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Your Monday Reality Check-How about getting a good player next time?

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Your Monday Reality Check-How about getting a good player next time?

Posted on 09 July 2012 by Glenn Clark

I was in Paris when the Baltimore Orioles’ trade for veteran DH Jim Thome became official and didn’t get much of a chance to opine about it. My guess is that I would have politely said something along the lines of “sure, Jim Thome is better than no one, but is a part time DH with little left in the tank really going to make much of a difference?”

I’m glad I didn’t have the chance to say that. Boy would there be egg all over my face.

Thome has come to the plate in six of the Birds’ eight games since being acquired. He’s managed to collect five hits (all singles), score a run and drive in another. He’s also walked four times and struck out 11 times. He’s been far from terrible since arriving, but hasn’t really made much of a difference in the lineup either. The O’s have won three of the eight games they’ve played since acquiring Thome and enter the All-Star break without scoring a run over their last 21 innings.

The Birds finished the first half of the season with a 45-40 record, good enough for 2nd place in the AL East and currently holding what would be the second Wild Card spot in the American League. The troubling part is that over their last 19 games before the break, they compiled a 6-13 record and averaged scoring less than three runs per game during the stretch.

I don’t want to seem like I’m taking the Orioles’ pitchers off the hook during the stretch. The team allowed nearly 5.5 runs per game during the same stretch, demoting starting pitchers Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta to AAA Norfolk in the process.

I’ll stop short of labeling the stretch “a disaster” for the Birds, but I’ll admit that I went through about ten minutes of inner monologue before I decided the term would be unfair.

I’m not particularly mad at Thome for not lighting the world on fire during his first week with the Orioles. It would be unfair to expect any player to become a serious catalyst in just one week, but there was absolutely zero reason to expect a soon to be 42 year old who hasn’t put up particularly good offensive numbers since 2008 to be the one to do it.

The truth is that the Thome acquisition is going to bug me until the Orioles decide they want to acquire players who are actually good.

I know WNST.net’s Drew Forrester said Sunday the Birds “had better” make moves to upgrade the team before the July 31 trade deadline. My column today isn’t just an echo of Forrester’s sentiments. My column is much more particular.

I’ve said for some time that the Birds cannot view their start to the 2012 season as a sign that they’re on the cusp of turning the page. There simply is not enough evidence of that being the case. There is significantly more evidence of the Birds experiencing good fortune thanks to a couple of nice pieces (OF Adam Jones, C Matt Wieters and P’s Jason Hammel & Jim Johnson notably) and an element of luck via injuries to rival teams.

I’m certainly not backing off of those statements. The start of the 2012 season is in NO WAYS a sign that the Birds’ “rebuilding” plan has worked, or that former executive Andy MacPhail and current GM Dan Duquette have put together a group of players that are just a year away from reaching greatness. The reality is that there just aren’t enough good players either currently at the Major League level or set to reach the majors in the next year or two to suggest the team will be able to win for more than half a season.

The players I mentioned before (Jones, Wieters, Hammel, Johnson) are good players. Unfortunately, that’s about where the list ends.  OF Nick Markakis and SS JJ Hardy are supposed to be good players. SP Wei-Yin Chen and RP Pedro Strop have showed signs that they might be good players. P Dylan Bundy and SS Manny Machado are believed to be good players for the future. Thome and 2B Brian Roberts USED to be good players. 3B Mark Reynolds and 1B Chris Davis (or is that 1B Mark Reynolds and OF Chris Davis?) are players you want to believe are good but you know better.

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Looking Forward past the Break

Posted on 08 July 2012 by scottzolotorow

With trade rumors swirling this week of the Orioles going to get an arm at the possible expense of Manny Machado, some O’s fans are pleased and others are strongly against it. This season in Double-A Bowie, Machado is hitting a modest .264 in 84 games. He does have an impressive 48 RBI’s, a strong 10 stolen bases and a decent OBP of .347. But are those numbers good enough for the Orioles to still have the utmost confidence in their first round pick of a few seasons ago?

The Baltimore Sun was amongst many media outlets that first reported that the Orioles are shopping around for Zack Greinke, the ace of the Milwaukee Brewers. Greinke was ejected in yesterday’s ballgame against the Astros for spiking a baseball after a call at first base, clearly he’s frustrated with his play in Milwaukee. The Orioles have a very strong need for another starting pitcher to counteract with Tampa and the Yankees. With Hammel and Chen both having outstanding seasons, one more great pitcher would be a huge help. And Greinke who is 9-3 with a 3.17 ERA, would absolutely fit that need. Greinke won the Cy Young while winning 16 games with one of the worst teams in baseball that season. He is a stud on the hill and the Orioles as well as every organization in baseball would be lucky to have him. But the question that Orioles fans are asking; is Machado too much to give up?

