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Adding bullpen depth is the way for the Orioles to go

Simply unhittable. Britton has converted every save opportunity this year to lead the American League (27) and has a sub-1.00 ERA that would be even lower if not for his one loss in a nonsave situation. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Simply unhittable. Britton has converted every save opportunity this year to lead the American League (27) and has a sub-1.00 ERA that would be even lower if not for his one loss in a nonsave situation. It doesn’t get any better than this.(Nick Wass / AP)

With the trade deadline now less that two weeks away -- it was moved to Aug. 1 this year so it didn’t fall on a Sunday and impact all the day games -- it’s pretty clear the Orioles are looking for pitching and they would certainly love to bolster the starting rotation with a proven arm. But the question is: Who is available that the Orioles have a shot at getting? And is a starter really the way to go or is depth in the bullpen the better answer?

When you look at the market for pitching, and what the Orioes have to offer, their best move may be to add to the bullpen. They already have one of the best bullpens in the game, and the formula worked for the Royals the past two seasons with back-to-back trips to the World Series.

This is a sellers market, especially on the starting pitching side. The coming free agent class of starting pitchers lacks a true ace. That's a big reason the Red Sox traded their No. 4 prospect for Drew Pomeranz who is under team control through the 2018 season.

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On the other side of the equation, the Orioles lack depth in the minor leagues they can use in a trade. Top pitching prospect Hunter Harvey has been injured most of this year after missing all of the 2015 season too.

On the position player side, Trey Mancini and Christian Walker are likely available as they both play first base, but they aren't major chips. Catcher Chance Sisco was the Orioles representative in the All Star Futures game, but he is the insurance if Matt Weiters leaves after the season.

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There is talent at the major league level, but would you be willing to see Jonathan Schoop traded for a top of the rotation starter? He's under team control through the 2019 season and appears to be blossoming, especially after an injury-shortened 2015 seaon.

So the market is flooded with teams looking for pitching, not only for the rest of 2016, but possibly doing some early shopping for 2017 and beyond. That increases the competition, and with the Orioles lack of major trade chips what will they be able to do?

Rich Hill, who left his last start after five pitches when a blister on his pitching hand, may be the best option out there as a starter, but a blister can be a lingering issue. Jeremy Hellickson, Andrew Cashner and Drew Smyly are also rentals, and it's hard to say how much of an upgrade they would be.

Adding to the bullpen depth around the Orioles' big three of Brad Brach, Darren O'Day and Zach Britton is the best bet. Combined with the team's ability to shuttle players between Baltimore and the minor leagues they may just have the depth to make it work.

Let the starters give you five, or maybe six innings, and then use the depth of the bullpen to close out the game. It worked for the Royals the past two seasons, so why not?

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