Here is how I know that the Orioles are on a better track than they were. The two players that got traded at the deadline are not particularly ones that completely kneecap the team. Yes, losing Trey Mancini and Jorge Lopez will be tough by a morale standpoint, but you are losing A.) a hard-hitting DH, and B.) a reliever-turned-closer. This is a well-built enough Orioles team that I have an inkling there are more of those around.
Like...even taking those two players out of the equation...guys, the Orioles might be one of the best defensive teams in baseball. Between Jorge Mateo, Ramon Urias, Adley Rutschman, Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and now Brett Phillips, this is a pretty stacked defensive team. Mateo and Urias alone are forming the single most effective left side infield around right now. To think, both were kind of afterthoughts for most of the first half last year.
And then there's Rutschman. As predicted, he had a very slow start and took his time to really creep up as a member of the Orioles' lineup, but I friggin blinked and he had the highest WAR on the team. I am getting some Buster Posey in 2010 vibes here. Not only is he a pretty strong defensive catcher, but now he's hitting, and he's got 53 hits and 19 RBIs in 60 games. As expected, Robinson Chirinos is pretty much a backup right now. I think O's fans knew Rutschman would come into his own, but I imagine they're all thrilled at the extent.
I'm also still kind of surprised that the very low-budget rotation of Tyler Wells, Jordan Lyles, Spenser Watkins, Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish and Austin Voth is working so well. Bradish has a high ERA but he's still a strikeout artist and a workhorse. Wells is the standout, even if he's currently injured. Lyles has been a pretty solid veteran anchor for this. And Kremer and Watkins are pretty cool, if uneventful, innings eaters. As far is the ninth is concerned...I'm guessing any choice between Dillon Tate, Felix Bautista and Keegan Akin will be a good one. They're all playing really well right now.
The Orioles are still ahead of the Red Sox in the standings, and have the slightest chance of sneaking into the larger wild card race. The Jays, Mariners and Rays have spots now, but I...I kinda want to see the O's try to be the spoiler. It'd be awesome. What a fun feel-good underdog team they'd be.
Coming Tomorrow- An outfielder for the Nationals. Not really the same when it's not Soto, isn't it?