The Orioles acquired utility player Jake Fox from the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday and optioned pitcher Chris Tillman back to Triple-A Norfolk, all of which would make perfect sense during any normal baseball season.
Fox is a multiposition guy who will enable the Orioles to get catcher Matt Wieters out of a crouch more often, and Tillman needed to go somewhere and pitch regularly.
It's a perfectly logical move at a time when logic is so far down our emotional depth chart that it's hard to do anything but wonder whether it's some kind of cruel joke.
And Orioles fans don't need any more of those. Jay Leno threw the Orioles under the proverbial team bus last week, and David Letterman took a pretty good shot at them during his monologue Monday night.
"Over the weekend, at Yankee Stadium, Lady Gaga goes into the Yankees clubhouse, takes off all her clothes and gives everybody there the finger," Letterman said. "It's been ... what she's doing now ... she's going to go from stadium to stadium, making a fool of herself. It's like the Orioles."
Now, it's your turn, of course, because Fox is another flash from Andy MacPhail's past. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the third round in 2003 and finally surfaced as a pretty decent utility guy last year. He was traded to the A's in December and ran aground in very limited playing time, so he was designated for assignment and the Orioles dispatched minor league pitcher Ross Wolf to Oakland, where -- considering the way things have been going here in Baltimore -- he'll probably become a 15-game winner for the A's by the end of next year.
No disrespect is intended here toward Fox. He had 11 homers and 44 RBIs in just 216 at-bats last season, and he was a big-time power guy in the minor leagues, so he has some pop and he has shown he can produce in a diverse role. But Orioles fans can be forgiven for wondering whether there is anybody left in the Cubs' player development system.
They can also be forgiven for asking this impolite question:
When is MacPhail going to make a move that makes them puff out their chests instead of scratch their heads? After all, we're not talking about a team that just needs a few subtle tweaks.
The Orioles need to change the subject, and the only way MacPhail is going to do that is by doing something dynamic -- either during the midseason trading period that leads up to the July 31 deadline for making trades without players having to pass through waivers or by snatching some expensive player off waivers in August when struggling teams start looking for ways to pare their payrolls.
There's also the upcoming free-agent market, but it's going to be even tougher to persuade quality players to come to Baltimore after this debacle.
In a perfect Orioles world, he would start shipping out the one-year veterans for whatever prospects they might bring and then turn around and package some young talent for a quality hitter who is signed or under reserve at least through next season.
Everyone knows he's going to stick with The Plan, but part of that plan was to build a foundation of young talent so there would be some available to help acquire established talent. I don't know whether the Orioles are there yet, but it's time for some kind of decisive act to reinstill some confidence in what he's trying to do.
It won't be easy, of course. Nothing around here ever is. There was speculation a month ago that MacPhail was about to start shopping Ty Wigginton, Miguel Tejada and Kevin Millwood, but he said at the time he still wanted to give the team a chance to become more competitive. Now, you could make the case that the value of Millwood and Tejada has declined, along with that of some of the club's most heralded prospects.
Still, MacPhail showed soon after he got here that he is capable of pulling off a big deal. Despite Adam Jones' inconsistency and Tillman's recent travails, the trade of Erik Bedard remains one of the best in club history. The five-for-one Tejada deal no longer is remembered as fondly, but it also was the kind of bold stroke that the club badly needs in the coming months. In both cases, MacPhail got back maximum value despite question marks that affected the value of each player.
Can he do it again -- this time getting one or two established players instead of 10 prospects? Orioles fans can only hope, because the viability of The Plan and the competitive future of the team just might hang in the balance.
Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) on Fridays and Saturdays at noon and with Brett Hollander on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6. Also, check out his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
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