Orioles general manager Andy MacPhail checks out spring training… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
The July 31 deadline for making trades without sending players through waivers is approaching fast, but you can forgive me if I'm having trouble getting terribly excited about all the attractive possibilities that await the Orioles.
That's because the in-season trading cutoffs — both the waiver deadline and Aug. 31 deadline for traded players to be eligible for the postseason — have mostly been used in recent years to dispatch useful players to contending teams that are willing to pick up their salaries and send back a medium prospect or two. This year figures to be no exception.
There apparently are several teams interested in acquiring utility infielder Ty Wigginton, who just got back from his first All-Star Game, and there also appears to be a market for third baseman Miguel Tejada. Since neither player figures in the long-term future of the franchise, there's nothing wrong with turning them over to get some more minor league depth. It just isn't very satisfying at this point in this strange season.
I'm pretty sure I speak for a lot of Orioles fans when I pose this question to the front office: When is July 31 going to mean more than moving day for the few veteran players who are capable of helping some better team make it down the stretch?
Pardon the fans for being a little cynical at this point, but some of them are still wondering what the Orioles got for reliever Chad Bradford in 2008. I know, that deal happened in early August, but let's not split hairs. The Orioles didn't get anything for a serviceable reliever, other than a couple of million bucks in recouped payroll, and ended up missing him during the club's annual September cliff dive.
Last year, Andy MacPhail barely beat the deadline with the deal that sent George Sherrill to the Dodgers for third base prospect Josh Bell. That one looks a little better in the rear-view, since Sherrill was just put on outright waivers and Bell is considered the Orioles' third baseman of the future, but it also set in motion the chain of events that led to the expensive and ill-advised signing of free-agent closer Michael Gonzalez.
That's just the way the dominoes fall some times. MacPhail felt that Bradford was expendable and — to be fair — the guy wasn't exactly Mariano Rivera. He also thought the Orioles could get by with Jim Johnson as the closer for the final months of last season, but Johnson didn't embrace the role, so the O's were forced to fill it with a free agent. We all know how that went.
Which brings us back to this summer and the likelihood that Wigginton or Tejada will head out of town to take part in somebody else's late-season playoff run. Obviously, that would be great for them, and it would be OK for the Orioles if they get anybody in return who might really help them turn a corner in the next year or two. Pardon the fans, however, if they no longer get all weak-kneed at the prospect of shaving $4 million off the payroll.
They want to know when it's their turn. They want to know when this organization is going to be a buyer instead of a seller at midsummer. They want to know when MacPhail is going to go back into his wheeler-dealer mode and flip a bunch of those prospects for a legitimate offensive player who might help change the subject around here.
If he deals Wigginton and Tejada for a handful of prospects who create a real surplus in the player development system, that might create an opportunity to package some young players in a significant trade.
In theory, anyway.
What would be nice right now would be some update on the direction the club intends to take over the next few months. That starts with the choice of a new permanent manager, but after all these years of frustration, the fans also would like to know just what MacPhail intends to do during the coming winter to give them real hope for a more competitive 2011.
Hopefully, the upcoming trade deadlines will give us a hint.
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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