The All star Break is upon us and the Orioles are currently sitting five games over .500, bunched with the non-New York teams in the AL East. The first half of the Orioles’ season has outperformed everyone’s wildest expectations and the team has some very serious, and very important decisions to make.
General Manager Dan Duquette has to decide how much he wants to wager on this summer, the Orioles’ minor league system has some useful pieces that could be moved to fill in holes on the major league squad – but he can’t mortgage the future for a run that could very easily fail if the Orioles don’t capitalize on their solid first half play.
It boils down to, “go for it” or “wait for the future”.
Reasons to “go for it”:
1) The Al East is the weakest it has been in a decade and the Orioles are in a position to take advantage of it. The Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Tampa bay Rays are all extremely flawed teams that are dealing with scores of injuries. On top of all of that the Orioles’ rivals have largely underperformed so far this year. While the Yankees have now acquired the American League’s best record the Orioles have hung around long enough to remain relevant in the wild card hunt.
Don’t pay attention to those “playoff prediction percentages” you see, they don’t take things like injuries into consideration, nor strength of schedule. The Orioles will have one of the “easier” schedules in the second half and that will only help them in their run.
2)The second wild card. When MLB announced that a second wild card would be instituted this year most people in baseball rolled their eyes and yawned. After the drama of game 162 last year, where the Red Sox were knocked out of the playoffs, it appeared that Bud Selig was once again rigging the game to assure that both the Yankees and Red Sox would make the playoffs. yet here we are, the Red sox are in last place and the Orioles currently have a, very slim, lead in the second wild card.
The American league is a very interesting place this year. As it stands right now only three teams are legitimately out of the race (The Royals, Mariners and Twins) and the rest of the league is salivating at the thought of sneaking in the playoffs. The Orioles have a legitimate shot like the rest of them and despite their recent skid they are hanging in there and need to strike when they have their opportunity because there is no guarantee it will come again next year. if they pass up this chance they could once again be stuck as a middling team in a very tough division.
3) Breaking the streak. The Orioles have not had a winning season since 1997 and this is their best chance of breaking that streak since 2005. The team needs to show the fans that they are serious about making this team a winner in a very demanding league and the fans are frankly tired of “waiting for the kids to develop.” The group of young arms known as the cavalry have largely failed to live up to the hype, catcher Matt Wieters took a couple years to come into his own, Nick Markakis really hasn’t lived up to his contract and despite all of that the Orioles are where they are right now. Duquette simply can’t let this first half be squandered and he needs to make a play to run for the post-season. Even if he misses the post-season the team will likely break that ridiculous streak and be on better footing next year when players like Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado may be knocking on the door.
Reasons to wait for the future
1) The Orioles may be in the running right now but the team has far too many holes, and it won’t last for long. The Orioles really only have two legitimate pitchers right now with 3/5 of the opening day rotation in AAA due to continued ineffectiveness. The offense is showing signs of cracking as they have sunk to near the bottom of most offensive categories. The Orioles need to not do anything stupid, tweak the lineup and continue to play solid ball but dealing from an already thin minor league system will significantly hurt the future of this club.
2) The deals that are out there aren’t that great. Zack Grienke would likely be 1/2 season rental and cost way too much. Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster will likely cost even more. Why risk trading someone like Schoop, a more than solid second base prospect who also happens to be the ONLY second base prospect of any value, for a shot at something that is very far from a sure thing.
3) The Yankees once again seem unstoppable but the Angels look to be best team in baseball right now. The Rangers don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. The Al Central is a mess and the two wild cards will likely be coming out of the East and West, meaning that whoever wins the thing will have the pleasure of facing off against either the Rangers or Angels. If it is the Orioles it is likely a one-and-done type situation. There is no sense in risking the future of this team for a one-and-done play-in game just as it appears the Orioles’ window is finally opening.
You can sum up the argument against going for it pretty simply; its not worth it right now. The team isn’t good enough and the minors are deep enough to get them to that point. But honestly I think you need to strike while the iron is hot. I would be willing to part with one of Brian Matusz or Jake Arrieta if it brought back someone like Chase Headley or Zack Grienke. This team can’t do anything stupid, but I don’t think Duquette will do anything that will purposefully dismantle the Orioles’ system. he has pretty much stated that Machado and bundy are not on the table, but most others are.
The Orioles have a real opportunity this summer to do something that hasn’t been done in more than a decade. The fans desperately want it and it is now up to Duquette to deliver.