Munching on trade chips

Maybe I missed it last night. Did the FOX announcers bother to point out that Orioles catcher Matt Wieters didn't have a passed ball in the first half of the season?

It seemed like a good time to mention it while he was being charged with one in his first All-Star Game.

Watching Lance Berkman last night reminded me of the times over the winter that I included his name among the Orioles' targets at first base. He wasn't a popular choice among most of the fans here who saw the declining stats and pushed for the club to sign Victor Martinez, Adam Dunn or Paul Konerko.

Who knew that Berkman would have 24 home runs at the break?

The Orioles made offers to Martinez, Dunn and Adam LaRoche before signing Derrek Lee on Jan. 6. Berkman was on their board.

Lee could be one of the Orioles' trade chips at the non-waiver deadline, but it's more likely that he'll be moved by the Aug. 31 deadline for teams to set their playoff rosters.

The Orioles have "July 31 guys and Aug. 31 guys," as one team official put it. I'd place Lee in the latter category, along with designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero. They're more likely to clear waivers, which is a requirement after July 31, and could be moved to a contender.

Jeremy Guthrie and J.J. Hardy are July 31 guys. They're two of the club's biggest trade chips.

The Orioles are trying to sign Hardy to an extension. If talks break down, they could trade him or take the draft picks as compensation for him leaving as a free agent.

My guess is he'll re-sign despite the ugly turn that this season has taken. He must not scare off easily.

So how busy will the Orioles be at the non-waiver deadline?

"There isn't a great deal of mystery," said president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail. "People are pretty sophisticated. They'll speculate about who's attractive to other clubs. And the guys that are more attractive to the other clubs are harder to give up."

That's because the Orioles don't have anyone to fill Guthrie's spot in the rotation or to take up the slack for Hardy.

"The ideal scenario is when you have an attractive guy and a viable option internally, you have something of value and you can replace it internally. That's your ideal trade scenario come July 31," MacPhail said.

"The guys who are more attractive are harder for us to replace."

Maybe the Orioles could get a shortstop for Guthrie and a starting pitcher for Hardy.

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