9:17 PM EDT, July 30, 2013
Forgive Buck Showalter for displaying a certain ambivalence toward Wednesday's 4 p.m. deadline for teams to make trades without passing players through waivers. There's definitely a fine line there.
If you're the manager of a team that went to the playoffs last year and is currently in the second wild-card position, you don't want to be broadcasting that you're dissatisfied with anyone on your roster. So he did his best Tuesday to talk around some of the trade speculation that has attached to his team.
"You've got to be careful spending too much time in somebody else's backyard and not in your own,'' he said before the series opener against the Houston Astros, "so that's where I'm trying to keep focus."
Fair enough, but the Orioles already have spent quite a bit of time and effort to bring in a couple of veteran pitchers well ahead of the deadline and clearly still feel the need to strengthen the club for the stretch run. Showalter also pointed out that "it's not a hard deadline," but that doesn't mean it isn't an important one.
It's true that there still will be opportunities to acquire help in August. Players do get through waivers, and the Orioles made an important post-deadline move to acquire veteran pitcher Joe Saunders last year. It's also true, however, that the competition for the best players available generally takes place in late June and July, so don't be surprised if Dan Duquette has one more deal up his sleeve.
He already has shown that he isn't afraid to act when necessity dictates. The deal that brought veteran right-handed starter Scott Feldman to Batlimore on July 2 helped stabilize the rotation after the Orioles had spent three months picking through the upper levels of the organization to keep it together.
The trade for reliever Francisco Rodriguez last week was even more decisive, as the Orioles had dealt erratic right-hander Pedro Strop to the Chicago Cubs in the deal for Feldman and were showing some vulnerability in the late innings.
Trading for Rodriguez made sense on a lot of levels. He's a guy who once saved 62 games in a season and has a ton of postseason experience. He probably isn't that same guy at this stage in his career, but he had 10 saves and a 1.09 ERA when Duquette acquired him from the Milwaukee Brewers for minor league infielder Nick Delmonico.
Duquette and Showalter will tell you that it was just about adding another experienced reliever who could fit into the late-inning mix, but K-Rod also gives the Orioles an alternative if closer Jim Johnson falls into another funk. The deal also had an added dimension if you believe the rumor that Duquette was eager to make the deal because he believed the Boston Red Sox were also interested.
Now, it's a question of how much change is enough and if there is any concern that bringing in a bunch of new personalities might negatively affect the chemistry of the team.
The early results are mixed. Feldman has pitched well in three of his five starts, and the Orioles are 3-2 in those games. Rodriguez has pitched twice, but going into Tuesday night's game there had not been a hold or save situation since he arrived.
Like just about every other team in baseball, the Orioles could use a quality starting pitcher, especially with Jason Hammel in a seemingly constant struggle with his command, and they have yet to settle their designated hitter situation. Acquiring an impact player of either stripe would likely have to be done by the Wednesday deadline, because it's particularly difficult for a contending team to pull off a high-end waiver deal late in the season.
Showalter said Tuesday that he isn't concerned about the chemistry question. The Orioles have been moving players in and out of their clubhouse since the start of last season without any hint of disruption.
"I do concern myself with it if there were people that could disrupt something like that, but I think our guys are too strong that they're not going to have that be an issue,'' he said. "They've got a pretty strong feeling about what works and what doesn't. I don't think they're going to let anything get in the way of that. Letting that be a challenge ... it's challenge enough the teams that we're facing and the game itself."
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" at noon Fridays on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.
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