O's have chips to play at Trade Deadline
Wigginton, Millwood most likely to be dealt to contenders
SAN DIEGO -- As June hits the midway-marker, the steady flow of trade rumors picks up steam and general managers around baseball make inquiries and begin to delve into the inventories of organizations.
With a Major League-worst record of 18-48, it's safe to the say the Orioles are open for business. But according to president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, the beleaguered Baltimore squad won't be holding any kind of clearance for its decently-performing veterans.
"We wouldn't [make trades] just for the sake of moving payroll," MacPhail said Monday, adding that the fire-sale approach isn't something he anticipates at this year's July 31 Trade Deadline.
"Right now, people that have interest in our club [for] the guys that are producing and, although we would have to consider that given the circumstances we find ourselves in, you would need to think that you got something back that would be helpful in the future."
MacPhail said he gets calls from interested opposing general managers regularly. And although he didn't name specific players, the Orioles' top trade chip figures to be infielder Ty Wigginton. Playing predominantly at second base in lieu of injured Brian Roberts, Wigginton has already surpassed his home run total from all of last season, and is on several teams' shopping list given his power bat and ability to fill in at multiple positions. Third baseman Miguel Tejada, starting pitchers Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie, and left-handed specialist Will Ohman are also candidates to be moved, with designated hitter Luke Scott another possibility.
Wigginton has been involved in two midseason deals, going to Pittsburgh from the New York Mets during the 2004 Trade Deadline, and moving from Tampa Bay to Houston -- in exchange for reliever Dan Wheeler and cash considerations -- on July 28, 2007.
"I looked at [being traded] as a compliment both times," Wigginton said. "Obviously the other team likes you and wants to take you on, and for you to be a part of what they are trying to do."
A right-handed hitter, Wigginton is batting .273 with a team-leading 13 homers and 38 RBIs in 62 games. Additionally, he has 10 doubles, a .495 slugging percentage and is on pace to set a career-high in walks, with 25 free passes already eclipsing his 2009 season total.
Wigginton admits he got caught up in the myriad rumors and speculation that led to the eventual Pirates-Mets swap, and now says he tries to stay away from reading into anything too much. But given the instantaneous nature of the media, and the often-idle time pregame, baseball clubhouses are breeding grounds for swapping news and good-natured ribbing of trade-target teammates.
"Especially here in the next few weeks, we will really start to see a ton of rumors each and every day, and players just give each other a hard time," Wigginton said. "Obviously Millwood's name is going to pop up a lot. I think guys are already starting to hear his name. I'm sure guys will drop the line on him, 'You're still here?' [That] type of deal. But that's all part of it. It is what it is, you can't worry about it."
Added Millwood: "Until Andy [MacPhail] comes in and mentions something to me it's really all just hearsay."
Acquired in an offseason trade with Texas, Millwood said he would "definitely be open" to the possibility of joining a team in the playoff hunt, but the always-professional veteran would never demand a move.
"In no way would I ever try to force anybody's hand," said Millwood, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. "It's just one of those things where if an opportunity arose, I'd definitely look at it."
Millwood is making $12 million this season, and his trade value could be diminishing given an 8.38 ERA in his past five starts. Millwood is winless in 14 outings this season -- mostly due to the worst run support in the American League -- but said he's not concerned with his recent skid affecting potential trades.
"I think everybody knows the type of pitcher I am, knows what I bring to the table," he said. "I'm not really worried about raising or lowering my [trade] stock."
Tejada is another veteran on a one-year deal who could give the Orioles a decent return, while Ohman made the club as a non-roster invitee and didn't allow a run in his first 25 outings. He has a 3.38 ERA in 21 1/3 innings over 33 appearances.
It would conceivably take more of a return for the Orioles to deal Guthrie, who is younger than Millwood and under the club's control through 2012. The 31-year-old Guthrie is 3-8 -- again due to the O's offensive woes -- but has a respectable 3.97 ERA and could generate interest for a team in need of a solid starter.
Still, it's unclear how open MacPhail is to dealing Guthrie, a stabilizing force for the O's younger arms. Baltimore's rotation currently includes Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman (who was temporarily moved to the bullpen), all of whom are younger than 25, with Brad Bergesen working out his issues in Triple-A and prospect Zach Britton also expected to be part of the O's future.
It's a group MacPhail's success in Baltimore will hinge on. In his three-year regime, he has instilled a "grow the arms, buy the bats" approach, and the Orioles have closely guarded all of their young hurlers.
"You can imagine the guys that are popular," MacPhail said of this season's trade talks. "Our young pitching is popular, but that's part of the cornerstone of what we are trying to do."
Positionally, several injuries and the Orioles' lack of depth have given way to a historically anemic offense. Baltimore is last in the AL in runs scored (214), second to last in slugging percentage (.365), and has a Major League-worst .213 average with runners in scoring position.
"The offense isn't there and it's what we have to focus on," MacPhail said. "Not that we won't focus on the pitching as well, but that's an area that we need to do what we can do to augment the pitching."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.