BY LE MILLER
Sitting at an excellent 22-10 (the best mark in baseball) as they make their way through the second month of the season, the Orioles are off to the best start of the Buck Showalter era (besting the 2012 squad)...and now is the time to make sure this team can go all the way.
It's not just luck that has them sitting at 22-10. While many key parts of the team have struggled (Such as Trumbo and Davis combining for just 8 homeruns) there have been just as many positives. Trey Mancini has been better than imagined. Dylan Bundy has emerged as the prospect he was advertised as. Seth Smith is hitting like he's still in Colorado. Wade Miley has walked a tightrope of walks to great effectiveness. Welington Castillo has been a spark plug of guts and hustle, and when Beef went down Caleb Joseph began to find himself at the dish again.
And here they are, best record in baseball.
The Orioles are in the driver's seat. Sitting in first, they are also currently ahead of the Red Sox in the standings by a healthy five games.
This team looks like a contender and shouldn't wait to make moves to shore up the roster for a playoff run -- and to make sure they win the division and skip the Wild Card game. There are some obvious weaknesses in the roster that might be addressable without too much trouble.
Here are four possible moves the Orioles can do right now without breaking the bank:
1) Cut Gentry: There are too many outfielders on this roster. The Orioles have five dedicated outfielders, all three 1B/DH can play the outfield...and even Ryan Flaherty has started 16 games in the outfielder in his career.
The roster spot would be better suited with another reliever to help out the pen, or to get another middle infield bat. There is no trade to be made for Gentry, he'll have to be designated for assignment to move him off the roster.
2)Cut Ubaldo/ Find a Solid #5: Yes, Ubaldo tends to go on streaks where he's a good pitcher for a couple weeks. But the rest of the time he's a disaster. This is year four. This is a proven fact. His strong start against the Nats will earn him some more starts. But it shouldn't. Him having an occasional excellent outing isn't new.
As for his replacement, pick someone and stick with them for an entire month. No yo-yoing random Triple-A starters. Let's see what someone like Asher or Ynoa can do with a some consistent outings and a routine.
3) Trade Hyun Soo Kim: Seth Smith is the same player as Hyun Soo Kim...but better. Neither of them can hit lefties, neither are great fielders; but Smith has more power, and isn't quite as bad with the glove.
As Trey Mancini has emerged Kim has gotten less at-bats than even Caleb Joseph. Just 49 plate appearances on the season and only 8 in May. When it came time to face Matt Scherzer this week—one of the best righties in the game – it wasn't Kim that got the start, but Mancini.
You would think he would have value as a pinch hitter, but Tuesday's 12 inning affair pops up and he's nowhere to be seen.
I was one of Kim's biggest boosters when the Orioles signed him. My column on his signing was titled "Hyun-Soo Kim signing is the right kind of move for the Orioles" and I still believe that.
But...he's not working out here this year. It's clear that Kim has never really been in Showalter's good graces and the situation is once again awkward. Kim is a free-agent after this season, and Mancini is locked up for the long term. It doesn't make sense to keep Kim on if this is how things are going to continue. It's not fair to him, and it's not a good use of a roster spot.
The return isn't high in such a trade, but unlike Gentry the Orioles could get a minor piece for him.
Such as perhaps...
4) Get a Backup Shortstop: JJ Hardy still has value for the team, but it's probably not in the Bird's best interests to have him start 150+ games as he is on pace to do baring injury. And what if he does get injured? Currently the Orioles shortstop option in Norfolk is Paul Janish.
Hardy isn't just slumping. He's 34 years old, and coming off several years of nagging injuries. That 30 HR 2011 campaign is long behind him. He's looking lost at the plate, and hasn't looked great in the field. Even after a solid two hit game Tuesday, he's just treading water at a .200 batting average.
Sure, they can start Ryan Flaherty at SS, but he's not strong there. Or they could start him at third and move Manny Machado to short as they have done before...but that is not a championship contingency plan either. It's not in the Orioles best interest to move Manny off third...or for Flaherty to start. Johnny Giavotella can play some third too if the team is really pressed, but again...that requires moving Manny off third.