You know those instances when you feel that you have a better knowledge of what moves a team needs to make than the general manager? Well, this is not one of those times.
One thing that we all know for sure is that the Baltimore Orioles need to add at least one solid starter before the playoffs or they can kiss any dream of playoff success away. Baltimore is tied for third worst in team ERA with a 4.30.
This includes starting rotation and bullpen so both groups need positive improvements, but the O's signed Francisco Rodriguez this week, which will do wonders for their bullpen. He has immense playoff experience and has been dominant this season in somewhat of a resurgence with the Milwaukee Brewers.
But the rotation is still left with a wide open gap that is going to catch up with Baltimore at some point. Even with one of the best offenses in the game, it is impossible to win the World Series with such horrific pitching. Every World Series champion in the past five seasons has ranked in the top-15 in ERA by the end of the season so it seems like Baltimore is out of luck come fall.
And with an offense like the Orioles have, how can you let it go to waste by pairing it with an anemic rotation? Every hitter, one through nine, can do damage at the plate, which is something every contending team is worried about in the playoffs.
But as the statistics have shown, great pitching is more important in the fall and the Orioles pitching isn't just bad, they are 90-losses level bad. So, it is obvious Baltimore needs to add an arm before the trade deadline, right? But who?
The market is not very strong for available pitchers at the deadline, but possible candidates are Bud Norris, Jason Vargas, and even Joe Saunders, who the Orioles added last August in a similar move to beef up the rotation.
The facts are that the Orioles will not find an ace by the playoffs, but as it stands right now, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, and Wei-Yen Chen have been solid starters this year and adding a fourth solid starter would do wonders in the playoffs.
My favorite arm out of the lot is Astros hurler Bud Norris. He has been doing a fine job on a team that has to be depressing to pitch for, as he has gone 6-9 with a 3.91 ERA and 83 strikeouts. Matching him up with an offense that belongs in the MLB would boost his confidence and take a lot of pressure off of him to throw shutouts every time he goes to the mound.
Adding Norris would give the O's four dependable pitchers and banking on some of those guys stepping up on the big stage, Baltimore would have a winnable rotation on their hands. But is a deal like that possible to make?
Being a GM in the MLB is kind of like playing a game of chess. Every move has a significant consequence that can ruin a team. As fantasy GM's we always think about what is best for the present and ignore the future. Bud Norris is an odd example because he is still relatively young and entering the prime of his career, but the Orioles would have to give up a lot of talented prospects to get one of the aforementioned candidates and does that make sense to do with such a young lineup?
Baltimore's other option is to wait until the offseason where they can find their ace and keep their prospects. But that would mean that they would pretty much forfeit a chance at the World Series this season. And GM's need to be conscious that the elite lineup they have at the moment could deteriorate over the offseason.
Their final option, which would be a compromise of the two, would be to pick up a pitcher, like they did with Saunders last year, through waivers. But the talent level will probably be even lower than it is right now so that barely helps the situation.
So, you either trade your talented prospects to have a better chance at winning now or you stay put at the deadline, either pick up a starter off waivers or not, and accept an early trip home to regroup in the offseason.
This is the part where I tell you that the decision is a simple and obvious one to make and that Baltimore MUST make the one I recommend. But the problem is that I just don't know.
This is one of those scenarios where no matter which option you choose, there are positives and negatives. If I were Dan Duquette, the GM of the Orioles, I would lean towards making a deal for Norris. My feeling is that he is young enough where he wouldn't be a guy that plays a season or two for you before he is cleared for the washed up list.
I don't like it when franchises take their team's skills for granted and feel that they will be good for many more seasons. Baseball is a weird sport and things can change in an instant so if you have a talented team, you should be doing everything you can to make it perfect. That is, as long as you don't ruin the future. And I don't think trading a top prospect for Norris will ruin the future because of Norris' age.
As for what Baltimore will actually do, I have no idea. I could see them making a move, but I could also see them waiting to pick one up on waivers. All I do know is that without an added solid starter, this team is not winning a World Series. Dan Duquette, it's your move.
By: Matt Levine