Thursday, July 26, 2012

Some reasons why the Orioles should not be buyers

The non-waiver trade deadline is less than a week away (next Tuesday, July 31, at 4 p.m., to be exact), and many Orioles fans want the team to make a major move or two to bolster the team for a potential playoff push. But even though I've enjoyed the pleasant surprise of this team actually winning games and hanging around, I've never completely bought in. At 51-47, they're still just a couple games back for that second wild card spot, but they've also lost three in a row and have had lots of trouble scoring runs.

After last night's 10-1 shellacking at the hands of David Price and the Rays, the O's now own a run differential of -57, which is the second-worst mark in the American League. A team's record is more important, and a team can sometimes outplay that run differential, but more often than not, run differential is an indicator of things to come. Here are other issues with this team:

- Matt Wieters (.240/.319/.406) and J.J. Hardy (.221/.264/.376) are not hitting that well.

- Jim Thome, who's 41, is probably the team's third-best hitter behind Adam Jones and Nick Markakis.

- The O's left field rotation consists of Chris Davis, Endy Chavez, and Steve Tolleson.

- Their corner infield defense (Wilson Betemit at third, Mark Reynolds at first) is a major concern and certainly would not make Tom Emanski very happy.

- With Robert Andino out for a few more weeks and Brian Roberts possibly needing surgery, the O's current options at second base are Ryan Flaherty and Omar Quintanilla.

- As a team, the O's have an on-base percentage of .302, second worst in the AL (Mariners, .291).

- Per FanGraphs' UZR, the O's are the worst fielding team in the AL.

- Jason Hammel, the team's best starter this season, had surgery on his right knee earlier this month and may not be ready to return for a few more weeks.

- Miguel Gonzalez and Tommy Hunter are in the rotation right now, which may not continue to work (see: Gonzalez's really bad start last night). Zach Britton and Chris Tillman are also far from trusted starters.

There's more, but you get the point. And obviously, there are positives, too, or else this team still wouldn't have a winning record in late July. But that doesn't mean they should be buyers and willing to offer up younger players in exchange for rentals in a false hope of making the playoffs, especially when the farm system, outside of Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado, is so shallow. Even if the O's can't truly be sellers because they're still technically competing, their long-term goal should still be to add younger talent for seasons beyond this one so that when Machado and Bundy are in Baltimore, the O's are a more well-rounded team and will be better overall.

However, if the O's are willing to spend some money right now in lieu of offering up any decent prospects, they may be able to bring a player or two aboard whose deals expire at the end of this year. Someone like Shane Victorino, to play left field, is one example, though the Phillies are seeking "bullpen help," which is pretty vague. Kevin Gregg qualifies as bullpen help, I guess.

I hope the O's keep winning; it really is fun to watch. But I'm just hoping Dan Duquette and co. don't do anything foolish to risk this team's chances of being good next year or after. It doesn't sound like they will, thankfully, but crazy things are possible. This is Birdland, after all.