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Who do the Orioles add for the stretch run?
Usually the prevailing thought at this point is, "Who do the Orioles deal at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline?"
But this month, the Orioles appear to be buyers. One, because at 45-40 they are in second place in the AL East and currently a postseason contender. Secondly, the Orioles don't have any coveted veteran trade chips this year to be sellers. Only infielder Mark Reynolds and reliever Kevin Gregg fall into that category, and neither will bring back much -- if anything -- in a trade.
So Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette is wheeling his empty cart up and down the starting pitching aisles.
Duquette has already made overtures for starting pitching, including the market's most coveted prize, Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Zack Greinke (left). Pretty much every established veteran starter that's potentially available will catch the Orioles' interest: Greinke and his teammate Shaun Marcum, the Chicago Cubs' Matt Garza, Paul Maholm and Ryan Dempster (right), the Philadelphia Phillies' Cole Hamels, Houston's Wandy Rodriguez, Arizona's Joe Saunders (center), Seattle's Jason Vargas and the Oakland¿s Bartolo Colon, among others.
The problem is that the Orioles' farm system is top heavy and shallow -- with right-hander Dylan Bundy and shortstop Manny Machado considered the only potential difference-makers. Both are relatively untouchable, especially for a two-month rental.
That makes getting a top-tier pitcher unlikely, unless an opposing club still sees one of the Orioles' demoted starters -- Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta or Zach Britton -- as the centerpiece of a deal.
The best guess is that once the jockeying and bidding is done, the Orioles will settle for a lower-level starter such as a Rodriguez, Vargas, Saunders or Colon -- someone who can likely improve the rotation but not anchor it. Regardless, Duquette has shown an aggressiveness in his short stint with the Orioles, so a deadline deal for a pitcher is more likely than not.
They also could attempt to make a deal to shore up their infield defense and get more consistency out of left field, but for now starting pitching is the priority.
July 11, 2012