The GM's Office: Baltimore Orioles

Dan Duquette and Buck ShowalterAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarOrioles GM Dan Duquette made multiple trades before the 2012 and 2013 trade deadlines.
Deadline objectives: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West

It's looking like the AL East could become quite a race, with two teams (the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees) being within four games of the division-leading Baltimore Orioles, with the fourth-place Tampa Bay Rays having won nine of their past 10 games. Only the last-place Boston Red Sox check in as potential sellers, though we're not quite sure what the Rays will do at this point.

With that, let's have a look at the AL East deadline objectives:
Jonathan PapelbonRick Yeatts/Getty ImagesJonathan Papelbon is holding opposing hitters to a .177 batting average this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Jonathan Papelbon | RP | Philadelphia Phillies

Possible destinations: Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers


Los Angeles Angels

Why? Angels GM Jerry Dipoto stopped by the GM's office recently and said he's not done making moves; he'd like to add another reliever. Since DiPoto became the team's GM in October 2011, he has needed a defibrillator for many of the ninth innings; only three AL teams have blown more saves since the start of 2012. It's time for the Angels to solve it once and for all, and although they're hoping newly acquired Jason Grilli is the answer, they know Papelbon would be. Papelbon has converted 22 saves with a 1.21 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in 37 1/3 innings pitched. This is a no-brainer move for the Angels if they can get it done.

Who? The Phillies will target all of the Angels' top prospects, focusing more on overall quality rather than positional needs, realizing they could always spin the acquired assets for needs down the road.

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Bartolo ColonBrad Penner/USA TODAY SportsBartolo Colon could prove to be a useful cog for a contending team aiming for the playoffs.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Bartolo Colon | RHP | New York Mets

Possible destinations: Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins, New York Yankees


Miami Marlins

Why? Marlins president of baseball operations Mike Hill and general manager Dan Jennings both told me on separate occasions this past week that owner Jeffrey Loria is committed to contending and winning this year, and is prepared to provide the financial backing necessary for trades. Hill characterized his relationship with Jennings as a partner, and both have been told if they find a good baseball deal to bring it to Loria and he will approve it. This includes the David Price sweepstakes if he’s traded. They’ve also told me that starting pitching, not second base, is their top priority.

Therefore, based on who's available, Colon -- who's signed through next season and not just a rental -- would be a good target. Colon would provide leadership for their young pitchers and more important increase their chances of staying in the pennant race all season.

Who? A package of right-handed pitcher Nick Wittgren and outfielder Austin Dean would be fair value.

Will it happen?

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A.J. BurnettAP Photo/Charlie NeibergallWe may see A.J. Burnett suiting up for a former team again by the end of this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: A.J. Burnett | RHP | Philadelphia Phillies

Possible destinations: Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians


Pittsburgh Pirates

Why? The Pirates' rotation has been given a boost of late by Vance Worley and Jeff Locke, and the team is hoping Francisco Liriano not only returns from the disabled list soon but is more like the Liriano of 2013 than the one with a 4.60 ERA this season. However, the Pirates would feel better about their rotation if they could add one more veteran starter for the stretch drive, and Burnett could fill that void without a huge return. Burnett was well-respected in the Pirates' clubhouse, and viewed as a leader by their young pitchers. After a rough May, Burnett has thrown six consecutive quality starts, increasing his trade value.

Who? A package of 19-year outfielder Harold Ramirez and right-hander Clay Holmes should get the deal done from a player perspective, but the Pirates won’t even consider the deal unless the Phillies send back a significant amount of cash to help with the salary and buyout of the mutual option year on Burnett's contract.

Will it happen? Baseball-wise, this is a good fit for both teams.

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Alex RiosAP Photo/Carlos OsorioAlex Rios leads the American League with eight triples this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Alex Rios | RF | Texas Rangers
Possible destinations: Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox


Kansas City Royals

Why? The Royals are last in the AL Central in runs scored and have had very little offensive production from right fielder Norichika Aoki, who has yet to hit a home run and has a .326 OBP. Rios hasn't hit for much power either (just three homers), but he's hitting .304 and has more upside -- and a better track record -- than Aoki, who would be better off as a fourth outfielder.

Who? The Rangers should be satisfied by getting approximately $6 million off the books for the rest of the season, as well as the $1 million buyout on Rios' 2015 team option ($13.5 million).

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Jeff SamardzijaScott Cunningham/Getty ImagesWith Toronto desperately in need of pitching, Jeff Samardzija would fit in well.
General managers use the first two months of the season to evaluate their teams, then try to improve the team through trades or calling up top prospects in the next two months. Then they try to tweak the team with waiver deals and September call-ups in the last two months.

Given this, teams are mainly concentrating on the draft and don’t focus full-time on trades until after the draft (June 5-7). However, GMs still are talking to each other and laying the foundation for deals. This includes letting other GMs know their interest in a particular player and at least offer a fair chance to trade for that player. Many GMs are also letting other teams know exactly who’s available and who’s untouchable.

