The O's have until Friday to work out a deal with the Mariners to acquire Michael Morse.
With a few potential impact players on the MLB trade block before the August 31 deadline to acquire a player who would be eligible for the playoffs, talks are likely to heat up in the next day or two.
The Indians, Orioles, Yankees, Royals, Diamondbacks and Nationals are all on the outside looking in but within striking distance of a wild-card spot. Several others have firm grasps on playoff spots, but only the Braves (13-game division lead) and Dodgers (9.5-game division lead) can feel safe in their current position.
Acquiring a player now who can help in the playoffs, however, isn't a bad idea. In other words, the 16 remaining playoff hopefuls are all likely scouring the waiver wire and looking to improve their team for the stretch run.
The rumor mill has been rather quiet, although that doesn't mean there isn't anything happening.
We know the Orioles are looking for a bat. The Twins have been trying to deal Justin Morneau, who is doing his part with a big month (.851 OPS, 8 HR). The D-backs will try to get something for Jason Kubel, who was recently designated for assignment. And the Nationals could trade Dan Haren, who has already passed through waivers and has been one of the best starters in the game over the past several weeks.
Here's a closer look at each of those scenarios.
Late Wednesday night, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweeted that the Orioles were awarded a waiver claim on Twins outfielder Josh Willingham (pictured). By early Thursday morning, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports was reporting that they had also won the claim on Mariners first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse. Not surprisingly, the O's had a right-handed power bat on their waiver-wire wish list.
With two trade possibilities to work with, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette will be busy trying to make the best deal—he reportedly has until Friday afternoon to make a deal for either player. If not, he'll have just one more day to find a much-needed designated hitter upgrade to his lineup.
The Orioles' group of designated hitters has combined for a .664 OPS on the season. Wilson Betemit, who had been out the entire season with a knee injury, is 0-for-4 since returning from the disabled list. They're running out of answers internally.
While losing Willingham could be costly because he's signed through 2014 at a reasonable $7 million salary, the Mariners don't have much reason to keep Morse around for the last month of the season. Expect the 31-year-old, who has a .771 OPS versus left-handed pitching on the season, to be in an Orioles uniform by the weekend.
The Pirates had a quiet July, but they made a splash earlier this week when they acquired right fielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck from the Mets for second base prospect Dilson Herrera and reliever Vic Black.
And they still might not be done.
With left fielder Starling Marte out at least a few more weeks with a hand injury, the Bucs could improve their outfield depth by dealing for first baseman Justin Morneau and allowing Garrett Jones to log some at-bats in the outfield. Heyman reported that the team does indeed have interest in the 32-year-old, and the Twins would be open to eating some of his remaining salary (just over $2 million).
The fact that Jones is in a 7-for-59 slump this month could also give the Bucs extra incentive to get a deal done. Each team should have enough motivation to get a deal done, and Morneau is likely open to the opportunity. He hasn't been to the playoffs since 2006, when he went 5-for-13 with two homers in a three-game series sweep to the A's.
Kubel was designated for assignment by the Diamondbacks, which means that a team can either claim him off waivers—highly unlikely given his remaining salary and lack of production in 2012—or the Twins can trade him to a team that offers a good enough prospect or takes on some of his remaining salary (just over $1 million with another $1 million buyout on his $7.5 million club option for 2014). If not, he'll be released and free to sign with any team.
Because the cost will be low and teams won't want to risk losing the 31-year-old in a bidding war to another team if he becomes a free agent, a trade is likely.
Despite a .612 OPS and only six homers in 89 games this season, there will be interest because of his past success (.811 OPS, average of 21 HR and 81 RBI per season from 2007-2012) and the possibility that he just coudn't get into a grove since he wasn't playing regularly as the team also gave at-bats to outfielders Cody Ross, Gerardo Parra and A.J. Pollock.
The Indians could have interest, according to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer. They reportedly put in a claim on him in August 2011 and are familiar with him during his successful stint with the Twins. With several left-handed hitters struggling for the Tribe, including designated hitter Jason Giambi (5-for-35) and Michael Brantley (.582 OPS) in August, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Indians made a run at Kubel.
We know Dan Haren has cleared waivers and we know he's pitching really good as of late (2.53 ERA since July 8). It's also a strong bet that several contending teams would love to have the 32-year-old pitching for them every fifth day in September. But as of now, there haven't been any rumors linking a specific team to the Nationals right-hander.
As Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports notes, however, there hasn't been much interest in Haren, and the Nats' recent 14-5 run that has them back in contention—they came into Thursday seven games back of a wild-card spot—could rule him out completely.
Considering the high expectations the Nationals had entering the season, it's probably smart to ride it out and not give up one of their best pitchers unless they're blown away with an offer. Expect Haren to finish the season in Washington.