It's not trade time just yet, but the recent upturn in the fortunes of the Orioles has created just enough buzz to start wondering which direction the team should go when Andy MacPhail's phone starts ringing in July.
The midseason market will open in earnest early next month and - depending on factors beyond the scope of my well-known power to predict the future - contribute some additional excitement and intrigue to an Orioles season that is shaping up to be the most interesting in a decade.
(OK, let me define my terms. Obviously, there have been some pretty interesting seasons around here, if you enjoy managerial speculation and the occasional steroid scandal, but I'm talking about actual interest in the players and what they might accomplish on the field over the next year or two.)
I can't remember a season this century that held more promise for the future and featured a more attractive cast of characters, much of which is a tribute to MacPhail's leadership, though it's also fair to reserve some credit for the previous administrations that developed the likes of Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts and drafted Matt Wieters.
Pardon the long preamble, but it is against this backdrop that MacPhail and his staff are preparing for the trading period that leads up to the July 31 deadline for making deals without passing players through waivers.
The front office must decide whether the Orioles will be buyers or sellers - or both - and determine which of the older players might fit into a future that is approaching fast.
Of course, it takes at least two teams to make a deal, so the ability to get something done always depends on what's being offered, but here are a few suggestions just in case something good comes along:
* Keep Aubrey Huff.
This probably would have seemed like a ridiculous concept 15 months ago, but Huff has done a great job of rehabilitating his image both on and off the field. He's a fit if he stays productive the rest of the season and MacPhail can talk him into a reasonable two-year extension.
Obviously, if some contender needs him badly enough to give up a couple of strong prospects, MacPhail would have to consider that, but Huff probably will not command that kind of value for a second-half rental.
* Listen to offers for closer George Sherrill.
The guy is on a tremendous roll and might just end up on the All-Star team for the second straight year. If a contending club in need of bullpen help is willing to give up something of value, MacPhail will be in a position to improve the take from the Erik Bedard deal and should not pass it up.
Sherrill's a good guy and he's great to have around, but his value might never be higher.
* Don't listen to offers for Cesar Izturis.
Robert Andino's strong performance notwithstanding, the Orioles finally have solved their depth issue at shortstop.
Having two solid options is a very good problem to have going forward, though manager Dave Trembley is going to have to find a way to get playing time for both of them.
* Focus on the corners.
The Orioles still have an organizational need at the corner infield positions, which could become much more pronounced if Huff doesn't stay beyond this year.
And Melvin Mora is in the final guaranteed year of his contract (though the club holds an option for 2010).
The Orioles have accelerated first-base prospect Brandon Snyder, but corner infield depth still is a long-range weakness that needs to be addressed.
That doesn't have to happen in July, but it figures to be a priority from now through the coming offseason.
MacPhail knows what he's doing, so he doesn't really need my advice on any of this, unless you believe I'm secretly pulling the strings in the Orioles organization.
However, I can neither confirm nor deny that.
Listen to Peter Schmuck weeknights at 6 on WBAL (1090 AM).