Most of the big trades happen between the All-Star Game and the July 31 trade deadline as well as in August via waiver deals. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t deals in May or June, and I like to think of these deals as "appetizer" trades, with the entrees coming closer to July 31. Often, these are minor deals, like when Chris Nelson was dealt from the Colorado Rockies to the New York Yankees last May. However, we sometimes get major deals in May.

For example, it was mid-May 1998 when the Dodgers traded Mike Piazza to the Marlins, who then traded him to the Mets a week later.

With 27 of the 30 teams within four games of the playoffs coming into the weekend, it is safe to assume there will be fewer teams "selling" than normal. More likely trades will be made between contenders that match up in roster depth and weaknesses.

Here are some possible "appetizer" trades I would like to see that would fill some important needs of these contending teams:

1. Toronto Blue Jays acquire RHP Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs

OK, this is not a traditional "appetizer" deal, and is more in line with those aforementioned Piazza deals. The Blue Jays lead the AL in home runs and are third in runs scored. They might have the best lineup in the AL East. However, for the Blue Jays to contend all season, they must make a trade for a starting pitcher.

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A large slate of games Monday offered glimpses of what could be an exciting 2014 season. There were unexpected performances (Alejandro De Aza's two home runs) and disappointing ones (Cliff Lee’s eight earned runs in five innings), too, as well as a walk-off win in Pittsburgh.

There’s still a long way to go for any of my bold predictions to play out, but here are my five best takeaways from Opening Day 2014.

1. So far, so good for Sizemore and Sox

Grady Sizemore was the best and biggest story of spring training, and he kept it going Opening Day with a single in his first at-bat and a long home run in his second.

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When will Trout's reign end? 

March, 27, 2014
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videoLos Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout clearly has established himself as the best player in Major League Baseball. He is ranked No. 1 in the "Baseball Tonight" 100, and he will be the favorite to remain on the top of this list for the next five years.

The rest of the top five will turn over, as there are a number of players who will move in and out over the next half-decade. Let’s have some fun and take a look at the guys who I think will populate the list of top-five players each year through the 2019 season.

Understand these lists are purely what I think could happen, and I'm assuming some amount of good health and luck during these five years, while hypothesizing some outcomes based on current performance and trajectory. I added some statistical projections courtesy of Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections system, just to give you a sense of what the stats say about these guys. In some case, I'm a bit more optimistic than the computer models.

Top 5 players in 2015 (projected via ZiPS)

1. Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels (.289/.384/.505, 42 SB, 8.9 WAR)
2.

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GM buzz: Latest on free agents 

February, 3, 2014
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Nelson Cruz Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsNelson Cruz is still looking for a home. Will he find one in Seattle?
With pitchers and catchers due to report to spring training in a couple of weeks, the rumor mill continues to churn because many quality free agents are still on the market, including: Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo, Paul Maholm, Stephen Drew and Nelson Cruz.

Why are so many players still on the market? Well, the agents and union have their theory, while the clubs have a different view. Multiple agents representing free agents who are still on the market told me over the weekend that they, as well as the players' union, are concerned that social networking and the media’s advanced coverage of the sport are hurting the market value of their clients.

Some even went so far as to suggest that teams are possibly violating the clause in the collective bargaining agreement that prevents clubs from influencing a free agent's market value by relaying to the media the offers they’ve made to free agents, and whether clubs plan to make an offer or decline to make an offer. Certainly media coverage of baseball’s offseason is the best it’s ever been, but these conclusions have very little merit when you look at the enormous contracts that were given out this offseason to the likes of Robinson Cano, Clayton Kershaw and Masahiro Tanaka, among others.

On the other hand, general managers and assistant GMs have a different opinion. The majority believe the main reason so many free agents remain on the market is that all have some type of negative issue surrounding them, whether that's injury history, a performance-enhancing drug suspension, career inconsistency or draft-pick compensation. GMs also point to the agents’ inflated expectations in terms of years and dollars considering the risks associated with these players.

With that in mind, here’s the latest scuttlebutt from the front offices around the league.

Where will they land?

David Price is staying in Tampa. Rays GM Andrew Friedman has listened to every club that had a trade proposal for Price and came away knowing his best decision is to keep him and try to win this year.

The Rays know that trading Price at the deadline probably won’t be an option because the team will be in a pennant race, so it will be next offseason when he’s finally traded.

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Will MiddlebrooksRon Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsWill Middlebrooks will get a lot more at-bats if Stephen Drew isn't around.
General managers use the offseason to improve their team at various positions via free agency, trades and waiver claims. Some of these moves are significant upgrades, others are slight improvements.

Yet some general managers simply aren’t able to improve a position because they don’t match up well enough to get a trade done with the other clubs, or they don’t have enough money in their budget to persuade free agents to sign with them.

