added veteran designated hitter Jim Thome to the mix in a trade with Philadelphia Phillies on June 30 to help boost the offense's on-base percentage and left-handed power output.
His current priorities are to bolster the starting rotation and add a table-setting hitter with a high on-base percentage.
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They also will be kicking the tires of any other available veteran starting pitcher, whether it is high-end stock such as Philadelphia's Cole Hamels and the Chicago Cubs' Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster, or lower-end possibilities such as Arizona's Joe Saunders, Oakland's Bartolo Colon, Seattle's Jason Vargas or Houston's Wandy Rodriguez.
And if a leadoff type or a high-OBP hitter is being shopped — some players that could fit the profile include Philadelphia's Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco, Minnesota's Denard Span, Arizona's Justin Upton, San Diego's Chase Headley and the Chicago Cubs' David DeJesus — you can expect Duquette to be interested.
However, the Orioles likely will be limited in their ability to land one of the more coveted players that could be on the market — such as Greinke, Upton, Victorino, Headley — because their farm system is limited, and that would put them at a disadvantage in a bidding war.
The Orioles have two of the most heralded prospects in baseball in right-hander Dylan Bundy, 19, and shortstop Manny Machado, 20. Duquette has stopped short of saying anyone is untouchable, but he's made it pretty clear that Bundy and Machado are an integral part of the organization's future.
"They can be really good major leaguers for a really long time," Duquette said. "That's the way I look at it. I don't know that we want to send them to another ballclub for two months or 10 starts of a pitcher. I don't think that's the kind of trade we'd want to make, but we want to advance our team in the pennant race."
The rest of the farm system is void of sure-fire major leaguers. There may be some intriguing names, but none that would be a centerpiece of a major deal. The Orioles, however, could trade one of their so-called cavalry members that have not been able to stick in the majors, such as Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta or Zach Britton. But the trading partner would have to believe one of those pitchers will flourish away from the Orioles organization and meet their previous hype.
"The other teams will tell you if they like players enough to trade for them," Duquette said. "We have some really good players in our farm system. We'd like to have more."
Despite the team's wretched defense for most of the season, Duquette isn't specifically targeting an upgrade, though it could come if and when he acquires a table-setter. He thinks the current alignment can and will improve.
"We can do better catching the ball, better than we did in the first half," he said. "I don't think there is any question about that."
He also said he won't need to improve on the starting rotation if some of the pitchers already on the 40-man roster — Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Arrieta, Matusz, Britton, Tommy Hunter — perform to their capabilities. That will make life easier for Duquette, because with the additional wild card in each league this year and other changes to the collective bargaining agreement, there may be fewer sellers and more buyers as the deadline approaches.
"I think I have to find some of our solutions internally. There are options internally with starting pitchers," Duquette said. "We can help strengthen our team by that means if we get some stability from people we have here. I think that's really the best option to strengthen our team right now, because there a lot of teams in the race.
"We're doing everything we can to upgrade our team," he added. "We are in a pennant race at this stage of the year, and we'll do everything we can to make it stronger."
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