Orioles to AL East: "Ahem"

Justin KlughCorrespondent IJuly 24, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 21:  Aubrey Huff #17 of the Baltimore Orioles at bat against the New York Yankees on May 21, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Playing in the AL East is like being trapped in a cage with a couple of lions.

The Rays managed to sneak by last year, but in most cases, every attempt at escape has led to botched hopes and another bloody stump for an arm.

No other team really faces this horrifying scenario, but with alarming consistency, the Yankees and Red Sox have snared the top spot and not even really noticed which of their other three division-mates were still alive.

Obviously, the Baltimore Orioles want to remedy this.

The first name that comes to mind when you think about Orioles’ playoff appearances in recent years isn’t even a baseball player, it's Jeff Meier, that mop-topped little guy that stole the home run out of Tony Tarrasco’s glove and then was celebrated by the entire city of New York for cheating at baseball on national television.

So, barring any other obnoxious children who don’t have the brain capacity to know you can’t touch the baseball when it’s in play, the Orioles are approaching a trade deadline that should see them taking some action.

They are a young team, or at least, they want to be, and the nucleus they have in mind will only be strengthened by the likes of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and the show-stopping pitching that’s on the way in the form of Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz.

Who’s out?

Aubrey Huff and Luke Scott are at the top of the list.

Huff’s in the middle of embarrassing himself statistically, compared to his topnotch stuff last year, but he’d be valuable somewhere that was in need of some kind of offensive production.

Scott’s numbers are better, the best of his career, in fact, and a place like San Francisco, a barren, base-hit desert, would be happy to welcome him into the fold.

If he’s seeing the ball that well, the Orioles may want to tighten their grip on him, rather than set him free.

The issue with Huff is that the fans love the guy, and they love that he wants to stay in Baltimore even more.

The team just needs to remember that if he goes, somebody needs to stand next to first base when they’re on the field.

Any prospects?

Well, you’ve got this Brandon Snyder. His offense seems to be worth taking a gander at. It’s just a matter of how strongly the club wants to trust Huff’s annual second half burst.

George Sherill is a hot closing commodity, and the fact that pretty much everybody wants a piece of him will only help.

This gives the O’s a chance to shop around for a good fit for their club, rather than hustling some elder statesman out the door for whatever mediocre bench players or prospects somebody’s got hidden in the equipment shed.

Melvin Mora’s time is up in 2010, and lagging behind offensively this year isn’t making him any more appealing.

There’s no question he’d want to be paid for the subtraction of his, “no-trade” clause.

Ty Wigginton’s name is being tossed around, but with Huff and Mora on the chopping block, the O’s will need someone to play in the infield.

Danys Baez, a guy whose name is always mentioned in trade talks with the Orioles, probably has a plane ticket booked out of town already.

Universally pegged as “sellers” this year, the Orioles aren’t afraid to turn their roster into a fire sale, save Brian Roberts, their terrific young outfield, and some aforementioned up-and-coming pitching prospects.

Once they’ve cleaned house, who will they be after? Corner infielders, most likely.

Some starting pitching is evidently required, if Jason Berken and Rich Hill maintain their struggles, and if they can move Sherrill as easily as they’d like, a closer will become more than necessary.

If the pieces fall right, and a playoff run seems feasible in coming years, they’ll probably be hiring a guy to stand at the right field wall with a taser, giving sinister glances to any preteens who venture too close.

The trade “deadline” isn’t the biggest threat the O’s will be facing in their future.

This is another step in a process to make people remember that there are teams in the AL East that aren’t the Yanks or Sox, didn’t go to the WS last year, or employ Roy Halladay.

The plan to turn Baltimore into a squad of young phenoms bent on taking the league by storm is nifty. So, the returns they want to see will probably fit an age requirement, meaning a dump truck of minor leaguers being plunked off in front of Camden Yards.

If the current outfield is any indication, the O’s sure will be fun to watch, and it will be especially gratifying to see shades of orange still playing ball through October in a few years.

Or, maybe some 12-year-old, Yankees fan will run onto the field, steal all the bases, and be given a key to the city.

Anything is possible in baseball, apparently.