The Baltimore Orioles And The Trade Deadline


The Baltimore Orioles, who are in the midst of a very surprising season, decided to bolster their lineup with the current version of Jim Thomeon Saturday. The team dealt a couple of low-level prospects to Philadelphia in exchange for the slugging “first baseman” to help them score more runs and compete with the traditional powerhouses in the deadly American League East. Thome will most certainly be getting the majority of his at-bats as a designated hitter, as he can’t really field a position at this point in his career. Thome will probably be a nice enough rental for the Orioles, but what exactly is the point of acquiring him?

The Orioles clearly see themselves as buyers this summer, but to what degree we do not yet know. It’s been a long time since they’ve had anything resembling a competitive team, so they are obviously pretty fired up about sitting five games back of the often awesome Yankees this far into the season. The O’s were projected by virtually everyone with even a cursory knowledge of baseball to finish last in their division behind the three usual suspects and the upstart Blue Jays, and they’ve been better than even their staunchest supporters could have ever hoped for. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be realistic, though.

While Baltimore is just five games back, they’ve succeeded in spite of a negative run differential and a roster that clearly doesn’t match the team’s 42-35 record. While it has to be very tempting for the front office to show that they’re serious about winning now, this is a situation in which the organization won’t be doing its fans any favors by trading for players who will make an impact right away. When you get right down to it, the Orioles will not be participating in October baseball this season. They need to many pieces for their puzzle to ever be completed so soon. The Orioles shouldn’t necessarily be sellers, but they shouldn’t be buying either.

The best thing the Oriole franchise can do is continue to rebuild. The team has a few key players on hand for what could be its next true contender. Center fielder Adam Jones is having what is easily his career year, and he was recently inked to a nice six-year extension. Catcher Matt Wieters hits very well for his position and handles his duties behind the plate as well as any backstop in the league. The system has a number of interesting young pitchers including Dylan Bundy, who has to be considered among the very best starting pitching prospects in all of baseball. The Orioles are well on their way, but the goal should be to keep stockpiling talent for the future and only make splashes otherwise once the time and player(s) involved are right.

It’s not that the Thome deal is a bad one or anything; it’s likely that neither minor leaguer dealt in the trade would have been of much consequence to the franchise’s ultimate plans anyway. While this trade is fine, it will be interesting to see what else the Orioles attempt to do before baseball’s July 31 trading deadline. It’s certainly understandable for the team to feel great about how it has played so far in 2012, and there would probably be plenty of cries of cowardice should the team have stood pat entirely, but the Orioles just aren’t ready to win now. Baltimore fans can only hope that the front office realizes this and was using this move to placate those who think the team is in a win-now situation. Should the organization become full-on buyers before the deadline, the Orioles will probably just be set back additional years in their quest to return to relevancy. The next great Orioles team is not far away, but trying to speed up its due date will just end up pushing it back.

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