Monday, July 18, 2011

O's have roster decisions to make

As Jeff Zrebiec notes here and here, the Orioles' recent roster shuffle continues, and it will likely continue for the next few weeks. After another awful start, Mitch Atkins was sent back to Triple-A. Other spots that recently opened up: Alfredo Simon (restricted list), Vladimir Guerrero (15-day DL, broken bone in his right hand), and Pedro Viola (demoted to Double-A). Those four openings have been, at least temporarily, filled with Matt Angle, Troy Patton, Mark Worrell, and Josh Bell.

Luke Scott, Cesar Izturis, and Vladimir Guerrero are all on the mend and could return shortly. If Scott comes back healthy and starts hitting the ball like he did last season, that could help the O's tremendously. But the other two really only block younger guys from playing while also not giving the O's much value in return. There's also Brian Roberts, who's still dealing with complications from his concussion, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if he ended up missing the entire season. Justin Morneau missed more than a year with concussion issues, and he still hasn't played like his old self (though he's also dealing with a wrist injury). Concussions are serious, and Roberts shouldn't return until he's 100 percent healthy. That may take a long time.

Which moves the O's make will tell a lot about how they're viewing the rest of this season. Guys like Guerrero have little trade value, if any, so he'll probably be on the O's roster for the rest of the season. It would be nice to get rid of him somehow to free up some playing time for Nolan Reimold or anyone else to DH (Mark Reynolds?) occasionally, but that likely won't happen. Izturis's presence also seems redundant at this point; is he really an upgrade over Blake Davis or Ryan Adams? And if Scott does start hitting, the O's should do whatever they can to flip him immediately for anything in return. There's already a logjam in left field (Reimold, Felix Pie, Matt Angle), and it doesn't seem like the O's are willing to part with Pie anytime soon -- which is unfortunate, because he can't hit.

The starting rotation will also continue to change, as some of the young starters will be back at some point. Brian Matusz has found a little recent success at Triple-A, and he could be back soon if he keeps that up. Zach Britton will likely be back as well, though he'll have his innings limited for the rest of the season. Chris Tillman could return in September as well, but he hasn't been pitching well at Norfolk.

Oh, and the O's have some decisions to make as the trade deadline approaches. They have a few trade chips, though they recently took their biggest one (J.J. Hardy) off the market by signing him to a three-year extension. So will the O's deal away Jeremy Guthrie or Reynolds? What about Koji Uehara or Jim Johnson? Or anyone else? There's no guarantee that the O's must make a couple of trades, but it would be surprising if the trade deadline passed with the O's failing to bring back a few prospects in a trade or two.

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