Baltimore Orioles: 3 Holes Orioles Must Address at the Deadline

Mark CoverContributor IIJuly 16, 2014

Baltimore Orioles: 3 Holes Orioles Must Address at the Deadline

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The MLB trade deadline is quickly approaching, and teams across the league will need to evaluate whether they are legitimate buyers or sellers.

    Luckily for the Baltimore Orioles (52-42), there's no questioning where they stand in relation to competing for a championship, as they lead the AL East by four games at the All-Star break.

    It's not time to get all cozy and comfortable just yet, though.

    Although the Orioles lead the historically competitive AL East division, they have been underachieving in several areas and have been the beneficiaries of injuries and poor performances among their rivals.

    Case in point: The New York Yankees might have just lost their ace in Masahiro Tanaka for the rest of the season due to a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow, the Boston Red Sox rank dead last in runs scored in the AL and do not have an impact bat aside from designated hitter David Ortiz and the Tampa Bay Rays likewise rank low in runs scored in the AL and have a rotation that has been in flux health-wise all year.

    The Toronto Blue Jays are the Orioles' main threat to capturing a division crown. They have been getting solid production throughout their lineup and have avoided the injury bug for the most part until recently, when they had to place slugger Edwin Encarnacion and first baseman Adam Lind on the 15-day disabled list with a right quadriceps strain and a right foot fracture, respectively.

    As previously mentioned, though, the Orioles are not without their own issues and need to patch up a few holes in their game if they hope to make the playoffs and make a deep push in those playoffs.

    Here are some areas on the Orioles club that we could see have a major upgrade before the month closes out. While there may be other departments featuring players who are struggling, for example Chris Davis and his sub-.200 batting average, the Orioles won't be benching a star player such as him and will instead let things play out and hope for the best.

Bullpen

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    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    Even though the Orioles feature a bullpen that possesses the sixth-best ERA in the AL, they could still look to upgrade the unit if help can be had for cheap.

    Specifically, lefty specialist Brian Matusz's numbers have elevated from last year, and he has not shown the same dominance versus lefties as he has in years past.

    In 2013, lefties and righties got on base against Matusz at a .225 and .375 rate, respectively, compared to this season's .273 and .412 numbers.

    Matusz has also been suffering from a much higher walk rate, as he has walked 13 batters in 32.2 innings pitched so far. Last year, he walked just 16 batters in 51 innings pitched on the season.

    For a club that for the most part doesn't receive lengthy outings from its starters, the Orioles will need to acquire another shutdown reliever to shorten up the game.

Second Base

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Second base has been lacking offensively for the Orioles all season long, and even though Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Flaherty have provided 10 of the club's 114 homers so far, they are both hitting for averages under .230 and are getting on base at a less than .300 rate.

    While the power upside at the bottom of the lineup is valuable, the club might want to shop for a player that possesses better on-base skills to turn the lineup over.

    One name that has been floated around lately has been that of Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley.

    Utley has been teetering around a .300 batting average this season and has solid extra-base hit ability, having already collected 24 doubles, three triples and eight homers so far.

    If the Orioles are seriously interested in Utley, they'll need to part with a few of their top prospect pieces to land the savvy veteran who is signed through 2015.

Starting Pitching

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Although the starting rotation has been performing better as of late, the Orioles still need a front-of-the-rotation starter if they want to have a real chance of capturing the postseason crown.

    Tied for 10th in the AL in starting pitching ERA, the Orioles are going to need outside help, but the question is whether they'll pay the steep price for an ace such as the Tampa Bay Rays' David Price or go after an overlooked, yet solid pitcher, much like when the club acquired Joe Saunders in 2012.

    Regardless of what direction they take, the O's might just need bodies on the mound.

    Ubaldo Jimenez was placed on the 15-day DL with a right ankle injury, and Bud Norris is still working back to form since coming off the disabled list with a right groin strain.

    If the season were to end now, the Orioles would be taking on the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS.

    If the Birds want to match up well on the mound going into that series, they'll need to bring in the reinforcements.

     

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.