Baseball fans, we are now three-and-a-half weeks into the long MLB season.
Across the league, fans have already had the privilege of witnessing fantastic moments such as extraordinary pitching performances, Albert Pujols' 500th career homer and a tight AL race that includes no division lead of more than one game.
The Baltimore Orioles are 20 games into their season, sporting a 10-10 record and sitting third in the AL East. The team has had arguably the toughest schedule in MLB to date, and it isn't going to get any easier for the Birds.
As a whole, the Orioles have obviously struggled more often than they have dominated, yet they're still finding ways to win ballgames. And while there have been some bright spots so far (Chris Tillman leading the pitching staff, Steve Clevenger's performance), there are also areas of concern (Chris Davis and Adam Jones leading a power outage, the other four starters in the rotation failing to eat innings).
Fans are eagerly awaiting the return of Manny Machado as rookie Jonathan Schoop has had trouble adjusting to the hot corner. While it's natural for a young player to take bumps—and the fans understand that—Schoop could benefit from a return to second base, as he's committed four errors at third for the team.
Once the team gets clicking on offense and defense, the O's could be a scary good ballclub. But there will still be some holes to fill, as with any sports team.
It's never too early to speculate what the O's may try to target come the July 31 trade deadline, assuming the team is in contention. Obviously, the team will look to improve in its weakest areas while also capitalizing on the best available deal.
Going by that logic, the team will probably be looking for pitching this summer. So far, the rotation is of much bigger concern than the bullpen is; however, top prospect Kevin Gausman has been getting regular starts at Triple-A Norfolk and could be the first to receive a call-up and rotation audition should the team decide one of the current starters needs replacing.
Gausman's success at the big league level could sway the need for a starting pitcher outside of the organization. Should he provide a solid force in the rotation, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette could choose to focus on other needs. Should he struggle, the need for another starter becomes even more apparent.
Speaking of pitching, adding a strong bullpen arm is never a bad idea. The O's did just that last season when they traded for reliever Francisco Rodriguez in between acquiring starters Scott Feldman and Bud Norris as they looked to solidify their entire pitching staff. It wouldn't surprise me if they made a similar move this season.
And for the lineup, the O's are always in need of help in the OBP department. The team is currently 13th in baseball in OBP (.324), and that's surely contributing to them sitting 11th in runs scored (91). Prior to Wednesday's 10-run outburst, the team was sitting at 15th and 17th in those stats, respectively. As the saying goes, you have to score runs to win the game. Acquiring a guy who is good at getting on base and scoring runs would be a big boost for the O's.
As I said earlier, it's never too early to speculate areas the O's may try to upgrade this summer, though it is too early to speculate who the team will try to acquire.
At this point in time, every team in MLB is still in contention, though some are fading fast. So just as no one knows who will be in the race and who will have lost too much ground come July, no one can accurately predict which players will be on the move. And of course, should the O's be out of contention in July, all of this changes.
For now, though, fans can enjoy good baseball throughout the league and continue to cling to the promise of a good baseball season, just as that feeling was felt three-and-a-half weeks ago.
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