NEW YORK — Even for a team that's sporting a record payroll, the Orioles still operate on a budget, and need to operate in every competitive margin they can. That's why the pending August waiver trade deadline, the last chance for teams to add players for a playoff push every season, is typically a time when the Orioles try to be active to add pieces, however small, to their club.
The ballyhooed July 31 (or in case of this year, Aug. 1) trade deadline is the last time players can be dealt without passing through waivers. But for a month after, a player needs only to be exposed to trade waivers and thus offered up to every other major league team to be traded.
If a team claims a player, his current team can either orchestrate a trade with the claiming club or pull him back and keep him. If he passes through, he can be dealt to any team.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said this weekend that the team is active in that market ahead of Wednesday's deadline.
"There's usually an opportunity to supplement your club," Duquette said. "This is probably the last chance, right? The last roundup. So we've been working on it. … You want to make your bench as strong as you can make it, and also get as much pitching depth as you can."
The trades at this time of year are rarely the kind that make a major impact. The most memorable was when the Boston Red Sox dealt Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a massive salary dump in 2012.
For the Orioles, it's often minor. In 2012, they traded for reliever J.C. Romero and starter Joe Saunders in August. Romero made his last five career major league appearances with the Orioles before being released later that month. Saunders made seven starts with a 3.63 ERA with the Orioles that season, earned the win in that year's wild vard game against the Texas Rangers, and allowed a run in 5 2/3 innings in an American League Division Series game against the New York Yankees.
The next year, the Orioles traded for Michael Morse on Aug. 30, and got little return from the slugger. He managed three hits in 12 games, his performance paling in comparison to that of the outfielder they would acquire a year later.
Alejandro De Aza came over from the Chicago White Sox for two minor league pitchers on Aug. 30, 2014, and hit .293/.341/.537 with three home runs while playing a strong left field on a team that reached the American League Championship Series.
That De Aza washed out the following season, and that fellow 2014 waiver deadline acquisition Kelly Johnson was mostly bench depth, is another matter.
Last season was the first under Duquette when they didn't make an August trade involving major league additions.
Whether the Orioles do this year largely depends on the market. According to reports, several high-priced starting pitchers have cleared waivers, most recently Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins. Acquiring him, for whatever cost, would carry more than $30 million in future costs.
MLB Trade Rumors has a list of candidates, mostly relievers, who could be traded before midnight on Aug. 31. Some could interest the Orioles, who without Darren O'Day (rotator cuff) are short a reliable reliever. The Orioles bench is also thin in the outfield, where Julio Borbon was just added to the roster to cover for center fielder Adam Jones (hamstring).
The Orioles haven't given up much in terms of prospect value in their earlier waiver trades, and could pull off something similar again. Given the team's volatility lately, anything they can do to supplement the team at this point might be welcome.