Andrew Stetka: Despite Hellickson move, Orioles aren’t buyers

Don’t be fooled by what you see or hear. Don’t be duped by trades that are made or those that aren’t. The Orioles aren’t buyers this season. They aren’t really in it and they likely aren’t making a push for the postseason. Friday night’s deal for Jeremy Hellickson told me all I needed to know about the direction the Orioles are headed. Actually, the O’s appear to be more in neutral than anything else.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve heard plenty of speculation about the plans for the Birds. We’ve heard that they’ll be sellers, that they could be buyers and that they are definitely planning to hold on to certain valuable pieces of the puzzle like Manny Machado. But in acquiring Hellickson on Friday, the Orioles showed that they aren’t really trying to compete this season, they are just trying to survive it.

The move for Hellickson does nothing to move the needle on a rotation that is regularly getting its brains beaten in. Outside of Kevin Gausman’s recent surge, the rotation continues to show no signs of being the worst in baseball. Hellickson, 30, is a rental that has posted a 4.73 ERA this season with the Phillies. While there can be jokes made about the fact that Hellickson’s ERA would be second-best among O’s starters this year behind Dylan Bundy, it’s no laughing matter when you recognize that he isn’t an upgrade that is going to make that big of a difference. Speaking of Bundy, he may very well be part of the reason the Orioles made this move. The idea of trying to survive the rest of this season comes into play when speaking of Bundy, who has never thrown as many professional innings as he has this year. There is bound to be some wear and tear on his arm, one that is valuable to keep protected. Perhaps Hellickson can help alleviate some of that burden, but that’s not a move made by a competitive team.

The more frustrating part of this deal in my mind is that the Orioles had to give up assets in order to acquire a rental pitcher just to get them through the rest of the season. The front office can say it’s a move being made in an effort to be more competitive, but I don’t buy it. The team would’ve been better off throwing any of the numerous names we’ve already seen into the rotation. Alec Asher, Jayson Aquino or Tyler Wilson wouldn’t have forced the team to give up anything. Many fans are upset about the departure of outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, but as a player without much of a role and also on an expiring contract, I’m not as broken up about that part of the deal. It’s the fact that they parted with another minor league arm and more international signing bonus slots that rubs me wrong. The neglect the O’s continue to show in the international market is baffling - and borderline infuriating.

There is still the underlying issue of what the Orioles decide to do with some bullpen pieces and other expiring contracts prior to the trade deadline or even into August. None of that really matters as much anymore following the Hellickson deal. The O’s showed their hand, and everyone is confused by the cards they are holding.

No matter what the Orioles decide to do with the rest of their roster, they have proven to me that they aren’t really buying or selling. They aren’t moving forward or even trying to break things down and rebuild. They are surviving. That leaves them in neutral, which is possibly one of the worst spots to be in.

Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. 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.

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