Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

2015 Orioles preview: Delmon Young

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2015 Orioles preview: Delmon Young

Posted on 26 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph
March 25 – Wesley Wright

OF Delmon Young

Opening Day age: 29

Contract status: Will become a free agent after the 2015 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats: .302/.337/.442, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 27 R, 2 SB, 255 PA

Why to be impressed: In addition to providing one of the most exciting moments in Camden Yards history in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, Young was one of the best pinch-hitters in the majors last year, going 10-for-20 during the regular season before delivering the fatal blow against Detroit. Though he’s been better against left-handed pitching in his career, Young’s .809 on-base plus slugging percentage against right-handers in 2014 could bode well for an increased role this year.

Why to be concerned: Manager Buck Showalter has spent a lot of time talking up Young’s defense in the outfield, but the defensive-minded Orioles would be wise leaving him in the primary roles of designated hitter and coming off the bench. Young’s career .742 OPS doesn’t play well as a full-time designated hitter or corner outfielder, so you wonder if an increased role this year will expose his deficiencies and prohibit him from duplicating the magic he seemed to find off the bench last year.

2015 outlook: With the departures of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, Young appears to be a good bet to easily surpass the 255 plate appearances he received a year ago. However, his history of struggling against right-handed pitching shouldn’t be ignored and that will impact his overall production. In 375 plate appearances, Young will hit somewhere around 10 homers while posting a decent, but unspectacular .755 OPS as the primary DH.

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Gausman going to bullpen would be shortsighted move by Orioles

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Gausman going to bullpen would be shortsighted move by Orioles

Posted on 26 March 2015 by Luke Jones

It’s no secret that Orioles manager Buck Showalter faces a predicament with his starting rotation.

The possibilities have been discussed at length with six starters vying for five spots and Ubaldo Jimenez’s contract serving as the albatross that can’t be ignored, no matter how much fans would like the Orioles to. Fortunately, the 31-year-old right-hander has shown enough progress this spring to create cautious optimism, but what that means for the starting rotation remains to be seen.

Thursday offered a glimpse at which direction the Orioles might be leaning with less than two weeks to go until Opening Day. Appearing in only his third Grapefruit League game of the spring on Thursday, right-hander Kevin Gausman pitched an inning in relief and allowed the go-ahead two-run homer by Detroit’s Victor Martinez in a 6-4 loss.

The result was of little consequence, but it was Showalter’s revelation after the game that raises concern for how the Orioles are thinking of using the 24-year-old right-hander who last season posted a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts and also owned the best fielding independent pitching mark (3.41) of any member of the rotation.

“[We] might bring Gaus back shorter until everything shakes out,” Showalter told reporters. “I want him to be ready to do both things.”

Of course, the Orioles skipper is referring to Gausman pitching in relief, a role in which he thrived in the playoffs by allowing one earned run and striking out seven in eight innings. There’s no doubting that Gausman could dominate in a relief role to help fill the void of dominant reliever Andrew Miller, who departed via free agency.

But it’s a role that’s too shortsighted for both him and the Orioles over the course of a 162-game schedule. If August or September rolls around and the 2012 first-round pick isn’t one of their best four of five starters and they need the boost in the bullpen, his power arm is a major asset in the late innings and he can let it rip with the end of the season in sight.

Before then, Gausman needs to be pitching every five days and if that can’t be in Baltimore right now, he should be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to begin the season. The Orioles want the 6-foot-3 pitcher to improve his slider — he threw a hanger to Martinez for the long home run on Thursday afternoon — and he can best do that starting for the Tides.

The truth is that a great reliever isn’t as valuable as a good starting pitcher, which Gausman proved himself to be last season. And until he shows he can’t be a good starter, the bullpen should not be Gausman’s destination so early in a season. A long relief role would provide infrequent work, and short relief is a different animal than throwing 100 pitches every five or six days and it would be obtuse to suggest one can bounce back and forth between those roles easily.

To think the Orioles will make it through the season with only five starting pitchers isn’t realistic, so what would they do if Jimenez falters or another starter gets hurt? Worse yet, what happens if both occur at the same time?

Baltimore would then be in the position of needing to turn to lower-ceiling options such as T.J. McFarland, Mike Wright, and Tyler Wilson from Triple A while trying to stretch out Gausman over the course of a few weeks. It’s a strategy that lacks efficiency and can also lead to health concerns as some opine that trying to stretch out a reliever to become a starter in the middle of a season is a significant injury risk.

