The Orioles are ready to kick off their first homestand of the second half and the first without Manny Machado on the roster.
How much longer will it include closer Zach Britton?
There’s widespread interest in Britton on the trade market, of course, and while the Dodgers recently came up again as a potential partner with the Orioles, I’ve heard that the Astros, Red Sox and Cubs are “more active.”
The offers currently on the table are “all close,” according to a source.
Also, the Phillies and Yankees are in the mix, but they’re “a step behind” the other teams, according to a source.
Britton hasn’t allowed a run in his last eight appearances to lower his ERA to 3.45.The velocity on his fastball is up, the sink is back and there are no concerns among scouts about the condition of his arm or the residual effects from his Achilles surgery.
As relievers come off the market following trades, most notably Brad Hand, Kelvin Herrera and Jeurys Familia, the focus on Britton only intensifies and puts the Orioles firmly in the driver’s seat.
The Cubs placed Brandon Morrow on the disabled list last week, making Britton a logical target, but they have the 28th-ranked prospect pool in baseball according to Baseball America. They could have trouble keeping up with the other contenders vying for Britton, whose rental status shouldn’t prevent the Orioles from getting a nice return for him.
Meanwhile, the Brewers have checked with the Orioles on the availability of second baseman Jonathan Schoop and starter Kevin Gausman, according to a source. The Orioles seemed to be more focused on moving their pending free agents than players under team control beyond 2018, but they’re willing to listen on anyone.
That’s how a rebuild works.
I’m also told again that the Yankees checked on Gausman as they seek another starting pitcher. And the Braves, besides their interest in Britton, have engaged the Orioles in talks regarding Schoop, Gausman and starter Dylan Bundy.
The Orioles are hesitant to punch holes in their rotation - they’re seeking starters more than they’re willing to part with them - but a team that’s 44 games below .500 and laying out its plans for a rebuild won’t pin the untouchable tag on anyone. Make them an offer.
The rebuild is going to take on a variety of looks as more veterans are peeled off the roster and it’s infused with younger players.
It must include an emphasis on defense.
Nothing against Jace Peterson, who can be useful as a utility player and left-handed bat off the bench, but he shouldn’t be getting regular at-bats as a corner outfielder. And he started yesterday against Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ while manager Buck Showalter rested Adam Jones and put Joey Rickard in center field.
Peterson failed yesterday in an attempt to make a diving catch rather than play the ball off the fence, Tim Beckham wasn’t lined up properly for the relay and Kendrys Morales scored all the way from first base. It’s the type of fundamental breakdown that kills.
Danny Valencia can play right field, but it shouldn’t become a habit. He’s a corner infielder and a right-handed bat with pop coming off the bench, a guy who build a reputation for punishing left-handed pitching.
Cedric Mullins, a switch-hitting outfielder, is a perfect fit on this roster. He would have been in the lineup yesterday if the Orioles selected his contract from Triple-A Norfolk. Put him in right, put him in center and move Jones to right. There’s no reason to wait any longer unless finding room on the 40-man roster makes it complicated.
Meanwhile, can we stop putting so much emphasis on a starting pitcher’s won-loss record or “winless streak?”
Alex Cobb leads the majors with 13 losses. It has to sting. But he allowed one earned run on Saturday and the Orioles scored one run. He needed a shutout to have any chance at a victory. And the Orioles are averaging fewer than three runs per his starts.
Andrew Cashner left yesterday’s game after surrendering one run and the bullpen imploded to extend his winless streak.
Gausman threw nine scoreless innings in Oakland and didn’t get a decision.
Check ERAs and WHIPs before win totals. That’s my advice. Also, shut down your MySpace account and ditch the rotary phone. And you don’t need TiVo to record your favorite programs.