JJ Hardy is locked up for another 2 seasons after this season and he has been one of the best shortstops in baseball. With the Orioles competing at the All-Star Break, and getting to the point they are at with some dismal starting pitching of late, I believe it is an obvious move. Machado has been good in the minors, but not great. Matt Wieters was great in the minors and it showed how quickly he was called up. Machado was drafted a year before Dylan Bundy, yet Bundy has gained a significant amount more of attention as far as call-ups go. I understand many Orioles fans will disagree with me, but Greinke is only 28 years old. He has shown no sign of slowing down. The Orioles haven’t made the playoffs in over 15 years and with a legitimate line-up this season, my opinion is you have got to make the move.

A friend of mine made the argument that we wouldn’t win the World Series if we reached the playoffs, but he didn’t quite think that through did he? We would have made the playoffs for the first time in 16 seasons. This city needs a baseball home playoff game. That should be the goal. So in my opinion, make the move Birds.

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Big Trade Looming?

Posted on 07 July 2012 by Erich Hawbaker

The All-Star break is upon us. And, if the season ended today, the Orioles would be headed to the playoffs. Thursday’s disaster with the Angels notwithstanding, the Orioles have reached halftime without completely faceplanting as most of us expected they would. The bullpen has been the most pleasant surprise, with an ERA still close to the best in baseball. The offense (long balls in particular) has also been a big reason for the success, with Adam Jones on pace for 40 homeruns and several others flirting with 30.

However, just like last year, the most glaring weakness has been the defense. Unfortunately, the O’s also lead the league in errors, which has cost them at least three or four winnable games already this season. The other coin flip has been the starting pitching, which lately seems to always be either stellar or awful on any given night. Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen are aces more often than not, but the other three rotation spots have been consistently shaky with occasional flashes of brilliance.

The Orioles have already made a splash in the trade market this year by acquiring DH Jim Thome from the struggling Phillies for a pair of minor leaguers. For awhile now, I’d been wondering if they were really serious about being buyers this year like Dan Duquette said, and if, to that end, they would be looking to pick up another legitimate starting pitcher. Today when I checked my fantasy team (the Mercersburg Rebels, currently in 1st place), the news feed told me that the Orioles are trying to make a trade with the Brewers for RHP Zack Greinke. It also mentioned that the O’s have two highly-touted prospects in Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado that might be part of such a deal.

For the last few years, I’ve always made it a point to have Greinke on my fantasy team. He routinely goes deep into games, puts up lots of strikeouts, and has a very good ERA and WHIP. He won the 2009 AL Cy Young with the Royals, no easy feat when one considers that they’ve been about as bad as the Orioles over the last decade. This year, his record is 9-2, while his team is currently under .500 by five games.

So, all indications are that he would be an excellent pickup if the Orioles can pull this off. However, I would not part with Bundy or Machado to make it happen. Since Milwaukee lost Prince Fielder, they’re in need of a firstbaseman. Perhaps Mark Reynolds could be part of this trade? True, he’s not crushing the ball like he was last year, but Miller Park is definitely hitter-friendly. And now that the Orioles have Chris Davis, there isn’t a tremendous need for Reynolds here anymore. It would also make a big dent in that error rate.

Another thing to consider here is that the era of Brian Roberts is, regrettably, over. He’s given us some tremendous years, but unfortunately the Orioles simply cannot depend on him as an everyday player anymore. Therefore, letting go of Manny Machado would be unwise, because he will be coming of age right about the time when Roberts is officially finished. I don’t think I even need to elaborate on why trading Dylan Bundy would be a bad move, unless of course the Brewers are offering significantly more than just Greinke.

I have to admit, it’s a VERY nice thought that the Orioles’ rotation could eventually consist of Hammel, Chen, Greinke, Britton, and whoever gets their act together. That, coupled with Jones, Wieters, Davis, Markakis, Hardy, and our current bullpen would almost have to be a serious contender.

However, I must reiterate that even if this becomes reality, we are not yet free of Peter The Terrible, and I still remain unconvinced that the Orioles have truly turned the corner as long as he remains in the warehouse.

What do you think? Should the Orioles trade for Greinke? Is there someone else out there you’d like to see them pursue? Comments are always welcome.

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