Monday, January 14, 2008

Coming down to the wire...

After reportedly being close to a trade that would have sent Brian Roberts to the Cubs for pitching prospects Sean Gallagher, Sean Marshall and 2B/SS prospect Ronny Cedeno, the Orioles have slowed down their trade talks to a crawl.

Nothing appears eminent and the Orioles have repeatedly said that they are content going into the 2008 season with Brian Roberts and Erik Bedard on their roster.

Of course, this is a negotiations ploy, but as the days pass without action, it appears more and more like it could be a reality.

And while I am glad to see that Andy MacPhail has high demands for his 2 best players in Roberts and Bedard, I am beginning to worry that he isn't willing to budge.

Now, this could play out beautifully if the Cubs or Mariners get nervous as the season approaches and pull the trigger on the trades that MacPhail wants. But it appears that those teams aren't willing to give up their best young talent, regardless of how good Roberts and Bedard may be.

And therein lies the problem. Someone has to flinch. Hopefully it won't be the Orioles, but if it comes down to the wire, they may be forced to.

Entering the 2008 season with Brian Roberts and Erik Bedard on the roster points toward complete disaster. Both players have a better chance to lower their value than raise it, and both players have had injuries in the past that have sidelined them for extensive periods of time.

Having their value drop from ineffectiveness or injuries would force the Orioles into a corner that they wouldn't be able to fight their way out of.

They need young talent. They need it now. And they need to start the rebuilding process as soon as possible. Waiting for the trade deadline in July 2008 is not acceptable. There are too many risks involved. And most important, it pushes the rebuilding process back to 2009.

The Orioles may need to take a hard look at themselves and realize that they need to move these guys before the season begins, no matter what the cost. Yes, there is still time to hold out, to force the teams who covet Roberts and Bedard to cave in, but with pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training in a month, time is of the essence.

Taking one fewer player in a deal, or substituting a top prospect with a lesser player isn't the end of the world. Especially for Roberts, who I believe is grossly overrated by Oriole fans. The Gallagher, Marshall and Cedeno deal was bashed when it was reported as completed, but it seemed like fair value for a 2B in Roberts who is on the wrong side of 30 and is sure to start declining soon. Gallagher and Marshall are both candidates for a mid-rotation spot and Cedeno has posted a .900 OPS in AAA the last 2 years, but has struggled in the majors thus far.

If you're going to hold out for the best package, it better be Bedard. If we're forced to keep him, it doesn't hurt to have an ace on your team for 3 months or a year, especially if he maintains his current level of performance.

But if you hold onto these players too long, like the Orioles have done all too often in the past, you're playing with fire.

And the Orioles will be the ones who get burned.

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