Gausman has handled being yo-yoed between Baltimore and Norfolk with impressive maturity over the last two seasons, but pitchers are creatures of routine and tossing him into the bullpen at the beginning of the season is not the recipe if you want him to be an effective starter at some point this season.

Even if Gausman is one of their best five starters, I can’t fault the Orioles for trying to maximize their investment in Jimenez by giving him another shot in the rotation and if the young pitcher is the odd man out for now, so be it.

But relegating Gausman to a relief role in April isn’t the answer when looking at the big picture — in 2015 or beyond that for the promising pitcher. Showalter certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt for repeatedly showing his brilliance over the last few years, but this move wouldn’t feel right.

It might make the bullpen better for now, but such a strategy could backfire on the starting rotation for 2015. And the starting five is the key to keeping the bullpen healthy and productive over the next six months and, hopefully, beyond that.

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Wieters remaining in Florida once season begins

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Wieters remaining in Florida once season begins

Posted on 26 March 2015 by Luke Jones

It became clear last week that Matt Wieters wouldn’t be ready for Opening Day, but we learned Thursday that the Orioles catcher will remain in Florida once the regular season begins.

Speaking to reporters prior to Thursday’s spring game against the Detroit Tigers, manager Buck Showalter revealed that Wieters will return to Sarasota for extended spring training following Baltimore’s season-opening series against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. Wieters was shut down with elbow tendinitis a day after playing his first Grapefruit League game behind the plate on March 17.

Wieters continues to build strength in his right elbow after undergoing Tommy John surgery last June 17 and will be placed on the 15-day disabled list before the season begins. The Orioles had hoped that the 28-year-old would be ready for the opener, but they knew it would take perfect circumstances in order to happen.

Showalter said Wieters will play in extended spring games when he’s ready before eventually going on a rehab assignment with the combination of Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie, which would allow the catcher to be based out of the Orioles clubhouse in Baltimore each day. It remains unclear when that will happen or when he is targeting a season debut.

Though different injuries and timetables, Wieters’ situation is reminiscent of how the Orioles handled third baseman Manny Machado coming back from his first knee surgery last spring when they pointed to Opening Day as a possibility for his return before backing off over the last couple weeks of spring training. Machado eventually made his 2014 season debut on May 1.

Wieters is expected to resume throwing on Saturday and could play in a minor-league spring game next week, according to Showalter.

The three-time All-Star catcher was hitless in 23 Grapefruit League at-bats while primarily serving as a designated hitter earlier this month.

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2015 Orioles preview: Wesley Wright

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2015 Orioles preview: Wesley Wright

Posted on 25 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day
March 24 – Caleb Joseph

LHP Wesley Wright

Opening Day age: 30

Contract status: Will become a free agent after the 2015 season

Minor-league options remaining: None

2014 stats (with Chicago): 0-3, 3.17 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 6.9 K/IP, 2 HR, 48 1/3 innings

Why to be impressed: The former Cubs pitcher has posted an ERA below 3.70 in each of the last four seasons and has averaged 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings over the course of his seven-year major league career. The southpaw held right-handed hitters to a .719 on-base plus slugging percentage last season while lefties posted an anemic .594 OPS.

Why to be concerned: Though he had no apparent drop in velocity in 2014, Wright struck out a career-low 6.9 per nine innings a year ago while his walk rate was his highest since 2011. His career 1.40 WHIP becomes even more concerning if he once again fails to strike out hitters like he did last year.

2015 outlook: The acquisition of Wright appears to have made Brian Matusz expendable in the right trade as he has enjoyed plenty of success against left-handed hitters in his career. However, Wright doesn’t have the repertoire to be able to trust him for much more than a situational role in the later innings. An ERA around 3.60 appears to be a fair target if manager Buck Showalter can be selective in using Wright mostly against lefty batters.

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Taking stock of Orioles starting rotation

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Taking stock of Orioles starting rotation

Posted on 25 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles have a problem with their starting rotation less than two weeks away from Opening Day.

It’s far from the worst dilemma as many clubs don’t have two or three quality arms, let alone enjoy the luxury of choosing among six starters for five spots. It’s a good problem to have quite frankly, even if you roll your eyes thinking about the possibility of Ubaldo Jimenez taking the ball every fifth day.

Fans and critics will understandably remain skeptical, but the steady improvement of Jimenez this spring has the veteran right-hander in position to be in the rotation to begin the season. After averaging 5.5 walks per nine innings last season, Jimenez has walked just one batter in his last three outings spanning 13 innings. A new windup and a quieter delivery have led to better results for the 31-year-old with a career 4.00 ERA in nine major league seasons.

