With the Orioles entering July in second place in the American League East and tied with the Oakland A's for the top Wild Card spot, it's natural to look ahead to the end of the month and baseball's non-waiver trade deadline.
The Orioles are, without a doubt, buyers this time around — with potential needs in the rotation, bullpen and possibly at designated hitter.
"Our pitching needs to improve, whether that's better performance from the players we have or additions we can make to the team if we are going to advance," said Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette. "It's always about pitching. [Trading for it] is always a possibility."
There are plenty of options for the Orioles if they are going to jump into the trade market — with a tandem of Chicago Cubs right-handers, Matt Garza and Scott Feldman, and Houston right-hander Bud Norris appearing to be toward the top of the club's wish list.
The Orioles have had talks — some external, some internal — involving more than a half-dozen starters. As one industry source said, "Dan's been busy."
Duquette won't talk specifics, but he said he believes there are "some good pitchers on the trade market."
The Orioles' rotation is currently led by Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez and Jason Hammel, with Wei-Yin Chen expected back from an oblique injury soon. Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman and T.J. McFarland are among the pitchers on the 25-man roster that could fill the fifth rotation spot.
Britton also could be trade bait along with talented but enigmatic Triple-A starter Jake Arrieta. With Gausman likely untouchable and injuries to two of their other top prospects — right-hander Dylan Bundy (Tommy John surgery; out until 2014) and infielder Jonathan Schoop (stress fracture in back; has begun baseball activities) — the Orioles don't have many highly regarded youngsters in their system. The best of the rest is 20-year-old lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, whom the Orioles are reluctant to deal.
"We'll see where it goes, but we have the wherewithal to make a trade or two if we think we need to make a trade," Duquette said. "Our farm system is improving and other teams like some of our players. And not just our marquee prospects, but we have some other prospects."
Although the Orioles have big league pitching depth, they don't have anyone established at the top of the rotation and their stalwart bullpen has shown cracks this year.
"Pitching is not just one or two spots — it's the whole staff," Duquette said. "And last year we were really strong in the bullpen and our bullpen is not as strong as it was last year. And our starting pitching, until recently, hasn't been in the middle of the pack."
Duquette seems to be content with the club's offense, although a more established designated hitter — Philadelphia Phillies infielder and Buck Showalter favorite Michael Young is one veteran expected to be available — wouldn't hurt. Duquette, however, said he thinks the club has enough internal candidates — including Brian Roberts, Nolan Reimold and, eventually, Wilson Betemit — that obtaining another hitter is not a priority.
So if the Orioles make a move this month — "The market is just starting to take shape," Duquette says — it will be for a pitcher. And there are plenty of starters on their radar. Here's a look at 10 and whether they fit with the Orioles.
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