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Despite Few Trades, Orioles In Fine Position To Win Division

Baltimore Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette.
Keith Allison via flickr
Baltimore Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette.
Baltimore Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette.
Credit Keith Allison via flickr
Baltimore Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette.

Sometimes, the measure of a good team lies not in what it does, but what it doesn’t do under pressure.

The Orioles are under the microscope of not only being in a pennant race, but leading the race. The team had a chance--some would say an obligation--to pull off a major deal before last Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline.

After all, how many times will a Baltimore team have the chance to win a title in a division where the big spending Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees also reside?

Surely, the Birds’ brain trust of general manager DanDuquetteand manager BuckShowalter, armed with a lead in the American League East, would have purchased some shiny bauble or two before the theoretical window for making deals slammed shut.

The wish list from fans would certainly include another big bat to supplement newcomer Nelson Cruz, whose red-hot-first-half-home-run bat has cooled of late. Or perhaps a speed threat to bat leadoff, so that outfielder NickMarkasiscould move further down in the batting order. Or, in a perfect world,DuquetteandShowalterwould go out and get an ace starting pitcher, a guy who would start the playoff opener and be the fulcrum of a deep postseason run.

Supposedly, the Orioles were in line to make a deal with the Red Sox for their left-hander, Jon Lester, in exchange for some package of minor league talent. But 4 p.m. Thursday rolled around, and the Baltimore front office did virtually nothing. It was the final moment where trades could be made without players having to clear waivers.

Actually,Duquettedid eventually trade with Boston for a lefty. But instead of Lester, the Orioles got reliever Andrew Miller, in exchange for a prospect. Miller fortifies the team’s best component, its bullpen. He has an arm to use late in close games.

Now the Orioles are in prime position to win the club’s first American League East title in 17 years. The stars have aligned nicely for the Birds to date in the East. Defending world champion Boston is sliding to a last place finish this year, and the Yankees have been battered with injuries and age. The race for the East is essentially down to two teams: the Orioles, and the Toronto Blue Jays. The Tampa Bay Rays would be a third, except they traded away their best pitcher, David Price, on Thursday.

The Blue Jays did nothing to fortify their club, but they will have nine more games with the Orioles, including the final three of the regular season. The Birds can still add players to the roster from other clubs before the end of the season, but it would cost them a prize young pitcher like KevinGausmanor Dylan Bundy.

More likely, Duquette and Showalter will play out the rest of the season with the hand they’ve compiled. It’s a solid hand, constructed without giving up young players who could play a key role in the Orioles’ future.

That’s a smart play and should be good for this October, and Octobers to come.

You can reach us via e-mail with your questions and comments at sportsatlarge [at] wypr [dot] org. And follow me on Twitter: @sportsatlarge.

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Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.