The Orioles offense has mostly been boom or bust. Some players like Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters (until his injury) and Steve Pearce are having career years. Other players like Jon Schoop, Ryan Flaherty, Chris Davis and pretty much the rest of the motley horde that we've tried at catcher and second base have been terrible. The Orioles offense is about average once you factor in the fact that they play in a hitters stadium. Even if you just look at runs scored per game the Orioles still do worse then the elite offenses belonging to the Blue Jays, Tigers, Athletics and Angels. The Orioles can really strengthen their team by fixing weaknesses at catcher, first base and second base.
It should come as no surprise that the Orioles are interested in improving their offense and are specifically looking for a left handed hitter. They were interested in Seth Smith before he signed his extension. One player that fits the bill is Justin Morneau.
Justin Morneau is having a strong season for the Rockies with a .307/.340/.498 line and a wRC+ of 118 to go with his 18 HRs and 59 RBIs. But what makes him even more interesting is his platoon splits. This year his splits look like this:
Morneau's contract runs through 2015 with a mutual option for 2016 and will receive $5M in 2014 and $6.75M in 2015. This is reasonably affordable for a platoon bat.
The Orioles could try to trade prospects in a deal for Morneau and/or Jorge De La Rosa and could offer the Rockies either Eduardo Rodriguez or Chance Sisco in a trade. But it may make more sense for the Orioles to come up with an idea outside of the box. Suppose the Orioles offer to trade Chris Davis for Morneau and De La Rosa?
As mentioned above Chris Davis is currently having a dreadful season and is hitting below the Mendoza line. Rumor has it that he is suffering from lingering injuries and he is also having trouble dealing with the shift. He is struggling against both lefties and righties and over the past 28 days has hit a poor .128/.240/.244 with 1 double and 3 home runs in 101 PAs (stats current as of 7/13/14). Simply put, he's been dreadful and a contending team is unable to count on him for production this year.
Chris Davis's agent is Scott Boras and therefore is unlikely to sign an extension based on his current market value. It is likely that Chris Davis and the Orioles would go through arbitration for the third and last time next year and then would hit the free agent market.
The trade would make sense for both sides. The Orioles would receive two players that could help them this year when they're definitely in the playoff run while still having control of Morneau for next year at a lower cost than Davis. Matusz has struggled this year and De La Rosa could help stabilize the bullpen as a LOOGY. Trading Chris Davis would open up a spot on the Orioles roster so that they'd have an opening for Morneau. The Rockies would receive a player that doesn't look like he can contribute much this year but who could regain his 2013 form and become an elite bat. At that point, the Rockies could either keep him for their own playoff run or trade him for considerably more then they'd receive for Morneau. Even if Davis did bust he'd only be under contract for one year and the Rockies have a limited payroll. They need to take chances like this in order to get potentially elite talent.
If the Orioles did make this trade then this would leave the only holes remaining at catcher and second base. The Orioles have stated that they're not looking for another catcher. It's also likely that the top options at second base will be out of the Orioles range. The Rays would want a premium for trading Zobrist inside the division while the Phillies don't appear likely to trade Utley. But the Orioles could improve their situation by trading for Brian Roberts.
The fact that Brian Roberts joined the Yankees is hard to swallow even though the Orioles had no room for him on their roster. But it just doesn't seem right that the Orioles are in the playoff hunt without him either on the roster or more likely on the DL. And while Brian Roberts isn't going to make the all-star game anytime soon he would be an upgrade over Jonathan Schoop, Ryan Flaherty, Steve Lombardozzi and all of the other guys we have in Norfolk. Given that he isn't very good and the Yankees are barely in playoff contention it is likely that his value would be a C-/D+ prospect perhaps someone like Jemille Weeks or Steve Lombardozzi.
By trading for Justin Morneau, Jorge De La Rosa and Brian Roberts the Orioles could improve their chances for winning this year.