Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Wandy Rodriguez are just a few of the quality pitchers that are expected to be available on the trade market in about a month. The Baltimore Orioles should strike first and make a deal now before the deadline when teams field more offers and perennial contenders like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox get jealous.
Admittedly, the Orioles farm system behind Dylan Bundy, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop doesn't really entice many clubs, but the beauty is the Orioles have money. It is shaping up to be a trading deadline not necessarily full of prospects changing addresses, but teams taking on money from the players they acquire.
Dempster is having a great year for the Cubs, but the team is attempting to jump start its rebuilding effort and the veteran righty makes about $14 million this season. Most baseball pundits on ESPN and other sports venues seem to think the Cubs would take some lower level prospects just to alleviate the burden of Dempster's contract.
Theo Epstein is a reasonable trader and I'm sure there are a couple players, maybe a L.J. Hoes type prospect that could convince him to move Dempster if the O's pick up the contract. Similar to Chicago, I can't imagine the Houston Astros would take much to get out from under Rodriguez's massive contract.
Not to mention, guys like Erik Bedard who just signed one-year deals in the hopes of re-establishing their market value who would be much better options for the Orioles than Jamie Moyer or Joel Pineiro.
The Orioles offense is good enough to keep them in the hunt for a playoff spot, but as usual the pitching staff, namely the starters, is the biggest question mark.
Right now, Wei-Yin Chen is performing as well and any pitcher in the American League, but the time of the year is coming when the temperature rises and the ball sails a little farther at parks like Camden Yards and several other AL parks.
During his career in Japan, Chen peaked at 188 innings pitched in 2010 and he logged 164 2-3 innings last season. Averaging six innings per start so far this season, Chen projects to pitch 200 innings or more.
Not only would that be a career-high in innings, but he has never faced hitters this good on a start-to-start basis, so projecting his numbers to stay the same isn't exactly a smart thing to do.
Jason Hammel has been strong of late to for the Orioles, but has also never logged close to 200 innings in one season. He did have a three-year run when he pitched at least 170 innings and with his home games being played at Coors Field in Colorado, it's a fairly impressive feat.
But like Chen, there is one big question and that is Hammel's track record. He has never pitched as well as he is this season on a consistent basis. Granted his fastball velocity is up and so is his swing and miss percentage, but it's hard to tell if that will continue. Hammel's performance so far is sustainable, but it is far less of a sure thing than Dempster or Rodriguez.
Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta are both on pace to set career highs for innings pitched in a single season and Orioles fans know those two can be a maddening duo to watch from start to start. Just when he looked like Matusz was rounding into form, he got lit up. Arrieta has pitched better in his last two starts, but still leads the league with nine losses.
All of this leads me to think the Orioles need to make their move now to bring on another hurler. The closer to the deadline means more teams involved and with a shallow farm system, the Orioles can't compete with the Yankees and others that are willing to mortgage the future to the chase the World Series Championship. Dan Duquette needs to call up Epstein and ask him what it will take to bring Dempster to Charm City.
It's the Orioles' only shot at remaining relevant in August and September once Baltimore's other professional sports team takes the field across the parking lot.