As if the Baltimore Orioles needed more bad news heading their direction this off-season following the news that they were backing out of their most recent deal with free-agent acquisition closer Grant Balfour, the bullpen was dealt another blow before the turn of the new year.
Left-handed relief pitcher Troy Patton was suspended by Major League Baseball 25 games after testing positive for amphetamines that were banned under MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement. The agreement states that a first positive test must be followed up with a test in the future. The 28-year-old’s first positive test was in 2010 and has steered clear of positive tests since. According to the Baltimore Sun, Patton said his tests were for the drug Adderall — a drug that has caused suspensions for players in both the MLB and NFL.
Adderall is a drug that is designed to help improve focus and is taken by athletes for a variety of different reasons. Reading up on a blog post from Dec. 2010 by Casey Schwartz of thedailybeast.com provided some much-needed information on the drug that has become popular with college-aged students and professional athletes alike.
“It’s not surprising that Adderall gave students an inflated sense of productivity,” Schwartz said, “given that the drug — a close cousin of amphetamine — “unleashes the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, triggers the brain’s reward system, and can produce a mild sense of euphoria.”
Patton took the drug near the end of the 2013 campaign for the Orioles and took accountability for his error in judgement.
“I took one because I was stupid,” Patton told the Baltimore Sun. “It was the end of the season. It was just a stupid mistake. I don’t have trouble focusing all the time, it just enhances focus in certain situations, and I was just tired, basically. I don’t want to list that as an excuse. I know I took a banned substance. It was just a poor lapse in judgment.”
Patton posted a 3.70 ERA with 42 strikeouts and a 1.30 WHIP in 56 innings last season in Baltimore. 2012 saw the lefty post a 2.43 ERA with a 1.02 WHIP. Even though Patton has applied for an MLB exemption that allows players with attention deficit disorder, otherwise known as ADD, to take Adderall without facing suspension or further drug testing, Patton told the Baltimore Sun he was denied that exemption after a physical examination from a doctor in 2012.
He will serve the suspension to start the 2013 season, but this puts the Orioles further behind the eight ball in terms of team needs at this stage of the off-season. It is hard to believe that it can get any worse for Baltimore this week as the Orioles looked like they were going to address their need for a closer with former Oakland Athletics RHP Grant Balfour, but some complications in his physical scared the club away as they backed out of the contract.
The Orioles did sign RHP Ryan Webb to address the middle of the bullpen earlier this off-season but the Orioles are now down a left-hander in the middle of the pen and still remain without a closer.
Where does the club turn next?
Do the services of LHP T.J. McFarland have to be increased to fill that void?
And what about the closer spot?
Reports across the league have suggested the Orioles are interested in closers Fernando Rodney and Jonathan Papelbon. Yahoo! Sports first reported the Orioles’ interest in the former Tampa Bay Rays closer and he appears to be the best grab of the bunch. Rodney has the higher strikeout potential of the two and doesn’t pitch-to-contact much like former Oriole Jim Johnson does. While the 36-year-old Rodney does have control issues from time-to-time, he had a career-high in strikeouts in 2013 with 82 and has saved 85 games over the last two seasons. A 0.60 ERA and a 0.777 WHIP in 76 games in 2012 isn’t half bad either.
The problem with Rodney is what it will likely cost to get him. Baltimore’s hand is forced as they are desperate to snag a closer. Rodney made $2.5 million last season and will likely want a raise given his rise in numbers since arriving in Tampa Bay. Will it take roughly two years and $15 million to snag Rodney? or more?
Then comes Papelbon, as reported by MASN. Papelbon used to have strikeout potential like Rodney, but it is on the decline much like his fastball‘s velocity and his nature in the clubhouse and hefty contracts making the Philadelphia Phillies want to look elsewhere. According to FanGraphs, the 33-year-old’s fastball averaged 95 MPH in 2011, but has since dipped to 93.8 in 2012 and 92.0 last season. A guy who used to have a high propensity to strikeout hitters has watched his strikeout rate drop from 34 percent in 2011 to 32 percent in 2012 all the way down to a pedestrian 22 percent in 2013.The former Boston Red Sox closer signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies in 2011 and has $26 million remaining on the deal. The only foreseeable way Baltimore grabs him via trade is if Philadelphia eats most of the money, which they seem willing to do, but is it the right move.