The reality is that short of a disastrous spring, Jimenez — who’s owed more than $38 million over the next three years — was always likely to at least receive a chance in the rotation to start the year. Whether he remains in the rotation for long will be the question.

Assuming Jimenez doesn’t implode over his final couple spring outings — far from a given, of course — manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette will have interesting decisions to make in how to proceed with the rest of the rotation.

If Ubaldo Jimenez makes the starting rotation, who is the odd man out and where does he end up??

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The possibility of Duquette trading one of his starting pitchers has been discussed since the start of the offseason, but the chances of needing only five starters all season is extremely remote, making that a dicey plan of attack unless the return in the trade provides a major boost elsewhere.

Chris Tillman and Wei-Yin Chen are obviously safe and both have pitched well this spring.

Miguel Gonzalez and Kevin Gausman each have a remaining minor-league option and have been discussed as the two likeliest candidates to be the odd man out to make room for Jimenez, but neither has had a poor spring.

Gonzalez has posted a 4.26 ERA and has yet to walk a batter in 12 2/3 innings of Grapefruit League action. The right-hander could be used in long relief, but you run the risk of him not being stretched out enough to rejoin the rotation if he’s in the bullpen for too long.

The Orioles have handled Gausman differently than the other starters this spring as he comes off the biggest workload of his professional career a year ago. Brought along more slowly, Gausman has pitched primarily in minor-league spring games and has logged only three Grapefruit League innings. Perhaps it’s a sign that the Orioles envision the 24-year-old beginning the season at Triple-A Norfolk despite the fact that he was one of the club’s best starters last season. It wouldn’t make sense to relegate Gausman to a bullpen role early in the year where he either wouldn’t pitch regularly or would be shortened up and used too frequently to safely return him to a starting role at some point later in the season.

Optioning Gonzalez or Gausman to the minors would give the Orioles more flexibility to potentially stash one of their two Rule 5 picks — Logan Verrett or Jason Garcia — in the bullpen, but it’s difficult to argue that being the best possible 25-man roster for a club trying to defend the American League East title.

Bud Norris might be the most interesting case of any of the Baltimore starting pitchers at the moment. The 30-year-old is out of options and is coming off arguably the best season of his career, but he has dealt with back stiffness this spring while posting a 9.26 ERA, which includes nine walks in 11 2/3 innings.

It would be crass to draw a strong conclusion from such a small sample size, but Norris’ struggles might indicate his back is a bigger problem than he’s leading on. Either way, the Orioles need to see better results from the right-hander in his final outings before the start of the season or they may need to look at his health with more scrutiny. The bullpen would also be a possibility for Norris should his woes continue over the next couple weeks and into the regular season.

So, how should the Orioles proceed if we’re to assume Jimenez begins the season with a shot in the rotation?

It isn’t the worst problem to have, but there’s no easy answer for Showalter with the season rapidly approaching. And whatever decision he makes will come while holding his breath that Jimenez’s improvement isn’t just a brief aberration.

 

 

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NFL passes proposal banning New England’s ineligible receiver tactic

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NFL passes proposal banning New England’s ineligible receiver tactic

Posted on 25 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The “circus act” used by the New England Patriots in their divisional playoff win against the Ravens will be illegal moving forward.

On the final day of the league meetings in Phoenix, NFL owners passed a proposal forbidding players with eligible numbers to line up as ineligible outside the tackle box. Though the proposal was officially submitted by the league’s competition committee last week, head coach John Harbaugh has made his feelings about the tactic clear, reiterating his original protest that prompted an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third quarter of the 35-31 loss on Jan. 10.

Patriots running back Shane Vereen reported as ineligible and split out three times — while covered up by an eligible receiver — during a touchdown drive in the third quarter. Under the new rules, Vereen would be required to line up as part of the offensive line if he were to report as ineligible.

“We have jersey numbers for a reason. Let’s use it, like they do in college,” Harbaugh said Tuesday in Phoenix. “That was John Madden’s proposal and I like that proposal. Certain jersey numbers are eligible numbers and certain jersey numbers are ineligible numbers. If you’re eligible, you put on an eligible number. If you’re ineligible, you put on an ineligible number. They do it in college and they did it in the NFL up until, I don’t know, I’m going to guess the 60’s. That’s why they created ineligible and eligible jersey numbers so you can look at them and say, ‘He’s eligible and he’s not.’

“Now, we through kind of a circus act where we have to identify who is ineligible and who is not with signals. That’s what got the referees in trouble in the playoffs.”

