Even though I am a diehard Baltimore Orioles fan my intent for this blog is not to be an Orioles commenter or a Baltimore homer, but rather to share insight and stories about the sport I love most; baseball. However, there will be times when the best thing to write about will be my feelings towards the current state of the Orioles franchise, which is what I am going to use my soapbox for right now.
The Orioles are currently a season-high 14 games above .500 and ahead of the Blue Jays in the AL East by 2.5 games. Their current record and standing in the division is not my concern. The Blue Jays did nothing to better their prior to the non-waiver trade deadline. The Yankees rebuilt (see: bought a whole new team) through trades, but chemistry is a big factor in baseball and there are no guarantees that all of the new faces in the Yankees organization will mesh into a winner in the second half.
This brings us to the two big movers in the East Division today. Let’s start with the Rays. I wasn’t particularly impressed with what the Rays were able to acquire for the best pitcher in their franchises history. Drew Smyly is nice prospect. He might even be considered a “post-hype” prospect at this point in his career. Nick Franklin is also a nice prospect. Willy Adames is the prize in this transaction. He’s an 18 year old infielder that might have been the best prospect in the Tigers organization. The only issue I see for the Rays with Adames is that he is probably four years away from the Big Leagues.
Will Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin turn into perennial All-Stars? I highly doubt this. Adames might, but he is too far away at this time to speculate. I believe that Franklin may have the talent to play at an All-Star level one day, but there is no guarantee that he will live up to the hype. Drew Smyly doesn’t impress me long term. I’ve watched him pitch a handful of times and his “stuff” doesn’t impress me. He may project to be a middle of the rotation starter, but I don’t seem him progressing to be much better than that. If I were the Rays I would have held onto Price instead of shipping him off for a couple of players that will not turn the franchise around in the near future.
What the Red Sox were able to pull off today is just dirty. The Red Sox were able to dump a bunch of salary, somehow improve their everyday lineup for the rest of this season, and if they are able to land a top-tier starting pitcher in the offseason they will be poised to make another run at the World Series in 2015. The addition of Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox lineup is a dramatic improvement. Cespedes will put up incredible numbers playing in hitter-friendly Fenway Park. I can just see the indentations of the ball on the “Monstah” as Cespedes slides into second base for yet another double. It’s bound to happen. The guy is a legitimate offensive threat. But the Orioles don’t have to worry about that right now.
What the Orioles need to be worrying about is the two teams ahead of them for best record in the American League; Detroit and Oakland.
Detroit now has the last three American League Cy Young Award winners in Max Scherzer, David Price, and Justin Verlander. Granted, Verlander is having a down year, but he is still Justin Verlander and he is still capable of shutting down opposing hitters in the postseason.
Oakland also has a superior starting rotation with Jeff Samardizja, Jon Lester, and Sonny Gray. Not quite the threat that Detroit poses, but a step above Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Bud Norris. As of this morning the A’s had an unbelievable 162 positive run differential. With their lineup coupled with their upgrade starting rotation the A’s will likely be able to improve on that already impressive number.
The problem facing the Orioles is not winning the division, or getting to the playoffs. The problem facing the Orioles is winning a playoff series against Detroit or Oakland, or both.
There is a silver lining here for the Orioles. First of all, Andrew Miller, whom they acquired for highly rated prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, is a dominant lefty out of the bullpen. Possibly the most dominant left out of the pen in all of baseball. For Buck Showalter to be able to go to Miller in any pressure situation is definitely a huge advantage for the Orioles over their competition. I like that move.
The other side of the silver lining is the Orioles dark horse. The dark hose might be the reason why the Orioles didn’t move on one of the top pitchers at the deadline today. That dark horse is top prospect Kevin Gausman. Just last night Gausman pitched a solid game against the Angels. He was used sparingly in the first half, and if he pitches well in the second half he could be the equivalent of trading for a top of the rotation starter.
The Orioles need Gausman to be the guy that can carry them to a playoff series win. The difference between the Orioles and the Yankees in the 2012 Divisional Round was simply CC Sabathia. That’s it. CC won that series for the Yankees. The Tigers are expecting David Price to win a series for them, and the A’s are expecting nothing different from Jon Lester. The Orioles are going to need to Kevin Gausman to win a series for them because I don’t believe the other four guys currently in their starting rotation have the ability to put the team on their backs and carry them through the playoffs.