Window shopping

O's could leave yet another deadline day empty-handed

On the Orioles

July 30, 2008|By RICK MAESE

Perhaps it's simply a lesson in empathy.

Do you have friends who celebrate different holidays than you do - maybe Christmas or maybe Arbor Day or maybe Rosh Hashana? You ever wonder what it's like to partake in those annual celebrations?

Of course you do. You're an Orioles fan. You go through this routine every year. You watch as seemingly every other team opts to recognize and honor Major League Baseball's annual trading deadline, while your team instead treats the event as just another day on the calendar.

Will this year be different? Will tomorrow be different?

I don't want to blow up your daily planner, but there's probably no need to take the day off work. There won't likely be a flurry of activity. Expect another trading deadline at which anxious, office-bound Orioles fans have zero use for the F5 refresh key as they troll baseball Web sites.

But does it have to be this way?

In years past, the trade deadline could come and go and it was tough to blame the Orioles' front office for being stagnant (tough, but not impossible). In recent years, the Orioles had little use for an end-of-the-year hired gun and little in the way of trade bait to accumulate young prospects.

But as midseason has come and gone, this looked like a year the Orioles could actually be a player in the annual midseason roster shuffle. The Orioles weren't bulking for a late push. In fact, the past couple of weeks have shown the starting rotation is about four starters short of a full staff and there are still plenty of holes offensively and defensively.

But the Orioles had something to offer this year. Team president Andy MacPhail could finally flash open his coat and dangle actual quality goods for other teams to peruse.

Yet here we are, Deadline Eve at the Warehouse, and once again it's crickets chirping, not phones ringing.

The most likely trade possibility before the nonwaiver deadline always involved George Sherrill. With an uncertain role entering the spring, the All-Star left-hander suddenly finds himself with 30 saves and a 3.71 ERA. Plus, his salary is manageable and he's 31 years old.

With a long list of teams looking for bullpen help - including the Marlins, Tigers, Cardinals, Mets, Phillies, Dodgers, Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and White Sox - you would think he could be moved for something.

But that just hasn't proved to be the case. Fortunately for the Orioles, Sherrill's stock is at an all-time high. In fact, with a gloomy forecast ahead for the team, don't expect it to ever get much higher. Unfortunately for the Orioles, other teams don't seem sold on Sherrill as a closer, which is too bad. While the Orioles stand a better chance passing veterans Jamie Walker or Chad Bradford through waivers next month, the time to trade Sherrill is now.

MacPhail showed with the Erik Bedard deal that he's not one to blink first, which likely means that for anything to happen, other teams would have to raise their offers before tomorrow's 4 p.m. deadline. MacPhail shows no signs of dropping his asking price.

It's a tough spot for a team executive because before he can trade Sherrill, MacPhail has to first sell other teams on his exact value.

The litmus test for every player is 2010. If someone on today's roster isn't expected to contribute in 2010, then he's a trade possibility. Maybe not necessarily by the end of the day tomorrow, but there will still be moves to be made. Kevin Millar, Jay Payton and Ramon Hernandez would likely clear waivers. And if anyone wants to take on Aubrey Huff's salary, you bet the Orioles will listen.

They have to listen. They have too many players who don't figure into the long-range plans, and the objective should be to get at least something for as many of them as possible.

It's a tightrope MacPhail must gingerly walk: preaching patience but acting aggressively.

For too long, Orioles fans have had to suffer through the morning-after trade-deadline hangover, the annual airing of why deals weren't done. And generally speaking, there are usually some pretty good reasons.

But just once it would be nice to hear how a deal actually happened. How the Orioles parted with something and took a gamble on something else. They need to limit the reasons they nix trades because the maturation date on this project is still far off. That means you have freedom to trade within the division, to acquire strictly minor leaguers, to take a run at the unknown.

That would be worth celebrating. Worth stringing the lights around the house, baking a cake and inviting over family and friends.

Instead, around Baltimore, the safe bet is on another uncelebrated holiday; all you can do is stare out the window and watch neighbors partake and enjoy.

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