Predicting In-Season Trades the Baltimore Orioles Will Need to Make
Regardless of performance during the course of the season, all teams make trades.
The Baltimore Orioles are no exception. And coming into the 2013 season with the highest expectations they've had in years, if the O's continue to impress, they could be seen as buyers rather than sellers when the trade deadline approaches.
However, being a buyer at the trade deadline doesn't seem to be GM Dan Duquette's style.
At last year's deadline, the O's were quiet. And they were just as quiet during the offseason. Win or lose, this upcoming season may not be any different.
Duquette likes the team he's put together. The O's have solid depth, no immediate needs and, as a team, are still young and full of prospects.
That being said, trades will still happen. Probably not the high-profile trades like some of their AL East counterparts, but trades nonetheless.
So, here are five trades that the Orioles may need to make during the course of the season.
Trade Luis Ayala
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The Orioles have 25 players on their active roster. Chris Tillman is not on said roster, as he is currently on the disabled list. Despite this, Tillman is slated to start the Orioles' fifth game of the season this Saturday against the Twins.
A roster move must be made by Saturday to make room for Tillman, and trading right-handed reliever Luis Ayala may be that move.
Ayala was a solid contributor to the O's stellar bullpen last season. The 35-year-old journeyman went 75 innings of relief, pitching to a 5-5 record with a 2.64 ERA and a lone save.
Despite his respectable numbers, Ayala is probably the fourth right-handed out of the pen, making him expendable. The fact that he is also on a one-year contract makes him more expendable.
The O's aren't limited to trading Ayala to make room for Tillman; it is simply an option. They could designate Tommy Hunter for assignment and hope to sneak him through waivers. They could give up Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland. Or they could demote Brian Matusz, Ryan Flaherty or Steve Pearce to Triple-A.
Trade Alexi Casilla
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The Orioles claimed Alexi Casilla off waivers this offseason as second base insurance to the oft-injured Brian Roberts.
With Brian Roberts currently healthy and another utility-man in Ryan Flaherty also making the team, Casilla's time in Baltimore may not last a full season. Only on a one-year contract, with a $3-million team option for 2014, the O's could trade the infielder to a team in need of second base depth.
If the Orioles do decide to trade Casilla, it likely wouldn't be until the trade deadline. Brian Roberts is healthy now, but no one knows how long that will last, so the O's will likely keep Casilla, at least for the time being.
Trade Wilson Betemit
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Wilson Betemit wasn't Orioles fans' most popular player in 2012. Not because of his bat, but because of his glove.
Playing 75 games at third base last season, Betemit committed 13 errors and was indirectly responsible for the unexpected call-up of Manny Machado. And after an injury, the 31-year-old Dominican native was limited to only 34 at-bats from August onward. Sadly for Betemit, he was hardly missed.
Betemit is once again injured, as a torn PCL will sideline him a couple of months.
If his absence goes unnoticed and the O's perform well, Betemit is another player with one year left on his contract that could be used as trade bait at the trade deadline. A team looking for a solid bat, especially against righties, could be willing to give up a prospect for the veteran.
Trade a Left Fielder
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Two-thirds of the Orioles outfield is set for the next few years, given that Nick Markakis and Adam Jones can stay healthy. However, left field still isn't solidified.
With his exceptional late-season and postseason performance, Nate McLouth quickly became an Orioles fan favorite. That being said, his track record is still one of inconsistency.
Nolan Reimold is another option for the O's in left field, but with Wilson Betemit's injury, Reimold will likely DH on most occasions.
The O's also have an extreme amount of depth in the minors for left field. In Triple-A alone, they have major league veterans in Conor Jackson, Lew Ford, Trayvon Robinson and Jason Pridie, as well as prospects L.J. Hoes and Xavier Avery.
They even have a largely unknown prospect in Henry Urrutia, whose minor-league destination is still unknown.
All of these outfielders are expendable, and any one of them could be traded depending on what scenarios unfold.
If McLouth returns to All-Star form, prospects like Hoes and Avery could be shipped. If one of the veterans is tearing it up in Triple-A, a team desperate for outfield depth could inquire for them. It all depends on what plays out.
Trade for a Starting Pitcher
Starting pitching isn't necessarily a weakness for the Orioles, but just an unproven commodity.
Four of the five members of the current rotation pitched very well in 2012, with the exception being Jake Arrieta. The problem is, other than Jason Hammel, none have a large amount of major league experience and many doubt a repeat performance.
Now, the Orioles do have a large amount of depth in the minors and they do have top-prospects in Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman waiting in the wings, but it wouldn't be surprising if the O's still traded for a veteran starting pitcher down the stretch.
The Orioles traded for Joe Saunders last season, giving up reliever Matt Lindstrom in the process, and Saunders' performance in the AL Wild Card Game made the deal well worth it.
Whether it be due to injuries or due to poor performance, the O's could easily trade for another veteran pitcher late in the season like they did for Saunders in 2012.