2011 MLB Trade Deadline: Should the Baltimore Orioles Sell Early?

Alex SnyderContributor IIJune 10, 2011

Mark Reynolds (12) and the team he plays for have been tough reads this season in terms of ability on the field.
Mark Reynolds (12) and the team he plays for have been tough reads this season in terms of ability on the field.Rob Carr/Getty Images

Now that it's June, fans have a pretty good idea of which teams are contenders and which are pretenders in the professional baseball world.

Those teams that are pretenders usually try to sell off a good player or two at the trade deadline to a contender for prospects in order to build for the future.

This is where the Orioles come in: Are they contenders or pretenders?

At first glance, it's easy to assume that they're pretenders. Sitting at two games under .500 after the action on June 9, they're six games out of first in the very tight AL East race.

However, considering some of the injuries they've had to key players, such as lefty starter Brian Matusz who is now back in the rotation and the severe lack of offense the team has had, it's a miracle they've played ball that well up to this point.

If they're offense begins to live up to the preseason hype it was given and the starting pitching remains solid, who knows what this team is capable of. One hot streak puts them right back in the thick of the AL East and/or AL Wild Card race.

They're quite capable of being a better team than they've shown thus far.

That would still leave one major hole, though: The bullpen.

If the O's show promise over the next month or so, they may want to try and deal out a low-to-mid level prospect or two in order to gain a nice bullpen piece and play for a Wild Card berth.

But if their play remains the same or gets worse over the next month, they should probably look to deal away veterans such as first baseman Derrek Lee and designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero for a prospect or two a piece and build for the following few years.

At that point, the team should also aim to make a big free agent splash in the offseason if the right player for them is available, such as Prince Fielder.

Therefore, it is hard to gauge whether or not the O's are for real at this point in the season. Most likely, they'll keep up the pace they're currently on and will be sellers at the deadline.

I don't see them being buyers this time around.

Or they could always keep the players they have and shoot for a strong finish to the year in order to build confidence in the clubhouse and in the young players for the 2012 season.

It all depends on how they play the game through the month of June and into early July.

If I were the team's GM, I'd want to see what this team can do over roughly half a season before I make up my mind on selling away some players at the deadline or not, and I'm sure that's what President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail is doing. MacPhail is a very meticulous man when it comes to wheeling and dealing, so don't expect anything drastic anytime soon.

If their play improves over the next month or so, they should keep who they have and trade for a bullpen piece for the stretch run and aim for the AL Wild Card. If they stay at the same level during that time, then trade away one or two of the veterans for prospects and look for a strong finish and further development of the young players.

If, for some reason, the team gets worse, the team should clear out as many vets on one-year deals that they can and get some decent prospects for them.

If only analyzing the team's performance up to this point were as simple as that.