Orioles hang on to trade chips
Roberts, Sherrill stay in Baltimore as Trade Deadline passes
SEATTLE -- The Orioles you see are the Orioles you'll get. Baseball's Trade Deadline came and went without much activity on Thursday, and Baltimore never really got close to making a deal. The Orioles elected to hang onto their best trade chips, namely second baseman Brian Roberts and closer George Sherrill, until they get a better offer.
And for all intents and purposes, that likely won't happen this season. Teams are able to make trades in August if the players in question pass through waivers, but the chances are quite slim that would happen for either Roberts or Sherrill. Baltimore may yet be able to swing a few post-deadline trades, but they will likely involve some smaller names.
Andy MacPhail, the team's president of baseball operations, said he was somewhat surprised by the lack of activity.
"What happened over the last week is we just didnt have an intersection of self-interest between ourselves and another club," he said. "Each year is different for different reasons. You have different buyers, different sellers. ... You just didn't have teams feeling like -- for whatever reason -- they were getting enough back to make the volume of trades we've seen in the past.
"This is my judgment. I might be right and I might be wrong. My judgment is we'll have a larger field to choose from later on for players that are attractive. I suspect that we should have names that are going to be attractive to other teams."
MacPhail acknowledged that his team was mostly trying to sell off established players and acquire prospects, furthering the rebuilding process he started by dealing Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard. Roberts, who's signed through the 2009 season, was expected to be the next big name in that trend, and Sherrill garnered a lot of interest league-wide.
But despite weeks worth of phone calls, the Orioles never really heard an offer they liked enough to pull the trigger. And they know that both of their major chips will still be in their pocket in the offseason, when teams resume full-scale trading. MacPhail, who's been pleased with his team's play, said he wouldn't let himself make a deal just to get one done.
"I think you get into real problems when you start doing things because you feel you don't want to be left on the sideline," he said of the pressure to make trades at this time of year. "Any general manager has got a streak of competitiveness in them. They want to do things. They want to help their team. They want to make a move. I'm sure all 30 teams have that, but you do have to discipline yourself not to do anything just so you could come out with a trade at this point. You have to do something you perceive to be in your self-interest that survives the litmus test of being better off after you did it than before."
MacPhail said that he hasn't really considered extending Roberts past his shot at free agency, and he also said that media reports that indicated the second baseman was off the table were erroneous. The simple truth is that MacPhail let teams know when they were close for Roberts, and he also let them know when they weren't even in the same ballpark.
"In Brian's case, that was a pretty high bar set," he said. "If I don't think there's going to be a match there ... I tell clubs, 'Look, I don't want to hold you up over the next 48 hours. You can go do something else.' You're going to work with these GMs, hopefully, for a long time. You want to develop a reputation where you're pretty straightforward with them. ... I don't want a guy wasting a lot of time and activity if I don't think there's going to be a match given what they think they can do.
"The group that you're dealing with now are teams that are trying, by and large, to make a push for a pennant race. It's unlikely they're going to take from their current 25-man roster to rob Peter and pay Paul to create a weakness somewhere else."
As for Sherrill, MacPhail said that he wasn't alone on the open market. The executive said that he had a list of 10 left-handed relievers that he expected to change hands, and only two of them wound up traded. Now, he hopes that other teams will further determine what they have and what they need in terms of improving in August or over the winter.
Last season, the Orioles were quiet at the deadline and still swung a late August trade that helped the franchise. Baltimore dealt veteran Steve Trachsel to the Cubs for Scott Moore and Rocky Cherry, and then MacPhail re-signed Trachsel as a free agent over the winter. Both Moore and Cherry are currently playing for Baltimore affiliate Triple-A Norfolk.
That same process could be repeated this year, but the players in question will likely be veterans who won't command huge returns. Kevin Millar, Jay Payton are the chief position players involved, and pitchers like Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker could also find a new home. But first they'd have to clear waivers, which is no sure thing.
MacPhail said Thursday that he plays it conservative when it comes to claiming players in terms of blocking them from being traded to other teams, and he explained the entire process in great detail last week.
"Historically, of the 750 active players, you'll have a fair amount that will not clear," he said. "Maybe a quarter to a third of players subjected to waivers will clear, based on historical levels. And after that, there's generally some activity. I'd imagine there would still be calls in that process. The second deadline which is meaningful is Aug. 31, and players would have to be on somebody's roster [by that point] to be active for the postseason. Generally, that's the last opportunity for contending teams to manipulate their roster in a certain way, and I wouldn't be surprised if we had some activity at that point."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.