It would be fun to entertain trade targets for a playoff push, or even to be close enough to Wild Card contention that there is a question as to whether the O's should push all in or wait things out a week or two before making a decision. Sadly, as with a vast majority of the past 14 months of July, Baltimore is clearly in "look to the future" mode (or should be). There is some interesting discussion to be had, however, as to whether "the future" means 2012 or more the Machado/Bundy years. For at least one more season, I remain convinced that Baltimore has time to build around this core for a solid three year push and a chance to build some sustained success if things break right. I also remain convinced that in order for Baltimore to make use of this young core they need dramatic action and they need it now.
The 2012 off-season may be the last real chance to add needed talent to make a push for contention in the brutal AL East. The realist in me looks at the holes in the Baltimore 25-man roster and finds it difficult to imagine a scenario wherein Baltimore fills those holes adequately in a single off-season. That means, if I'm sitting in the Warehouse, my focus in July is to find some long term pieces at the trade deadline. We'll spend the next four weeks batting around ideas and providing scouting reports on some potential trade targets for the Birds. Hopefully Jon will chime in with some scouting and statistical analysis, as well, and in the end we will wind-up with some interesting discussion at the least.
As a disclaimer, I realize that "proposing trades" is a cliche sports message board pastime, often plagued with inaccurate assessments of other teams' needs and inflation of the value of the home team's assets. We will do our best to remain as objective and reasonable as possible. That said, if you are a fan of one of the other 29 teams that happens to find your way to The Depot and you see us making flawed arguments that relate to your team, please call us on it.
So, as an intro piece let's take this space to identify the most useful assets for Baltimore to peddle on the trade market:
Adam Jones, of, Orioles
2nd Tier Primary Pieces
J.J. Hardy, ss, Orioles
Jeremy Guthrie, rhp, Orioles
Secondary Pieces or 3rd Tier Primary Pieces
Kevin Gregg, rhp, Orioles
Koji Uehara, rhp, Orioles
Throw-ins or Salary Dumps
Vlad Guerrero, dh, Orioles
Derrek Lee, 1b, Orioles
It may shock some fans to see Adam Jones on our shop list, but he is the one premium chip available that will start to get expensive in the near future. He has the national recognition and enough of a track record to make this year's step forward an opportunity to bring back a large haul. It could be that he is not quite established enough to entice an org to part with a monster package, but one potential elite talent and two more strong pieces are not out of the question. Baltimore will otherwise look to extend Jones, and as impressive as he has been at the plate I have to question whether it makes sense for an organization like Baltimore to invest heavily in a corner outfielder playing center field. If you can get a team to pay an All-Star center fielder's price, I think you have to take it. That also may be the quickest way for Baltimore to fill multiple holes with long term solutions.
Hardy and Guthrie are not top tier trade pieces, but each could bring back a strong B/B+ prospect and a useful secondary piece. Hardy is the more valuable of the two right now due to positional scarcity and 2011 performance, though he is only a three month rental. Guthrie gives a National League team a possible #2 starter for a reasonable price over the next 1.5 seasons.
Gregg and Uehara each have closing experience and could bring back something around the George Sherrill package in 2009 -- that is, one solid B prospect and a throw in. In Gregg's case it would also free Baltimore of an unnecessary portion of payroll devoted to the bullpen.
Both Guerrero and Lee could be pieces of interest to teams looking for a bat off the bench during the playoff push. Unfortunately, their sub-par performance in 2011 means Baltimore would probably have to choose between salary relief or paying a chunk of their due cost in exchange for an upgrade to a B-/C+ type prospect.
For the time being I have excluded some of the Minor League pieces that could be added in a larger deal. I think it is more realistic that Baltimore would get creative with these pieces at the conclusion of the season when looking to add a big piece in the off-season. Let me know who we missed and what you'd want to get back for the trade pieces listed above.