Harbaugh has said his point of contention was with the tardiness in which referee Bill Vinovich announced which player was ineligible, but many have simply taken the Baltimore coach’s objections as sour grapes after his defense was unprepared to handle Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s unconventional — but legal — tactic. With the rule change passing, it’s clear that the Ravens had plenty of support as even Pittsburgh Steelers president and co-owner Art Rooney II agreed over the weekend that his AFC North rival had a legitimate gripe.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady suggested after the game that the Ravens should “study the rulebook” when asked about Harbaugh’s objections.

The rule change now means such a tactic would result in a five-yard penalty as an illegal substitution.

 

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2015 Orioles preview: Caleb Joseph

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2015 Orioles preview: Caleb Joseph

Posted on 24 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day just two weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.

March 9 – Adam Jones
March 10 – Chris Tillman
March 11 – J.J. Hardy
March 12 – Zach Britton
March 13 – Chris Davis
March 14 – Wei-Yin Chen
March 15 – Jonathan Schoop
March 16 – Travis Snider
March 17 – Kevin Gausman
March 18 – Alejandro De Aza
March 19 – Tommy Hunter
March 20 – Manny Machado
March 21 – Brad Brach
March 22 – Steve Pearce
March 23 – Darren O’Day

C Caleb Joseph

Opening Day age: 28

Contract status: Will become a free agent after the 2020 season

Minor-league options remaining: Three

2014 stats: .207/.264/.354, 9 HR, 28 RBI, 22 R, 0 SB, 275 PA

Why to be impressed: After seven seasons in the minors, Joseph had a reputation for not being very good defensively, but he threw out 23 of 57 runners (40 percent) trying to steal when he was promoted in May to replace the injured Matt Wieters. Joseph had only 171 plate appearances in Triple A, but he showed solid power as a rookie, hitting nine homers in a 47-game span.

Why to be concerned: Joseph was hitting .236 with a respectable .697 OPS in early September before he tired down the stretch and went 0-for-30 with 13 strikeouts to close the regular season. With pitchers having seen Joseph at the major league level, he’ll need to make significant adjustments to improve on his 25.1 percent strikeout rate from a year ago.

2015 outlook: With Wieters sidelined for at least the start of the season, Joseph is expected to handle the bulk of the catching duties in his place, which could allow him to solidify his standing as the backup. If you eliminate his 1-for-26 start and 0-for-30 finish, Joseph put up some respectable numbers (.263 average) in his rookie season. Finding enough consistency to raise his average to the .240 range will be the challenge, but his track record as a hitter in the minor leagues suggests it’s a reasonable expectation along with an ability to hit a few homers in the process.

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Harbaugh says Ravens keeping all options open at receiver

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Harbaugh says Ravens keeping all options open at receiver

Posted on 24 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Speaking to reporters at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix on Tuesday, head coach John Harbaugh says the Ravens are keeping their options open at the wide receiver position.

After releasing Jacoby Jones and allowing starter Torrey Smith to depart via free agency, Baltimore has yet to add a wideout to the current roster while veteran options available on the market have dwindled over the last two weeks. The top remaining free-agent receivers include Michael Crabtree, Greg Jennings, Nate Washington, Denarius Moore, and Hakeem Nicks.

Despite limited options, Harbaugh isn’t shooting down the possibility of the Ravens signing a free agent to add to the current mix.

“We’d be interested in adding any position right now, wide receiver being one of them if it’s the right guy,” Harbaugh said. “Again, it’s got to fit. It’s got to fit as far as the player, the personality, the talent obviously, a fit for our offense, and — of course — the financial part of it.”

Many have pointed to the draft as the best avenue to find Smith’s long-term replacement, and Harbaugh agreed with assessments of 2015 being a very deep class. Though it’s a statement that’s been uttered by the Ravens’ brass in past seasons, Harbaugh suggested there should be viable options at the receiver position in all seven rounds of the draft.

General manager Ozzie Newsome would figure to have a good chance to hit on a receiver with 10 choices over the first 203 seletions of the draft, but the organization owns a poor track record drafting receivers with Smith having represented the biggest success story in the 20-year history of the franchise.

Many have pointed to the likes of Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong, Central Florida’s Breshad Perriman, Auburn’s Sammie Coates, and Ohio State’s Devin Smith as potential fits in the first or second round. But you won’t find a more unpredictable position in the draft other than quarterback.

“It’s always hard. Every position is different,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve done studies on that as far as the success rate in different rounds at different positions. Receiver is a little bit of a crapshoot in the first round. It turns out it’s a crapshoot in every round. A lot of receivers, they’ve been seventh-round picks, fifth-round picks, third-round pick receivers that have turned out to be Hall of Fame type players. Then, you’ve got first-round picks that have never really done anything. Obviously, your chances are higher the higher you pick a guy, but it’s hard to predict.”

