By: Liam Gibney, @Liam_Gibney
The Orioles 2017 season has been a very interesting one to say the least. The team was projected by many to finish in the cellar of the AL East, but yet again is proving the analysts wrong. The Birds are currently 22-14 sitting a half-game back of the Yankees, who currently hold first place.
The interesting part about this year's Orioles squad is that the team is currently middle of the pack in both offensive and pitching statistics, however the continue to outperform their mediocre numbers. Only time will tell if this team can maintain such a steady win rate, with less than impressive stats. Currently, the team has dropped three in a row to a struggling Kansas City Royals team, and a major reason for this is due to the critically fatigued bullpen.
When it is healthy and rested, the Orioles bullpen is arguably one of the best in all of Major League Baseball. However, in 2017, the bullpen has been far from healthy and rested. The team’s All-Star closer Zach Britton has suffered from forearm injuries early on and is likely to miss two more months. Brad Brach has been very good thus far, but is starting to become extremely overworked and his recent struggles are showing it to be true. Darren O’Day has been far from his usual self. The other negative factor is that the starting pitching -- aside from Wade Miley and Dylan Bundy -- has rarely gone deep into games. Kevin Gausman is a guy with so much potential, yet has been so disappointing that watching him pitch every fifth night is like a whole new heartbreak every time. Ubaldo Jimenez is well… Ubaldo Jimenez. Meanwhile fill in guys like Vidal Nuño and Richard Bleier have been disastrous.
On the other hand, Mychal Givens, Donnie Hart, and Alec Asher has been very effective thus far. Also the team just reinstated Chris Tillman from the disabled list, which should be a big help. But these guys alone will not be able to keep this rotation afloat.
This bullpen truly needs Britton back, or to add another piece to help solidify it. I'm not entirely sure as to why Buck continues to run with this six-outfielder roster that has ended up making the bullpen weaker.
My personal take is that there is absolutely no reason to have both Joey Rickard and Craig Gentry on the active roster. They are both semi-effective at platooning against left-handed pitching, can steal the occasional bag, and play above average defense (Rickard not as much as Gentry, but still above the other corner outfielder options). They each possess solid qualities of a crucial bench player, there is just simply no need to have both of them.
If I had to let one of them go, I would personally option Rickard. I think Gentry is better for late game defense/pinch running. Plus, in making this move it allows the Birds to either call up another pitcher to add to the bullpen, or attempt to make a trade for one. I think a decent trade partner could be the Oakland Athletics or the San Diego Padres.
From the A’s, I have my eyes on Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, and Liam Hendriks. I feel as if any of these three guys could provide a solid boost to the O's bullpen. From the Padres, I would like to see the O’s attempt to poach a guy like Brad Hand or Ryan Butcher.
Quite honestly, the only way to do this may be parting ways with Hyun Soo Kim. I am a Kim fan and wish he could be an everyday player, but I just don't see it happening. There is no point in keeping him on the bench and I believe many teams would be at least be interested in taking him on. The other option would be to trade minor leaguers, but the farm system is already quite thin. Either way, the bullpen is in serious trouble if no changes are made, and it will be interesting to see what Dan Duquette’s next move is.