Prior to the Baltimore Orioles' 2011 season beginning, there were a couple of different scenarios the season could run through in the minds of the team's upper level management and many of its fans.
The team could surprise and compete for the AL Wild Card (admittedly a long shot).
The could make a run at the franchise's first .500 or above season in its last 14 tries (the favorite choice of fans when asked how they thought the season would go).
Or, they could be just like the Orioles that all us Balmer folk have come to know and love: Cruddy.
But even at the worst-case scenario, President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail figured he'd have a handful of trading pieces to work with come the final week before the non-waiver trading deadline.
Those two main pieces, first baseman Derrek Lee and designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, have had nightmare seasons at the plate, leading to the O's getting next to nothing if they were to flip either of those two.
Now, for the future of the club, they're being forced to entertain offers on quality players who will be locked up through at least next year, such as de facto staff ace Jeremy Guthrie and late-inning reliever Koji Uehara.
The O's won't be moving anybody just for the sake of making a deal, however. They'll have to be bringing a good haul of young, major-league ready talent. And here are five of the clubs who appear most willing to dish it to the O's for their vets.
With the Ranger's impressive offense and their starting pitching coming together, many in the industry believe that the current AL West leaders are just a solid bullpen arm away from playing ball deep into October.
That makes Koji Uehara and his 1.80 ERA over 45 innings very enticing to them.
The Rangers have a surplus of young talent, especially at the first base position, a position that lacks in any depth whatsoever for the O's. Throw in the the fact that Uehara may not be just a half-season rental (he has a very reasonable $4 million option that vests if he appears in just 14 more games this season), and both clubs may not be able to say no.
Of course, Uehara has a less than attractive injury history, and that's a legitimate cause for concern. However, he has managed to stay healthy all throughout the 2011 season, and even shown he can pitch on back-to-back days from time to time.
As long as he's monitored properly, he should be fine.
Cross-league rivalry aside, the Pirates have put together a fantastic year considering thus far, and could be looking to add before July 31.
Lacking in offensive punch, a short-term solution where they wouldn't have to give much in return may be a good road for them to take, since they probably need a lot of their pieces for any playoff dreams.
Enter Derrek Lee.
He's had a pretty terrible year at the plate overall, but believe it or not, he's hitting just a tad better than current Pirates' first baseman Lyle Overbay, and is a right-handed bat where as Overbay is a lefty. Plus, he'd be returning to the National League, where he had played the whole of his career up until this season. Returning to a league where he knows the pitchers better may help him end his 2011 campaign on a higher note.
Do I hear a lefty-righty platoon coming?
Both guys are above-average defenders with a great clubhouse presence who would only compliment each other.
Throw Koji into the mix, because any possible contending teams are always searching for bullpen help down the stretch, and the Pirates can make for a somewhat interesting trade partner.
At Jeremy Guthrie's most recent start, a scout of the Tigers was spotted at Camden Yards to watch Guthrie lose his major-league leading 14th start, even though he threw seven innings of three-run ball.
Many scouts throughout the MLB feel that Guthrie is a better pitcher than most of the third of fourth starters out there on contention teams. With a 95-mph fastball, plus secondary pitches, and pinpoint control, the O's staff ace of the past three years could benefit from a change of scenery.
He's pitched much better than his 4-14 record suggests, as most of his losses have come from quality starts where he receives little to no run support. Though his 4.33 ERA isn't stellar, he's capable of better and could provide a huge boost for a team with a decent to strong offense, something that Detroit can claim to.
If Detroit is willing to part with some plus-talent major-league ready players, the O's just might pull the trigger.
With the former NL Central champs playing ball just under the .500 mark, they could use a boost before the deadline if they want to make a push for the playoffs this season.
They've had a consistent lack of quality starting pitching, and would to have a dependable arm like Guthrie's, who would likely excel in a weaker-hitting National League.
As I stated in a previous slide, any contender could never have enough relief pitching, so Koji Uehara could also be a possibility for the Reds.
With top 50 ranked prospect Yonder Alonso, a first baseman who is blocked by current Reds star Joey Votto, the O's certainly would be eager to make a deal if the Reds are willing to deal the young stud.
Their surplus of first baseman also means that they wouldn't be interested in Derrek Lee, so if a move is made between the O's and Reds, expect Orioles' pitching to be headed to the NL Central race.
Starting pitching - A team can never have enough of it.
That is why the Cards could possibly have some interest in Jeremy Guthrie.
The Redbirds took a serious hit when they lost Adam Wainwright to Tommy John surgery in Spring Training, and having a pitcher like Guthrie on the staff down the stretch may bring a huge boost to a team with such a slim lead atop the NL Central over the Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers.
With a powerful offense, a boost to the team's starting pitching could be all they need to top those surprising sea-dogs and ride into the thick of October and beyond.
Honorable Mention: Minnesota Twins. Starting to turn things around, the Twins could benefit greatly from adding a bullpen arm such as Koji Uehara.