Regardless of how that crapshoot might play out or whether they’re able to add a veteran through free agency or a trade, the Ravens know they’ll need more contributions from young receivers already on the roster such as Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro, Marlon Brown, and Jeremy Butler.

Beyond veteran Steve Smith (79 receptions for 1,065 yards) and running back Justin Forsett (44 catches for 263 yards), the Ravens don’t have another player on the current roster who made more than 24 receptions last year. In 2014, Aiken and Brown were solid No. 3 and No. 4 receivers in the passing game while the rookie Campanaro showed some flashes (seven receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown) in very limited playing time.

The bar will be higher for the coming season.

“They are going to have to handle more. That’s going to be their job,” Harbaugh said. “They are excited about it, they want to handle more. They’ll have their opportunity to prove it.

“I think Campanaro is a talented guy in the slot. He’s gifted as far as getting open, catching the football, and making plays after the catch. I’m excited to see if he can stay healthy and grow. Aiken is a strong receiver that’s just gotten better every single practice and every single day. If he continues to improve like that, he’ll be a very good player.”

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2015 draft order finalized for Ravens

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2015 draft order finalized for Ravens

Posted on 24 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With compensatory picks being awarded at the league meetings on Monday, the NFL has finalized its order for the 2015 draft set to kick off in Chicago on April 30.

The Ravens own a total of 10 selections, but their three compensatory choices cannot be traded unlike regular choices.

Below is a look at where the Ravens are scheduled to pick:

Round 1: 26th overall
Round 2: 58th overall
Round 3: 90th overall
Round 4: 122nd overall (from Detroit)
Round 4: 125th overall
Round 4: 136th overall (compensatory)
Round 5: 158th overall (from Detroit)
Round 5: 171st overall (compensatory)
Round 5: 175th overall (compensatory)
Round 6: 203rd overall (from Dallas)

Just for fun, here is a look at past players selected by the Ravens at each of those spots (or as close as possible) over the years:

26th overall: LB Ray Lewis, 1996
58th overall: WR Torrey Smith, 2011
90th overall: CB Lardarius Webb (88th), 2009
122nd overall: WR Tandon Doss (123rd), 2011
125th overall: LB Ed Hartwell (126th), 2001
136th overall: LB Jason Phillips (137th), 2009
158th overall: FB Justin Green, 2005
171st overall: LB Dexter Daniels (172nd overall), 1996
175th overall: G John Urschel, 2014
203rd overall: P Sam Koch, 2006

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Ravens in prime position to pull off trade with 10 draft picks

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Ravens in prime position to pull off trade with 10 draft picks

Posted on 24 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens receiving three compensatory picks in this year’s draft, the discussion inevitably turns to the list of players they’ve selected with those picks awarded by the NFL.

From Rick Wagner and Pernell McPhee in recent years to the likes of Edwin Mulitalo, Sam Koch, and Le’Ron McClain in the past, there’s no disputing that the Ravens have benefited from a league-high 44 compensatory picks in their 20-year history. But with 10 selections at his disposal for the draft set to begin on April 30, general manager Ozzie Newsome may have something else up his sleeve rather than simply selecting 10 young football players.

With obvious needs at wide receiver, tight end, and cornerback, Baltimore should follow its recent trend of dealing a draft pick or two for an established veteran contributor. The likelihood of being able to address all of their needs with young talent ready to contribute immediately isn’t great, but the Ravens now have plenty of collateral to work out a trade while remaining very active in the draft.

Last year, the Ravens dealt their 2015 fifth-round pick to Tampa Bay in exchange for starting center Jeremy Zuttah. Two years ago, they acquired starting left tackle Eugene Monroe from Jacksonville in exchange for 2014 fourth-round and fifth-round choices.

It isn’t a coincidence that the Ravens made those deals before ultimately landing compensatory selections in the same round of each of the surrendered picks. You cannot trade compensatory choices, but they allow you to continue to add young talent while enjoying the flexibility to trade regular selections to add veteran help or to move up the draft board when necessary.

And with a long list of departing free agents this offseason, the Ravens are once again looking like a good bet to receive three or four compensatory picks next year, further facilitating the potential for a trade.

No one would doubt Newsome’s ability to come away with a productive haul if he keeps his allotment of draft picks, but the Ravens would be wise to pull the trigger on a trade for the right veteran addition with so many clear needs that have yet to be addressed this offseason.

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