O's not likely to be dealing in big way on deadline

The Baltimore Sun

Barring an unexpected development, today's 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline will come and go with the Orioles having made no moves that will dramatically alter their roster. In fact, it's possible - if not probable - that the Orioles won't make any moves at all.

New president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail acknowledged Sunday afternoon that he expected things will be mostly quiet on the Orioles' end leading up to the deadline. And though he didn't rule out talks picking up as the deadline draws closer this afternoon, MacPhail touched on several issues that have made deal-making a difficult and risky proposition.

The team's recently improved play - the Orioles are 11-5 since the All-Star break and have won three straight series - has made the front office less inclined to tear down a team that is fighting hard to avoid a 10th straight losing season.

With an industrywide reluctance to trade top-notch prospects, the Orioles most in demand are young, cheap and considered parts of a nucleus that the front office hopes eventually will lead the organization back into playoff contention.

There has been little to no interest in several of the underperforming and highly priced veterans, while other potential trade chips have been beset by injuries, severely harming their value.

Orioles fans would probably like nothing more than for MacPhail to shake up the roster at the deadline after a little more than a month on the job. However, as long as the Orioles stick to their plan of building around young pitching, they lack significant trade pieces to get anything major done.

Most of the calls the Orioles have gotten have been about their younger, lower-priced players, specifically the pitchers.

"In general, the players that are most attractive to other clubs are a big part of what we're trying to do in the future," MacPhail said. "Moving those building blocks isn't going to necessarily accelerate our timetable of where we're trying to get."

When the Orioles pursued a trade for Texas Rangers slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira, the Severna Park native who is reportedly headed to the Atlanta Braves, they were told it would take ace pitcher Erik Bedard and nothing less, according to two team sources.

The Rangers' asking price had dropped from last year, when they asked for Miguel Tejada and Bedard for Teixeira. However, the Orioles, who have Bedard under contractual control for two more years after this season, still felt the 28-year-old pitcher was too steep a price for Teixeira, who appears primed to test free agency after next season.

There also remains a hesitance to trade enigmatic starter Daniel Cabrera, especially when his struggles have lowered his trade value.

On the other hand, the Orioles would jump at the opportunity to move pitcher Steve Trachsel, outfielder Jay Gibbons and probably designated hitter-infielder Aubrey Huff. However, their performances have rendered them virtually unmovable.

Injuries alter outlook

There was growing sentiment around baseball that this would finally be the year the Orioles traded Tejada. A team source confirmed that a couple of teams had at least inquired whether the shortstop and former Most Valuable Player was available, but that was before Tejada fractured his left wrist June 20.

He's back in the lineup and has five hits in three full games since his return from the disabled list. But after missing more than a month with the injury and concerns already existing about his diminished power (seven home runs in 73 games before going on the DL), the Orioles aren't likely to get what they deem a suitable return now.

According to sources, the Orioles had gotten quite a few inquiries about closer Chris Ray, with the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians among the teams that showed interest. Although it would have taken a unique offer for the Orioles to trade their 25-year-old closer, his elbow injury, which will probably sideline him until September, took any potential deal out of play.

Orioles playing well

Is it worth it to weaken the current club for the rest of the season by trading regulars Kevin Millar and Jay Payton - two players that have attracted some interest - when the Orioles would be able to get mid-level prospects, at best, in return?

MacPhail said that's always one of the biggest issues at the trade deadline for clubs not in contention. If the Orioles were in cost-cutting mode, not playing well or had several position prospects close to the majors, the decision would be easier. However, none is the case for the Orioles.

"You have to think you're getting a piece important to you going forward, something that you don't have in the system to move that type of guy for someone who is going to be just a part-time guy," MacPhail said.

Millar is the Orioles' starter at first base and their cleanup hitter. His .386 on-base percentage is second on the team behind Brian Roberts' .403. The Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees and Braves showed interest in Millar at one point, but it appears he'll remain an Oriole through the trade deadline.

Most talent evaluators view Payton as an ideal fourth outfielder, and that's probably the role he would be in with the Chicago Cubs or New York Mets, two teams that had some interest in the 34-year-old, but both now appear to be looking at other options.

Asked whether the team's recent winning streak alters the front office's thinking on trading veteran regulars, MacPhail said: "I think it does have an impact.

"With a lot of good things happening, it probably makes you less likely to do something," he said. "You don't want to do anything to pop the balloon. It becomes harder to negatively impact the short term when the team is on the roll and playing with as much enthusiasm and energy as they are."

There is also some sentiment in the front office that it would be unfair to Dave Trembley to unload several of the veteran regulars, forcing the interim manager to rely on players who have no business being in the major leagues.


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