When this happens, a number of players get second chances or an opportunity to win the job in spring training. Here are five players who might benefit this season because their teams didn’t make a move:


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The missing link for every AL team 

January, 15, 2014
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Matt Garza AP Photo/Colin E. BraleyIf the Los Angeles Angels lose out on Masahiro Tanaka, they should go after Matt Garza.
On Tuesday, I focused on the missing piece for every National League team heading in to spring training, and today we turn our attention to the American League.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Houston Astros

Missing link: Pitching prospects
Solution: Trade 3B Matt Dominguez for prospects
The Astros are doing a masterful job of following the blueprint of general manager Jeff Luhnow, building through the draft and player development while mixing in a few veteran free agents who will have some trade value at the deadline.

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10 moves that still need to happen 

December, 17, 2013
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Matt Garza, C.J. WilsonGetty ImagesMatt Garza might look pretty good in the Angels' rotation with C.J. Wilson.
This has been a wild offseason so far, with blockbuster trades and free-agent signings taking place even before we got to Orlando for the Winter Meetings. Yet, with two weeks left in 2013, the free-agent and trade markets still have a lot of unfinished business.

As I look around the league, I can see 10 more moves that make a lot of sense and should to get done for their teams to remain viable contenders for 2014. Let's take a look:

1. Los Angeles Angels | Move: Sign free-agent RHP Matt Garza

The Angels have worked hard

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Offseason grades thus far: AL 

December, 14, 2013
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McCann & GirardiAP Photo/Seth WenigManager Joe Girardi was all smiles after the Yankees signed free-agent catcher Brian McCann.
Entering the offseason, the 2013 free agent class was generally regarded as one of the weaker ones in recent memory. Thus, most industry insiders were banking on a healthy trade market to develop and they were right.

In addition to the generous free-agent signings, blockbuster trades dominated the news, re-sculpting several teams in a single move. Here's how each American League team has done this winter, thus far. Mind you, there's still a long way to go, several big-name free agents to sign and blockbuster trades to make.

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Four trades for Jeff Samardzija 

December, 3, 2013
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Jeff SamardzijaJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJeff Samardzija's trade value is at its peak right now. Should the Cubs trade him?
Should the Chicago Cubs trade Jeff Samardzija?

Certainly their priority is to re-sign their ace right-hander to a long-term contract. However, if they enter the winter meetings without closure to negotiations with Samardzija, don’t be surprised if they deal him. As the rumor mill has probably told you by now, Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer also have been checking the trade market to find out which avenue is best for their long-term goals.

With a free-agent market thin on top-of-the-rotation starters, Samardzija is arguably better than what’s available, including Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Hiroki Kuroda, Ubaldo Jimenez and Bronson Arroyo. After Japan and MLB agree on a posting system, you possibly can add even Masahiro Tanaka to that list.

However, the Cubs don’t have to trade Samardzija -- they control him for two more seasons and have the ability to move him at the July trade deadline or next offseason. However, as we discussed with Tampa Bay Rays left-hander David Price, the 28-year-old Samardzija is entering his prime, as his trade value will likely never be higher.

Samardzija pitched a career-high 213 2/3 innings this season, finishing with a 4.34 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He has a nasty fastball in the 93-96 mph range, which he also cuts in the low 90s, with a hard slider (84 mph) and nasty split-finger fastball (also 84 mph). The repertoire says he should be a top-of-the-rotation type starter and in a new environment should reach that potential this upcoming season.

To deal him, however, the Cubs have to receive a significant package in return. And since their system is flush with elite hitting prospects but few pitchers, they would be looking to add elite arms in any major deal. So here are four trades for Samardzija that would make sense for the Cubs. If they can’t get this type of return, they should just hold on to him.

1. Baltimore Orioles trade RHP Kevin Gausman straight up

The Orioles’ window to win a World Series title with their present corps of stars will close over the next two seasons. And without a top-of-the-rotation starter, that’s going to be difficult.

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Five trades for Matt Wieters 

November, 22, 2013
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Matt Wieters is one of the best all-around catchers in baseball. The Baltimore Orioles’ 2007 first-round pick is entering what should be the prime years of his career. He is a 27-year-old switch-hitter, a two-time All-Star and has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the last three seasons. He’s also a two-time Gold Glove Award winner who has thrown out at least 35 percent of runners trying to steal against him each of the last three seasons.

He’s arbitration-eligible right now and will be a free agent after the 2015 season. The Orioles would love to tie him up to a long-term contract extension. But with the industry’s revenue soaring along with player contracts, and Scott Boras as his agent, it’s unlikely the Orioles will be able to extend Wieters before he reaches free agency.

Therefore, Wieters’ trade value will never be higher than it is now.

Of course, the Orioles have a contending team, so trading Wieters doesn’t make much sense unless they’re able to get a top-level catcher back in a trade or they sign the best free-agent catcher on the market -- Brian McCann, who will cost much less than what Wieters will ask for on his next deal. The return for Wieters must include one of these four options:

1. Top-of-the-rotation starter
2. Corner outfielder with power
3. Impact second baseman
4. Prospect package to help rebuild a thin farm system

Here are some possible trade partners for the Orioles in a Wieters blockbuster deal.

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