Andrew Stetka: O’s trade activity shows perception of franchise

Over the next two months, you are going to hear a lot about the playoff races throughout baseball. There will be talk of who can win the National League pennant. Will the Dodgers pull it off through high expectations? Can the Cardinals make a return trip to the World Series? There’s plenty of intrigue to go around on the Senior Circuit. There’s a big difference when you look at the American League, at least in the eyes of most of the population.

Most of the country will view the next two months as a preview for the inevitable AL Championship Series between the Tigers and Athletics. How could things go any other way after the blockbuster deals each pulled off last Thursday? Detroit and Oakland now possess two of the game’s top rotations. The Tigers acquired the top arm on the trade block in David Price to fortify an already strong staff. Weeks after trading for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, the A’s went out and dealt for Jon Lester to bolster their rotation as well.

The Orioles made a deadline deal as well, though unless you were really paying close attention, you might have missed it. I’m not saying I don’t like the move the O’s made in acquiring left-hander Andrew Miller from the Red Sox, but the team is getting exactly zero points for boldness in my book.

The problem is that the Birds never appear to be ready to make that bold move to really solidify part of the team. They are never viewed as a team prepared to add a big-name player that has the potential to make a difference. Last Wednesday, it appeared that stigma was about to change when reports out of Boston had the O’s linked to Lester. There was word that the teams were finalizing a trade and talks had progressed significantly. Though Dan Duquette shot all of that hope down later in the day by saying it was all news to him.

There would be no guarantee of greater success with Lester in the O’s rotation. As it stands, the starting pitching staff has actually been very good over the past two months and even great over the past few weeks. There’s also no guarantee that Lester will give the A’s more hope in October, but the perception is that he will. That’s what the Orioles are missing.

Perhaps the pieces weren’t in place to make a move like Oakland did. The A’s did surrender an All-Star outfielder in Yoenis Cespedes in order to make the deal. No one knows the details of the trade talks between Boston and Oakland, so it’s impossible to know what their asking price was. But if the O’s did have the pieces or the prospects to pull something off and simply decided not to, it’d be another disappointment to know the perception isn’t changing.

As I wrote in this place last week, there is now an expectation of the Orioles throughout the fanbase. The last few seasons of success have created it. If the team happens to fall short of expectations, failing to acquire a pitcher like Lester will be an easy target for blame. It’s been much of the same during the offseason, as the Orioles have consistently failed to go out and spend money to bring in top-tier free agents. Before it even gets brought up, spending over $50 million this past offseason on Ubaldo Jimenez does not begin to qualify as a strong move, and it’s proven when you look at the on-field production.

If the O’s had gone out and landed Lester, or even Price for that matter, things would’ve changed. The perception would’ve been different. The expectations would still be very high, likely even higher going forward. But there would then be no second-guessing. No fan or national media type would be able to say the O’s shortcomings came from a lack of trying. The effort from the front office would be obvious, and that would at least be something to fall back on.

Instead, the Orioles will have to do it the hard way. They will have to pitch about as well as they have over the past few weeks and the bats will have to wake from their slumber. If they are able to hold on to the AL East lead, they will likely run in to either the A’s or Tigers and those daunting rotations. If they are really lucky, they will get to play both.

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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