MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

Once the All-Star break comes and goes, a baseball fan’s fancy turns to thoughts of the trading deadline, which is Tuesday, Aug. 1.

Here in our little corner of the world, we have three teams that will have three different approaches to the trade deadline, the surging Baltimore Orioles, the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates and the rebuilding Washington Nationals.

While it appeared the Orioles would be buyers at last year’s trade deadline, they were actually sellers in shipping then-closer Jorge Lopez to the Twins in a deal that landed them this year’s All-Star setup man Yennier Cano, and sent outfielder Trey Mancini to the Astros to essentially make room for all of the talented young outfielders stockpiled in the Baltimore system.

This year it would appear the Orioles really are going to be buyers because they have a very real chance of not only making the postseason, but of going deep into the postseason. Yet being a buyer this year is easier said than done because more teams than ever are still in the running for the postseason due to the expanded playoffs, so it’s difficult to gauge how many and which viable big-league players are going to be on the market.

Pitching comes immediately to mind for the Orioles, particularly, given Monday’s performance against the Dodgers, the middle part of the bullpen that has been mediocre at best this season. The club’s starting pitching, particularly the past two weeks, has been promising and very good in general, so general manager Mike Elias will be able to exercise some patience before seeking an upgrade there.

Things have been going very well, but the second-half schedule is going to be very demanding for the Orioles and quite revealing as to how far the entire pitching staff can take this team. The key, of course, is to get games to the back of the bullpen where Cano and closer Felix Bautista have been the best combination in baseball.

Meanwhile, Jon Morosi of the MLB Network has reported the Orioles could be a possibility for Shohei Ohtani should the Angels decide to trade the pending free-agent pitcher/slugger. The Angels say they are not interested in dealing Ohtani for obvious reasons, yet they have been listening to offers. The Orioles, of course, would be an attractive partner for the Angels in the event they do deal Ohtani because of all of the talented position players the Orioles have in their farm system.

Of course, as great of a hitter as Ohtani is, the Orioles would want him for his pitching, which would mean a six-man rotation so Ohtani could continue to be the two-way terror he has become. On top of that, Ohtani has recently been hindered by a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand and there’s never any telling about a blister on the pitching hand of a pitcher.

On top of everything else, the Orioles would never be able to sign Ohtani long-term, so I don’t believe they would be willing to give up all that it would take to land him, particularly for just two months.

So my advice to both of us is, forget we even heard it. It won’t happen.

Probably.

Again, whatever the Orioles do, and they’ll do something, depends on the trade market, but with things going pretty well these days, it’s difficult to imagine Mike Elias overpaying. There’s just too much long-term talent there to give away for the short term.

My guess is a couple of pitchers to bolster the bullpen in exchange for mid-level prospects and/or lower 40-man roster players.

As for the Pirates, entering May it appeared the Bucs could be in a position to buy, but since then the season has not been kind. Thus, the Pirates are likely to trade their veterans on expiring contracts, and it should be time for them to deal one of their catchers so top prospect Henry Davis can begin to establish himself as the catcher of the future.

Austin Hedges’ name is being mentioned a lot these days in that regard, while Andrew McCutchen has reportedly been included in trade inquiries as well. McCutchen, though, has emphasized his desire to finish his career in Pittsburgh, and it wouldn’t seem fitting for the Pirates to just blow up the retrieved feel-good story by unloading the beloved veteran again for the very small return they would likely receive in a McCutchen deal.

Let’s hope they don’t do it, anyway.

The Nationals, too, will continue to be sellers, as that was the plan when they began this rebuild last year. It’s all about the future, so look for Dominic Smith, Corey Dickerson and Jeimer Candelario, all of whom are on one-year deals, to be dealt.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT