It’s that time of year again when trade rumors are flying from clubhouse to clubhouse and the media creates a circus over season-changing acquisitions towards the end of this month. There are just three more days until the trade deadline (Mets already shipped Carlos Beltran and the Cardinals cut ties with Colby Rasmus) and the Orioles have some intriguing commodities.
Down the stretch as we move into the end of the summer months means tired relievers who need a rest before the playoffs begin in October. Orioles’ reliever Koji Uehara, who continues to lead the majors in WHIP, could bolster a bullpen in need of a strong strike out reliever.
Uehara is not the only Orioles’ relievers who may be on the move, set up man Jim Johnson has pitched and impressed thus far into the season. As far as starting pitchers, Jeremy Guthrie is the only one on the trading block this season for the Birds, and might not even be moving.
A couple of the power hitters that the Orioles front office brought to Baltimore in the off-season to rejuvenate a desolate offense may also be leaving the Birds by the end of the month. Both Vlad Guerrero and Derrek Lee, although veterans, still can help a team down the stretch and at worst, pinch hit in key situations throughout the playoffs.
Those are the five Orioles that I feel deserve a chance to be considered an impact player who could do some damage in key spots and produce for another team. Which of these players has the best chance of packing his bags and leaving Baltimore?
I would say that Koji is the most likely Oriole to be on the move within the next four days because he has dominated in every aspect of relief pitching this season. Not only does Koji lead the majors in WHIP at 0.69, but he is 10th among all MLB pitchers with a 1.80 with a minimum of 40 innings pitched.
Uehara has not allowed an earned run since June 19th, after he allowed a solo homerun in two innings of work against the Nationals in Washington. He’s tossed 13 consecutive scoreless innings over 11 games and has only surrendered three hits over that stretch.
He’s only allowed more than one run in an appearance once this season when he gave up two earned runs on two hits in an inning of work early on against the Tampa Bay Rays. On the season, he’s only surrendered nine earned runs in 45 innings of work for the Birds.
Koji’s only yielded 23 hits on the season in 41 games and he’s fanned 59 batters, which is the most in a single season over his three seasons with the Birds. In his first year, he struck out 48 batters in 66.2 innings and last year he sat down 55 opponents in only 44 innings of work.
His strike out per nine innings ratio is very impressive and if nothing else intrigues you about Koji, this will. Over the last three seasons, his strike outs per nine inning ratio has increased from 6.5 in 2009 to 11.3 last season and now sits at 11.8.
As an Oriole fan, I would hate to lose Koji because I never feel nervous when he is in the game.
But, with that said, I think there is a good chance that Koji will be dealt before Sunday. Maybe one of the only questions would be how he would adjust to a new team. He’s only played with the Orioles for two plus seasons in the United States, so teams might be wary of that fact.
I think a National League team interested in pitching would be a great fit for Koji because he’s the league is not at all familiar with him, so he would have a huge advantage over the last two months of the season.
Orioles’ reliever Johnson is another bullpen man that possibly could be traded by the end of the month. Although his numbers don’t jump out at you like Koji’s, Johnson has put together a very respectable season and has become one of the Birds’ most reliable pen members.
Johnson has appeared in 44 games this season and compiled 59 innings already while sporting a 5-3 record, a 2.59 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. He holds the second lowest ERA on the Orioles pitching staff, behind Koji of course.
He has been hot as of late as he has not allowed an earned run over his last three outings (4.2 innings pitched), and over 11.3 innings of work in July, he’s only given up five earned runs on 13 hits.
Johnson has the ability to pitch more than one inning per appearance and has done so 19 times this season. Only twice this season, both games occurred in May, has Johnson been unable to finish one inning.
When Johnson is on his game and his sinker ball is dropping out of the zone just before crossing the plate, he’s very hard to hit and he dominates the game. There have been a couple of games where Johnson didn’t have his stuff.
But, I still think he would be very beneficial to a team in need of a set up man, even a closer, or just a reliever who can pitch a scoreless seventh inning. Johnson has done everything in the Orioles bullpen from closing games (13 saves, 10 in 2009 after Sherrill departed) to starting games (127 games started in the minors) to obviously setting up and relieving.
I haven’t heard much about Johnson being on the trading block this summer, but he has recorded very impressive numbers and would be a nice acquisition for a playoff-bound team.
Guthrie is the lone Oriole from the starting rotation who has had his name tossed around to a couple of different teams like the Cardinals and the Tigers. I think that all Guthrie needs is to get out of Baltimore and find a new place to call home. I really enjoy watching him pitch, but it seems like every time he goes out there, something goes wrong and it’s usually not his fault.
He leads the majors with 14 losses this season, a career-high already! He’s tossed 137.1 innings this summer and has only won four games; he’s won a single game each month of the season, but has never won more than one game in a month yet. He’s on pace to win only six games all year.
Until July 6th, Guthrie’s ERA was under four for basically the entire season and he’s really pitched in some bad luck situations. For example, Guthrie’s tossed 11 quality starts this season (a quality start is at least 6 innings pitched, and three earned runs or less), and has only managed to win four times.
One of the reasons why Guthrie has failed to rack up wins is because he ranks 137th in the majors in run support this season as the Birds only score 4.85 runs per game when he takes the hill.
Although his numbers don’t pop out at you, I think Guthrie could be a good candidate for a change of scenery. I think his numbers will improve if he ends up being dealt and especially to the National League where he would be unfamiliar to many players because he’s spent his entire career in the American League. But, I really don’t think he will be on the move, but there’s been some talk.
Finally, on to the power hitters: Lee and Guerrero. Although both are having career-low seasons in basically all aspects of hitting, either one could be a nice addition as a back-up player late in games.
Lee is still a fantastic glove man over at first base and has saved a countless number of short throws and balls in the dirt from being errors this season and Guerrero is always a threat at the plate, especially in high-pressure situations.
Lee is only hitting .248 on the season with 11 homeruns and 39 RBIs, but has come on strong as of late. Over his last eight games, Lee has accumulated 11 hits, two homeruns and nine RBIs. There was only one game in which Lee did not record a hit.
I think Lee would be a great fit as a back-up first baseman because even if he’s not swinging the bat like he used to when he hit 30 plus homeruns, he still always shows up with his “A” defense and helps even without a hit.
Guerrero is just coming off of the disabled list after a crack in his wrist in Boston before the All-Star break. He’s not been what the Orioles had hoped for this season as he’s only hitting .274 on the year with seven homeruns and 31 RBIs (only one homerun away from Oriole Park this season).
Although his power and production numbers are down this season, he’s still been able to find a way to collect his base hits. Through 85 games this season, he’s compiled 88 hits and is
on pace to finish the season with 143 hits in just 138 games. So, he might not be able to go long, but he can still find the outfield grass for a base hit.
He has 443 career homeruns and he still can hit the ball; I would say Guerrero has a pretty good shot at leaving the Orioles after just a half season. Teams who need power off the bench, or an everyday DH, should be interested in Guerrero. There’s no doubt he can still hit the baseball, but maybe he needs a change of venue like Guthrie does on the mound.
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About the Author
Written by Alex Van Rees
I am 22 years old and I recently graduated from James Madison University this May with a BA degree and a major in journalism. I live in Reston, VA, about 20 minutes outside of Washington. I am looking for an entry-level position with a sports media company where I can demonstrate my writing, interviewing and technical skills to better the organization.