Can the Orioles pull off a deal before Saturday?

Can the Orioles pull off a deal before Saturday?
August 29, 2013, 12:30 pm
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BOSTON –- A month from now, the Orioles’ regular season will be history. In an attempt to prolong their season, they’ve put in a waiver claim on Minnesota’s Josh Willingham and now have until 1 p.m. on Friday to work out a deal.

On Thursday, CBS Sports Jon Heyman reported the Orioles claimed Seattle's Michael Morse. The Orioles would also have to work out a deal with the Mariners.

Both teams could allow the Orioles to claim Willingham or Morse without a deal, but that's unlikely. 

Dan Duquette, the Orioles’ executive vice president of baseball operations, said on Sunday that the team was trying to pick up another bat. IT's obvious he's serious about it.

Is Willingham a good idea? How about Morse?

Unlike Justin Morneau, who the Orioles have also discussed with the Twins, and Kendrys Morales, reportedly claimed by the team earlier this week, Willingham has a contract for 2014. Morse does not.

Willingham's is a $7 million deal, and presumably the Orioles would want “cash considerations” from Minnesota. It’s hard to see Duquette committing that kind of money for Willingham now—without some help from the Twins.

The Orioles showed interest in Morse last winter and also at last month's trading deadline. Duquette said the price was too high then. 

Over the last two months, the Orioles have acquired Scott Feldman, Francisco Rodriguez and Bud Norris. In return, the Orioles traded Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, L.J. Hoes, minor league third baseman Nick Delmonico, minor league pitcher Josh Hader and some draft choices.

It would be hard to imagine Duquette surrendering, say Zach Britton or another high-ranked prospect for Willingham. The Orioles’ minor league system is certainly improved in the last few years, but it’s not rife with stunning talent yet.

Willingham is batting .212, but his on-base percentage is a healthy .343. Sort of Mark Reynoldsesque. Willingham, who missed five weeks with a knee injury, has 12 home runs and 45 RBIs.

A year ago, Minnesota’s three-year, $21 million deal looked like a good one. Willingham hit 35 home runs and drove in 110 runs.

He’s not a great outfielder, but if the Orioles don’t re-sign Nate McLouth after this season, the team could be looking at Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Willingham in left.

As a designated hitter, Willingham isn’t a bad choice for next year, hoping that at 35, he can be closer to the 2012 hitter than the 2013 model. For this year, he’d probably supplant Danny Valencia, who could be temporarily optioned to Norfolk and brought back when the Tides’ season ends.

The Orioles will have to find a DH from the right side for next year. They’ll also need, at worst, a fourth outfielder even if they do bring back McLouth. Nolan Reimold’s future is uncertain, and if he’s back in spring training next year, it will probably be on a minor league deal.

Seattle has shown interest in retaining Morse, but because he's a rental, his price would be lower than Willingham's. 

Like Willingham, he also missed five weeks. His was a quadriceps injury. Since returning in late July, Morse's batting average has tumbled from .251 to .226. He has just two home runs in his last 32 games, 13 this season and 27 RBIs. 

In order for a player, like Willingham  or Morse, who comes from outside the organization, to be eligible for the playoff roster, they must be Orioles property by Saturday at 11:59 p.m.

Expect a busy two days for Duquette.

The news of the Orioles’ waiver claim was first reported by the Baltimore Sun.