I appeared on a New York podcast late last week to talk Orioles-Yankees going into the weekend. Out of the 45 minutes of questions they asked, two stood out: Will the Orioles make a move before the waiver trade deadline, and which player(s) are you watching the closest as the pennant race heats up and the season winds down. My answer to question one was that indeed I did believe the Birds would make a deal. My response to the second question was that whoever the Orioles did pick up in a trade would be a guy I’d be watching.
Obviously, the Orioles made a deal, sending minor leaguer Xavier Avery to Seattle in exchange for Michael Morse. Teams that make trades like this are generally thinking that the player they’re getting will put them over the top in a pennant or wild card race. Morse is a guy that is familiar to mid-Atlantic baseball fans already, as he played four seasons in Washington. He’s only hitting .226 on the season, although he’s had injury problems and he’s been playing in a pitcher’s park. I do think he’s a guy that could potentially help the Orioles lineup, but I digress.
The point is not to debate the validity of the trade, but to simply point out that it’d be far-fetched to say that this franchise hasn’t at least made a go of things since they’ve been good again. Last year, we saw the Birds make a similar deal through waivers for lefty starter Joe Saunders. This year we’ve seen the Orioles trade for Francisco Rodriguez, Scott Feldman and Bud Norris. Saunders certainly made an impact last year, and the other three pitchers have made impacts this season.
These are the types of moves that contenders make during the season. I would submit that the August trades through waivers could be even more impactful in a certain sense. The teams that are involved in acquiring a player for their active roster in August are teams that need to win now. That would be the Orioles in 2012 and in 2013. The Arizona Diamondbacks of 2012 and the Seattle Mariners of this year - not so much. They were focused on the future, and they were happy to trade a player they didn’t feel were in their long-term plans for a prospect.
As I said, Morse is a guy that I’ll be keeping an eye on for most of September. While the Orioles didn’t pay too high a price for him, he’s a guy that’s going to have high expectations placed upon him because the Birds are hoping that he can put some additional offense into a lineup that appears to sorely need it. For what it’s worth, trades can still happen in September. However any player that’s traded after Aug. 31 is not able to play in the postseason. So if a team felt it needed an extra pop just to get them over the hump and into the postseason, it could, in theory, make another move. But I would assume that the Orioles are done making trades for 2013.
So the question is whether or not Morse is the guy that’s going to put this Orioles team over the top. We obviously don’t know the answer to that yet. But what we can say is that one probably can’t argue that the team sat idly by and did nothing while in contention. Whereby many fans were upset the O’s didn’t make any big moves last offseason, they certainly haven’t failed to make moves during the year.
Just like anything else, baseball is a results-based business. So in his first game as an Oriole, Morse went 2-for-4 with a run scored. Perhaps more importantly, his base hit to lead off the seventh started an Orioles rally that ended up winning the game yesterday. While J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones played the hero roles, Morse set the trend and thus made an immediate impact.
The aforementioned podcast asked whether or not I thought the O’s would make the postseason. I gave the classic answer without giving an answer, saying that it mattered how they played down the stretch. However, I will say that I feel a little better about their chances now that they have another guy that’s been known to smack some balls around the park. That doesn’t guarantee anything, but it helps.
Domenic Vadala blogs about the Orioles at Birds Watcher, and his opinions appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. 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.