The Orioles have until midnight tonight to add players outside the organization that can be available for a potential playoff roster.
Considering that the Orioles, after a seven-game win streak, are firmly in the American League Wild Card hunt, and that executive vice president Dan Duquette has shown a penchant for making trades in August, there’s still a possibility the Orioles consummate a deal before Thursday ends.
How likely is that?
“I don’t know. We’ve been trying,” Duquette said. “Sometimes it comes together, sometimes not.”
He’s looking for more pitching. No question. Duquette said he’s not solely focused on starting pitching, but that’s obviously the club’s biggest need. The Orioles are currently using a six-man rotation, but there are few consistently dependable options. Veterans Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez, and to an extent, Wade Miley, are replaceable given a better option.
Before a player can be dealt to any team in August, however, he first had to pass through revocable waivers. That limits the pool, obviously.
“Some pitching got through the trade waiver process; there’s a lot that didn’t because there are so many clubs still in contention,” Duquette said. “So, any pitchers that are traded at this time of the year are at a real premium.”
Reading between the lines, that means the return for a starting pitcher right now has been more exorbitant than the Orioles are comfortable dealing.
That could change as the clock ticks toward midnight.
“I think at this time of year, teams have a pretty good idea whether they are contenders or not. There’s a little bit more urgency to make a deal,” Duquette said. “And, if you’re not a contender, you are trying to improve your team for the future. Maybe save some salary, maybe trim your payroll a bit or reallocate the resource to a younger player. But we are always looking around.”
In his five previous seasons with the Orioles, Duquette has made six August trades, including picking up such usable parts for pennant races such as Alejandro De Aza, Joe Saunders and Michael Bourn.
On Thursday afternoon Duquette talked with Buck Showalter about some of the possible players that they could acquire now.
“I think Dan brought up two or three names today, that was it. Somebody we had put a claim in on that ended up somewhere else,” Showalter said. “There’s so many conversations like that that are had.”
Showalter was asked specifically if he’d want Detroit ace Justin Verlander, who reportedly has cleared waivers, but is owed at least $28 million each of the next two years. Showalter laughed and said, “Of course,” but said that name has not been brought up by Duquette.
Not only would a team need to absorb Verlander’s contract, but they’d also likely have to give up a significant prospect package for one of baseball’s best hurlers.
Instead, pitchers such as former Oriole Miguel Gonzalez and lefty Derek Holland, both members of the Chicago White Sox, are seemingly more attainable for the Orioles. But, again, they’d have to give up something for starters like those.
“At what cost? And I’m not talking about financially either, because our owner has been unbelievably supportive. So, at what cost, OK?” Showalter said. “What are you giving up? It’s not free, just take him. They want something in return, too.”
At times, the Orioles have been comfortable with what they have on the 25-man roster instead of adding an unknown. But, Showalter said, “If what you know you’re not happy with, then you will take the (unknown).”
And that’s Duquette’s job to sort it all out. He’s never been afraid to take a chance if he thinks it can help his current club, though he always makes a point, like he did Thursday, to say he is confident that the Orioles can add some players from the minors in September that can help.
“Well, we try to add to our team all year. We’re always looking for opportunities. Sometimes they are presented to us and other times not, but we try to staff as strong a team as we can get every day,” Duquette said. “We’ve been talking about a couple different options to see if we can strengthen our staff. It’s the last time you can add pitching from outside the organization, so we always look around to see what we can add here and there. I do like some of the options we have at Triple-A. I like some of the kids that have come up this year and the work they have done to help the team, so those pitchers are going to be available to us. We’ve had some other options that have developed at Triple-A that would add some depth to our bullpen.”
It’s all similar to what Duquette said in July, when he added shortstop Tim Beckham and pitcher Jeremy Hellickson. You can add pieces, but it’d be a huge help if the ones already here all did their jobs.
“The real key, of course is the starting pitching. We were able to pick up (Jeremy) Hellickson, who is a really good pro and he’s helped stabilize the rotation. And the extra rest that (Dylan) Bundy has had, and (Kevin) Gausman returning to form, those have been good contributors,” Duquette said. “If we can get some of those other veteran pitchers to pitch like they have in the past, that would really be a shot in the arm for us.”