The Baltimore Orioles Manny Machado Garden Gnome got a chance to visited several places around Baltimore, just days before he's given away at Camden Yards. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
It is a neon sign of the enigmatic composition of the Orioles' roster and player development system that on the day of the All-Star selection show the O's had a surplus of All-Star-worthy players and a very limited ability to deal for pitching help.
The minor league system has been culled so much over the past few seasons that there is no Eduardo Rodriguez available to trade for a dependable veteran pitcher. And once you dispense with the silly notion of giving up Manny Machado or Jonathan Schoop to acquire somebody's No. 3 starter, there really is only one marquee player who the club could justify dealing at the Aug. 1 deadline for trading players without passing them through waivers.
That would be American League home run leader and newly minted 2016 All-Star Mark Trumbo.
Trumbo actually became the club's default midseason trade bait the day that Chris Davis signed his seven year, $161 million contract in January. Trumbo was acquired in a very one-sided deal with the Seattle Mariners to provide insurance against the prospect that Davis would get priced out of Baltimore.
Of course, there was still a place in the Orioles lineup for Trumbo, which he has filled beyond anyone's expectations, and he has quickly become a fan favorite who has contributed mightily to the Orioles' place at the top of the American League East standings.
Nobody wants to see all those potential home runs moved off the Orioles' roster and onto that of some other American League contender, but it is generally accepted that this team cannot get where it wants to go this year without at least one more solid starting pitcher.
That's why one Orioles decision-maker indicated before the club left on the current West Coast swing that the Orioles would not hesitate to deal Trumbo for a middle-of-the-rotation starter, and that was while the O's were having an uplifting month of June. There has to be a heightened sense of urgency now that the Orioles are proving to be something other than road warriors.
The logic is unassailable. The Orioles would still have enough offensive clout to win with a more dependable rotation and they're already convinced that they will not be able to re-sign Trumbo if he follows through on a Nelson Cruz-like MVP-caliber season at Camden Yards.
The likelihood of a trade actually happening that gets the desired result, however, appears to be slim.
There are a number of teams out there that could use a big-time power hitter in his prime, but the number of possible trade partners decreases dramatically when all of the intervening factors are taken into consideration.
Trumbo would only be attractive to a National League team that needs a starting first baseman or right fielder. There are a few teams that fit that description and even fewer that aren't also looking to upgrade their pitching staffs.
The Nationals, who reportedly have had talks with some teams about left-hander Gio Gonzalez, could probably carve out regular playing time for Trumbo at first base and in the outfield, but it's hard to imagine them making a deal with the Orioles in the middle of the long-running MASN rights dispute.
The greater likelihood would appear to be in the American League, where Trumbo could be used the way he is in Baltimore – playing every day at DH, in right field or at first base.
Still, in the era of the expanded wild card playoff format, dealing a player in Trumbo's contract situation is not a simple matter. In a perfect world, there would be another contending team in the American League that badly needs a premier bat and can afford to part with a decent starting pitcher who also is a pending free agent. In the real world, almost everybody is trying to acquire proven pitching, so the best available pitchers generally go from hopeless teams to the contenders willing to give up their best minor league talent.
In that environment, the Orioles appear to be overmatched at the moment. But it would be foolhardy to underestimate baseball operations chief Dan Duquette, who has made a habit of proving people wrong since he arrived in Baltimore.
Perhaps he could sweeten a deal with one of the organizaton's better prospects and convince the Houston Astros to give up veteran Doug Fister, who should have been on the Orioles' offseason shopping list in the first place. The Astros might be more willing to part with former Oriole Scott Feldman, who has been pitching well in a split relief/starter role, but every so-so start in Baltimore would bring back unhappy memories of the Jake Arrieta trade.
Chances are, Trumbo isn't going anywhere -- which certainly wouldn't be a bad thing -- but the Orioles might not be going anywhere in October if they don't find a way to patch up their rotation.