The trade deadline is just 11 days away and the Baltimore Orioles (48-44) are holding strong in second place in the American League East behind those Bronx Bombers, who seem to have it wrapped up bearing a total collapse in the second half.
However, if the Birds are going to make a run at the wild card, they desperately need a strong starting pitcher who has experience with both late-season pressure and postseason contests.
The Brewers’ Zack Greinke is the most attractive hurler on the market, and although his name is fading as a potential candidate for the Orioles' rotation, he could definitely be the spark they need to go on a much-needed strong last couple of months.
However, with the former Cy Young’s experience, age and overall trade value, the black and orange might have to send either one of their prized minor league prospects to Milwaukee.
First, let’s take a look at Greinke’s past and why he is such a valuable commodity come the trade deadline.
Greinke broke into the MLB with the Kansas City Royals back in 2004 at the age of just 20. He finished fourth that season in the Rookie of the Year voting as he went 8-11 with a 3.97 ERA in 24 starts.
He struggled a bit in his sophomore season as he earned a 5-17 record with an inflated 5.80 ERA. However, that was the season when the Royals dropped 106 games.
Greinke racked up 13 wins and 10 losses in the 2008 season, and he lowered his ERA to 3.47, both of which were career highs (wins and ERA) in 32 outings.
The next season was his breakout year; he recorded a notable 16-8 record, and an even more impressive 2.16 ERA as he earned the 2009 Cy Young award, an All-Star nod and he finished 17th in the MVP voting.
Following his career year, he again slumped a bit. He went 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA in 2010, which proved to be his last season with the Royals.
In 2011, they shipped him to the Brewers, where he tied his career-high with 16 wins, and dropped just six games throughout the entire season. Not to mention, he pitched to just a 3.83 ERA, as he helped the lead them to the NLCS where they eventually lost the best-of-seven series against the Cardinals.
This season, Greinke sports a 9-3 record with a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts. He’s racked up 116.0 innings, but he has allowed 117 base hits on the year. Regardless, he has proven over the years that he is a formidable number one starting pitcher and he knows what it takes to win.
In his career, he owns an 85-76 record with a 3.80 ERA in 258 appearances (217 starts). Currently, the Brewers are three games under the .500 mark and are most likely not contenders at this point in the season.
“There doesn't appear to have been much contract dialogue between the Brewers and Zack Greinke, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. As of today (July 18th), there is no evidence that a formal offer has been made even though we heard last week that the team was prepared to make one.”
So, this is good news for the Baltimore Orioles. However, the bad news, as mentioned before, is that the Birds might have to give up one of their prized, future stars in Machado or Bundy.
If you’re an avid Orioles fan, then you have heard the name “Manny Machado” repeatedly over the last couple of seasons. And most recently, the name “Dylan Bundy” has jumped on their minor league radar.
As Jeff Sullivan reported on July 6th, “If the Orioles aren't willing to part with Dylan Bundy or Manny Machado, they could have a difficult time putting together a sufficiently appealing package.”
Although the 6'3", 185 lb. shortstop has struggled this season with the Orioles Double-A affiliate, Bowie Baysox, he is still the number one prospect in their farm system, just ahead of Bundy.
Currently, he’s batting .257 on the year with eight home runs and 50 RBI over his 92 games and 342 at-bats.
Last year, he batted .257 as he split time with Delmarva and Frederick. He smacked 11 home runs and drove in 50 RBI between the two teams. In his first year in the Birds’ minor league system in 2010, he batted .306 over just nine games.
The Birds selected Machado as their first-round choice (third overall) in the 2010 MLB draft out of Miami, Florida. He batted an impressive .629 (55-for-86) with 12 home runs, 56 RBI, 43 runs scored and 17 stolen bases as a senior in high school.
Also in his senior year in 2009, he helped Team USA win the gold medal at the Pan American Junior Championship in Venezuela.
Yes, he has struggled a bit this season, but he is learning and he just turned 20 years old. Scouts say that he has tremendous bat speed, and a good eye at the dish; he will continue to improve as he learns discipline at the plate and grows as a professional hitter.
Machado definitely has a bright future ahead of him, whether it be in an Orioles uniform or elsewhere.
Bundy has been one of the most-talked about young arms in the minor leagues this season, and really has been overshadowed by the success of 19-year-old Bryce Harper.
The RHP is just a couple of months younger than Machado, and the Birds drafted him in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft (fourth overall) out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has garnered much attention as he failed to allow an earned run in 30 innings at Delmarva.
Currently, he is pitching for Frederick, which is a Advanced-A affiliate of the Birds where he has earned a 4-3 record with a 3.11 ERA in eight outings. He’s tossed 37.2 innings, allowed 13 earned runs on 32 base hits, while he has racked up 42 strikeouts.
Baseball America ranked him 10th in their 2011 Top Prospect list, and that’s just because he is so young and inexperienced. Scouts report that he has an above-average fastball (mid-90s), a devastating curveball and a strong, yet developing changeup.
Like Machado, there is no doubt that Bundy will be a star in his own right, he just needs to work on perfecting his pitches and learn how to pitch at the major league level.
Besides the two biggest names in the Orioles’ farm system, there are a couple more strong minor leaguers that could be added to the mix for a possible trade scenario.
The Birds signed Jonathan Schoop at the age of 16 in 2008 out of Curacao; he’s been developing in the minor leagues, although he has struggled a bit this season.
Like Machado, scouts say he has great bat speed and as he matures, he will add more power to his game. Not to mention, he is a versatile infielder and a hard-worker. He hit .290 with Frederick last season, and is currently batting .239 with Bowie.
Xavier Avery is another possible candidate to throw into the package. The Birds called him up in early May and he got off to a hot start with the ballclub. However, strikeouts plagued him and that’s definitely one of the major aspects of his game that he needs to work on if he wants to make it to the show for good.
He made it into 24 games for the Birds earlier in the year; he collected 21 base hits over 90 at-bats (.233 average), including six doubles, one triple and one home run. He has great speed and is strong defensively. However, he struck out 22 times and for someone with that type of agility and speed, he needs to get on base more.
He is still young as he is just 22 years old and has time to grow and mature in the minor leagues.
Of course, there are a couple of other names the Birds have in their farm system that could possibly be added to the trade scenario, like Bobby Bundy, the older brother of Dylan. Also, Robert Andino (who is currently on the DL) could be an option since Brian Roberts is finally back with the team (although he is on the DL for the time being as well, he should return again very shortly).
The Birds have a great farm system, as they have been developing it over the last five years or so. However, they need to be careful not to unload too many of their prized minor leaguers in order to win a championship this season because if they end up making it to the playoffs and not winning the World Series, where does that leave them?
They could be out a couple of future star players and not have anything to show for it. This trade deadline could be very memorable for the Orioles, and let’s hope it’s not memorable in a bad way.
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