The Baltimore Orioles are in the middle of a playoff push.
Heading into Thursday, Sept. 5, the Orioles sits four games out of the second AL wild-card spot and hopes to make up the ground over the season's final 24 games.
It won't be easy, but with most of their remaining games being played against teams ahead of them in the standings, the O's determine their own fate for the most part.
As with any other team this season, the Orioles are going to need to make some decisions in regards to players who are nearing the end of their contracts and whether or not to re-sign certain guys.
The Orioles have a good core group of players who they should build around, but it would be wise for the team to let some of the players who are at the end of their deals walk.
Following are the players I believe the O's should let go after the 2013 season and why they should be sent packing.
Francisco Rodriguez has always been a very good late-innings pitcher. He holds the MLB record for most saves in a single season with 62 saves in 2008 while he was with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
However, after Baltimore gave up top-rated prospect Nicky Delmonico in a deal with Milwaukee back in July, Rodriguez hasn't pitched as well as the O's had hoped.
His 3.94 ERA with the O's is a bit high, but his ERA was a miniscule 1.09 when they got him from the Milwaukee Brewers. Rodriquez's overall ERA for the season is 2.21 over 40.2 innings. On the plus side, he has a 2-0 record with the Orioles, so he hasn't lost any games.
However, my reasoning for letting Rodriguez go has less to do with the numbers he's put up as an Oriole and more to do with the history of his bad temper.
Rodriguez can be a bit of a hothead, having caused problems in the clubhouse and elsewhere throughout his career.
While he's been a good teammate since joining the Orioles, I fear that it's only a matter of time before he poisons the Orioles' clubhouse, which would be devastating considering one of the O's strongest assets as a team is their solid clubhouse chemistry.
Maybe Rodriguez has grown up since his multiple altercations of the past. He could remain a good teammate the rest of his career. If his numbers were lights out with the O's, it'd likely be a much tougher decision.
Right now, though, the money that would be tied to the name of K-Rod isn't worth the risk.
Michael Morse is excited about the chance to be in a playoff race once again.
His bat has come out of its slump a little bit after the recent trade that brought him to the O's from the Seattle Mariners.
That is exactly why the Birds acquired him, but September and the postseason—should the O's get there)—should be his only time with the club. It would be best for the Orioles to let him go after this season.
Morse has a solid bat. He's a career .285 hitter and smacked 31 homers in 2011 with the Washington Nationals.
But he's extremely injury-prone, as he appeared in only 76 games with the Mariners before the Orioles acquired him while he played in 102 games in 2012 with the Nationals. In fact, his great 2011 season in which he batted .303 and drove in 95 runs is the only season of his nine-year career in which he stayed healthy all year.
Even in his 102 games last year, Morse managed 18 homers with a .291 batting average, so it's obvious the dude can hit. But he'll likely be looking for at least a two-year deal with decent pay, especially if he has a strong finish to this season.
Morse is not the worst fielder, but he certainly isn't known for his defense. He's also not very quick on the basepaths. For the money he'd likely command (two years and $15 million as a starting point?), I just don't see it being worth it with Morse's injury history.
I hope he hits well in Baltimore and helps propel the team into the playoffs. After that, let another club worry about his injuries because the O's certainly don't need that aggravation.
The tall right-hander has done exactly what the Orioles wanted him to do since his acquisition, going 4-4 with a 4.18 ERA in 10 starts covering 60.1 innings and solidifying the back-end of the Orioles' rotation.
He's been solid and predictable for the Orioles, spare a couple of poor outings, and has given the team a chance to win pretty much every time out while averaging about six innings a start.
So why let him go? Well, it doesn't have as much to do with him as it does with the Orioles.
The O's have a few players in their minor league system who will likely compete for a starting job in 2014. Top prospect Kevin Gausman has looked good out of the 'pen and it wouldn't surprise me to see him break camp as a starter with the parent club next spring.
Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez is a little bit further away from joining the O's, but he's improving quickly in the system. After a rough start at Double-A Bowie, Rodriguez finished the season by going 3-0 in his final four starts with a 0.36 ERA, including 2-0 and not allowing a single run over his final two starts and 14 innings.
It's about time the O's find out what they have exactly in another left-handed arm, Zach Britton. There is also fellow lefty Brian Matusz, who is currently in the bullpen but is a starter by trade, along with prospect Dylan Bundy, who is recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery.
Obviously, there just isn't space for Feldman with all the young pitchers the O's have. Spend the money elsewhere and see what these prospects have to offer instead.
I listed Wilson Betemit as a corner infielder because he is technically
But frankly, he should never be allowed with a glove on a baseball diamond.
The switch-hitting Betemit is on the O's roster for one reason: To hit left-handed against right-handed pitchers. Yes, he's a switch-hitter, but he's horrible from the right side of the plate.
So he really only has one job he's good at, and that's hitting righties from the left side.
See why I think the O's should let him walk?
Betemit really has been good for the O's since they signed him prior to the 2012 season. He has destroyed the ball from the left side of the plate. I can specifically remember one game against the Oakland Athletics in early 2012 where he hit a walk-off homer off of Grant Balfour. "Orioles Magic" was at it's finest that afternoon.
But for an Orioles club that values "movable pieces", as manager Buck Showalter likes to put it, he's simply too one-dimensional to offer much value to the Orioles beyond starting against right-handers in the DH spot. He isn't worth the money or the roster spot in my mind.
He also missed the majority of this season due to injury, returning to the team just before September.
Baltimore should let Betemit walk and fill the DH void in another way.
In 2012, Jason Hammel was fantastic for the Orioles and made the Jeremy Guthrie trade look brilliant.
He went 8-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 118 innings and pitched two great games against CC Sabathia in the ALDS, though he did miss time due to injury that year.
In 2013, Hammel is yet again missing time due to injury, but the O's would be lying if they said they missed him starting every fifth day.
Hammel has been pretty horrid in 2012, going 7-8 with a 5.20 ERA over 21 starts and 123 innings, with the most disturbing stat being the 20 home runs he has allowed. Baltimore's acquisition of starter Bud Norris from the Houston Astros just minutes before the July 31 trade deadline pushed Hammel out of the rotation and onto the DL. O's fans couldn't be happier with that outcome, as Norris has been a solid acquisition for the team.
Looking at Hammel's career, it appears as though his 2012 season was a fluke, as he has never had a season with an ERA below 4.33 other than that year in his eight seasons in the majors where he has a career ERA of 4.83.
Hammel is a losing pitcher with a 49-59 record and while he gave up just nine homers in 20 starts in 2012, he's actually pretty prone to the long ball historically.
A hitter's ballpark like Camden Yards is no place for a pitcher who gives up home runs at that rate, and as I mentioned with Scott Feldman, the O's have plenty of pitchers in the minors and a couple in the majors who deserve to show whether they are big leaguers or not.
Hammel just isn't what the O's need, not now and not in the future. He'd likely find more success in a ballpark out west, pitching for a team like the San Francisco Giants or San Diego Padres, both of which have massive ballparks.