One wouldn't know it from the last 13 seasons, but the Baltimore Orioles are one of the most storied franchises in baseball history. With three World Series titles and names like Palmer, Cuellar, Frank and Brooks Robinson, Murray, and Ripken having worn the black and orange, the Orioles' recent struggles make it all the more difficult for fans to stomach.
Adding in one of the most beautiful parks in the game, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, to the team's history and roster list, and the only thing that could possibly stop the Orioles from being a perennial power would be a bad owner. Enter Peter Angelos.
Angelos has only raised the payroll above $75 million once in the past 10 seasons. That's hardly a number that can be seen as acceptable, especially when competing in the same division as the Yankees and the Red Sox. The team's farm system, until recently, has also been lacking in creating young stars to compete in the majors.
Thirteen seasons of subpar play have culminated this year with an abysmal 18-48 record. It's almost impossible to fathom, but only 66 games into the season the team is 23.5 games out of first place. Dave Trembley has already lost his job, but the team is still floundering and could go down in history with the worst win-loss record if they can't figure out a way to turn things around soon.
Blame for an awful record sits with every player, but the offense can be pointed out as the most critical area of the team. In 2010, the O's offense has averaged only 3.24 runs per game. That's the fifth-lowest amount in team history, and the lowest since 1954.
There is very good young talent on the team, most notably Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis. However, without a middle-of-the-lineup power threat, no player strikes fear into opposing pitchers. Could the acquisition of Milwaukee Brewers slugger Prince Fielder be the move to turn around a franchise in dire straits and energize a fanbase yearning for a return to the glory of their beloved birds?
Fielder, as he has done throughout his career, struggled mightily to start the 2010 season. He hit only two home runs with nine RBI in April. However, as he had done in each year as a professional, he has turned his fortunes around and has begun to heat up as summer draws near.
In June, Fielder has hit six home runs, including three in his last four games with seven RBI. Although his power numbers are right on target for another 35-plus home run season, his RBI totals are down due to inconsistency at the top of the Brewers lineup. If Fielder would be sent to Baltimore, the damage he would do with the short right field porch could be astounding.
With Fielder not becoming a free agent until after the 2011 season, the team would have plenty of time to decide whether or not to take the plunge on a long-term contract with the hefty first baseman. With apologies to Wieters and Markakis, Fielder would instantly become the face of the franchise if signed to a contract extension.
The Orioles have several players who would be quite appealing to the Brewers.
For a short-term fix for 2010, Kevin Millwood would be a great addition to the team's rotation. Millwood is winless on the year but has been the victim of the team's poor offense and just plain bad luck. Traded to a team with a potent offense would see the fortunes change quickly for the 14-year veteran. He is, however, a free agent at the end of the season.
Jeremy Guthrie is suffering from worse support than Millwood. Sporting a 3.97 ERA in 14 starts this year, Guthrie only has a 3-8 record to show for it. He would be a very nice addition to the Brewers rotation. He is under team control until after the 2012 season and is making a quite affordable $3 million in 2010.
While some Brewer fans may be salivating at the thought of trading for Brian Matusz, the more realistic option may be fellow young pitcher Jake Arrieta. Arrieta, the team's fifth-round pick in 2007, made his major league debut earlier this month and is off to a great start.
He is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA in his two career starts. In 13 innings, he has struck out nine, and opponents are hitting just .159 against him. Both starts made have been quality starts, and he is showing poise for a 24-year-old. With several young pitchers in the farm system, Arrieta could be the perfect piece to acquire a talent like Fielder.
Another young player in the Orioles farm system who could be sent to Milwaukee is first baseman Brandon Snyder. Snyder was the team's top draft pick in 2005, and he is currently playing for the team's Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk. Despite a .249 average this year, he has a career average above .280 and shows good plate discipline as well.
Could a potential package of Corey Hart and Fielder for Guthrie, Arrieta, and Snyder work for both teams? The Orioles would immediately become a great offensive club, while the Brewers' pitching would be bolstered immensely. With Ryan Braun, Casey McGehee, Jim Edmonds, and Rickie Weeks, the Brewers would still have an offensive core that could put up decent numbers at the plate.
As long as the Orioles continue losing at a record pace, more and more fans will be less likely to flock to Camden Yards. Even with the worst record in baseball, a trade for Prince Fielder would send shockwaves throughout the baseball world, especially in Baltimore.
Peter Angelos has made mistake after mistake, running the Orioles into the ground. But all may be forgiven if he can bring a player like Fielder to Baltimore.
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