When sports fans in Baltimore aren’t worrying about the Ravens and Joe Flacco, they’re wondering why the Orioles haven’t made a trade.
They see the Toronto Blue Jays adding three starting pitchers—Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and now R.A. Dickey, and wonder if the Orioles are ever going to do anything.
Dan Duquette would love to make a trade. In a conference call last week, he said he would like to add a bat to the middle of the batting order.
The problem is the Orioles don’t have all that much to trade. The team has six front-line position players: Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. None of them is likely to be moved.
There aren’t any great prospects in the minors that are major league ready. The only position player on the 40-man roster who hasn’t played in the majors is infielder Jonathan Schoop, who could conceivably be the starter at second base—in 2014.
Schoop isn’t considered a surefire star as Machado was a year ago. The Orioles turned down the Phillies’ request for him in exchange for Joe Blanton. It was a wise move because a few weeks later, they got Joe Saunders, who was much better.
Xavier Avery and L.J. Hoes are outfield prospects, but aren’t highly sought after.
There are no outstanding minor league catchers in the Orioles organization, and that’s one of the reasons the Blue Jays were able to make the move for Dickey, who reportedly agreed to a two-year, $25 million extension. Travis d’Arnaud batted over .300 in his last two minor league seasons, with power. Presumably, he’ll be the New York Mets regular catcher.
Still short on quality position players in the organization, Duquette has lots of pitching to deal, but none of the pitchers he’ll deal is a sure thing, either.
They won’t trade Wei-Yin Chen, Jim Johnson, Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman.
Jason Hammel seemingly was on his way to a breakthrough season before injuring his knee, but didn’t win a game in the last three months of the season. He gave a valiant effort, but only won eight games. Just a year away from free agency, trading for Hammel would be a risk.
Chris Tillman finally delivered in the second half of last season. After years of waiting for him, the Orioles probably want to hold on to him, and other teams may not believe what they saw.
Miguel Gonzalez was a total unknown, and despite his success, there’s justifiably concern about whether he can duplicate it.
Chen, Hammel, Tillman and Gonzalez will enter spring training as the first four starters.
The trade chips that Duquette may be willing to part with: Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter, Steve Johnson and Brian Matusz, all have no consistent track record.
Lots of teams love Arrieta’s arm, but he regressed last season. Britton won 11 games in 2011, but his season was marred by injury and ineffectiveness. Manager Buck Showalter hardly used Arrieta and Britton last September.
Hunter was home run happy as a starter, and better as a one-inning man while Johnson did well when called on, but Showalter seemed reluctant to use him.
At 25, Matusz may be young to be stereotyped as a left-handed relief specialist. His arm is a live one, and lots of teams think he has promise.
While Orioles fans may like these guys, it’s apparent that they may not be enough to make a deal for Kendrys Morales. As soon as the Angels signed Josh Hamilton, fans immediately jumped to the conclusion that Morales was expendable and moving him to the Orioles might be a good fit.
Duquette will continue to look for deals. At this time last year he was also criticized for inaction. He signed Tsuyoshi Wada in December. Wada was an unknown in the U.S., and fans wondered why the Orioles didn’t do more.
His best off-season moves came in January when he signed Chen and February when Hammel and Matt Lindstrom were acquired for Jeremy Guthrie.
We’re barely halfway into the off-season, and Duquette will probably make a move or two before spring training. It’s just not enough for Orioles fans.