The non-waiver trade deadline is three weeks away, but it's never too soon to open up the discussion.
The Orioles are in the market for pitching - a starter and a reliever. I've heard that a late-inning bullpen arm is especially high on the list, someone who can assist in a set-up role. Maybe handle some of the closing duties if Zach Britton is unavailable.
The interesting part to me is how the Orioles would create room in the rotation and bullpen.
Talking to folks in the organization, the hope is that Kevin Gausman can rejoin the team right after the All-Star break and stick through the rest of the season. Depends how he's pitching, of course, but he won't be on an innings limit and it sounds like the string on the yo-yo is being snipped.
By my faulty math, that's a six-man rotation for manager Buck Showalter. Would a starter need to be traded in exchange for another one, which would still leave a six-man rotation?
Put a starter in the bullpen and you've got too many relievers. Acquire that late-inning arm and ...
You get the pitcher picture.
It's harder to create room when Brad Brach is doing such valuable work. He shouldn't be sent down.
Brach has turned out to be a steal, as one Oriole predicted after learning of the trade. No offense to minor league pitcher Devin Jones, sent to the Padres in the Nov. 25 deal, but he's 4-3 with a 7.23 ERA in nine games (seven starts) with Double-A San Antonio, with 51 hits allowed in 37 1/3 innings.
Jones went on the disabled list with a shin injury and hasn't pitched since May 24.
"If you look at Brad Brach's record in the minors, he got a lot of saves in the minors and for whatever reason, he looked like he didn't really get comfortable in the major leagues," said executive vice president Dan Duquette. "He had a real high walk/strikeout ratio in the minors, but he was up and down, up and down, up and down.
"This year, he's up and down, but when he went to Triple-A, he got better command of his off-speed pitch and better command of his pitches when he came back up to the big leagues. He started throwing strikes more consistently in the big leagues, like he did in the minors. And of course, he came up and won three games for us last week. He's done a great job."
T.J. McFarland has options, but he allowed one run in June and is a favorite of Showalter's for his versatility, his ability to work consecutive days and his ability to defend himself against right-handed and left-handed batters. Showalter likes having a lefty long man to back up his right-handed starters.
The only purpose for optioning him would be to make him a starter again at Triple-A Norfolk.
The Orioles are in first place by 2 1/2 games and are eight above .500. They aren't looking to stand pat, especially when it comes to their pitching, but Duquette likes the direction they're headed.
"Our ballclub has been playing good since June 1," he said. "Manny (Machado) is coming around, Chris Davis is coming around, J.J. (Hardy) has been very steady, Adam (Jones) has been steady, Nick (Markakis) has been steady, Nelson Cruz has been steady. Our second basemen have been very good defensively and they're starting to contribute offensively. And our catchers have been very good defensively and now they're starting to contribute offensively.
"The biggest improvement in the team has been the consistency of our starting pitching and that's a good sign. Dave Wallace has a track record of helping pitchers get the most of their abilities. And Buck's leadership day in and day out makes a difference. He has great enthusiasm and passion for the game."
Duquette said he considers it a "great honor" to have three players - Jones, Cruz and Matt Wieters - voted into the All-Star Game as starters.
"It's also a tribute to the guys and our fans who helped vote them into the game," Duquette said. "Matt made it on the basis of the voting and he hasn't picked up a ball in, what, six weeks? He made it on the strength of his early-season performance and he had established himself in the American League. But really his early-season performance with his bat is probably what got the voters' attention, what got him on the team.
"Of course, Nelson Cruz is having a terrific year, leading the league in RBIs and home runs. He certainly deserves to be on the team. And our fans deserve a lot of credit for how Adam Jones came up in the voting. Adam Jones came up in his performance in the month of June and our fans recognized it and the team pushed hard through social media channels and Adam got the votes. And deservedly so.
"I mean, he deserves to be in the All-Star Game. He plays every game for us, he hits against all the tough pitchers, he plays good defense in the outfield, he's got a great arm. He's got the pedigree of the Gold Glove and this is his third consecutive All-Star appearance. He's shown great leadership and we're really proud of having three players on the team. We're really proud our fans helped us get them there. And of course, our field staff deserves a lot of credit. Buck and his men for the leadership and work habits that they have instilled in these players, that they have pride to do the job day in and day out."