The pressure was on Orioles vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette over the past few weeks. A lot of trust has been placed in Duquette to help build a ballclub that will compete deep into October and have a chance at a World Series. The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone and after acquiring three pitchers in a month, Duquette has to be applauded for not allowing any top prospects to depart. That’s been the philosophy of the team even before Duquette arrived in Baltimore.
No one is going to tell you that Scott Feldman, Francisco Rodriguez or Bud Norris are game-changing pitchers. Take a trip back to last season though, and remember what impact player the O’s traded for prior to the deadline. You won’t really find one. Omar Quintanilla was brought on in a deal with the New York Mets on July 20. Not exactly a groundbreaking move. Steve Pearce was acquired off waivers just days before the 2012 deadline. That one doesn’t really get you that excited either. The Birds did acquire Joe Saunders after the non-waiver deadline, a move that obviously carried some weight with the team. After all, Saunders did start the wild card game against the Texas Rangers and helped the O’s advance in the postseason. But the impact of that deal is no longer felt because Saunders is no longer on the team.
The fundamental difference in last year’s trade deadline and this year’s is a word that’s been tossed around since March: expectation. There was an expectation coming into the 2013 season that the Orioles would compete for a title. Not many people had that same thought entering last year. When the 2012 trade deadline hit, the Orioles were in the midst of riding out an unbelievable and sometimes inexplicable campaign that ended with the team’s first playoff appearance in 14 years. This year, Duquette has the unforgiving task of doing it all over again. It’s not the easiest job, especially in this year’s American League East. Yet even after some recent struggles the Orioles are in position to make a run. The three pitchers that Duquette has brought on will help in that.
Many will question why the Orioles didn’t add a bat or a so-called front-line pitcher, such as Jake Peavy or Cliff Lee. The Orioles do have one of the top offensive attacks in the American League. It’s been a struggle over the last few weeks, but that’s how the game of baseball goes sometimes. When you look at the pitching staff, I’m personally confident throwing Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Feldman out there. The impact that Bud Norris makes is obviously for the future to determine. Wins can be had with this pitching staff on the mound and I think that will be proven when the Orioles are playing in the postseason this October.
Fans must realize that good players are hard to come by and there’s always a reason someone is on the trading block. That’s something many forget at times. People dream up a trade scenario where some of the best players are coming to their team without giving up much, or factoring in the money and contracts involved. Sometimes a player is traded because he’s in a contract year. Sometimes a player just needs a change of scenery because the talent many believe he has isn’t showing. You can look toward Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop for an example of that.
The Orioles are also working on a much different playing field than a team like the Red Sox, Tigers or Dodgers. Those are teams that are willing to take on a pitcher like Peavy, 32, who is injury-prone and still going to make around $15 million over the next few seasons. Norris, 28, will be making around $3 million, allowing the Orioles to focus elsewhere to re-sign certain players and acquire others that can help build the team for the future and for sustained success.
There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Orioles will have to play better down the stretch to make the playoffs, let alone make a deep run. That responsibility is now on the players that take the field. Duquette has put pieces in place to make it happen. He’s put a better team on the field than the 2012 version of the Orioles. The joy is seeing how it all plays out over the next two - hopefully three - months.
Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.