The activity leading up to and through this year’s trade deadline could be the most interesting we will witness in several years, at least in terms of the speculation as a result of a few surprise teams possibly being on the selling end of things. For the Baltimore Orioles, the needs are obvious – a second baseman and a starting pitcher.
Prospects are the money in baseball and that’s the one thing the Orioles organization still doesn’t have quite enough of, at least the prospects that are worth the most and they can reasonably part with. Players like Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey are likely not being traded, period. What ammunition that leaves the front office with beyond them is limited to a small handful of prospects that could be trumped by division rival Toronto Blue Jays and a handful of other contending teams.
Any thoughts of landing a true difference maker should be swept from your mind this very moment. Not only are those players few and far between it is also not in the nature of the front office to sell out for just one player. There will be no reports of this team landing Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Yu Darvish, or even Jeff Samardzija. These players are out of the reach of this team because the package going the other way would require one of Gausman or Bundy or too many of the organization’s second tier prospects.
The prospects the Orioles are left to work with in order to complete a trade are the likes of Eduardo Rodriguez, Mike Wright, Tim Berry, and Michael Ohlman. These are your second tier or “B” grade prospects, and that’s not to take anything away from any of them but we’re not talking about staff aces or a middle of the order bat.
However, the Orioles still have plenty of ammunition to acquire a piece or two that could help them in their quest for a division title or a playoff berth at the very least.
Depending on the cost, it is entirely possible given the bounce back campaign he is currently enjoying. Having posted a career high strikeout rate and a career low walk rate this year, his value has never been higher. He would certainly help the Orioles fortify the starting rotation but if the Chicago Cubs are expecting a return of Eduardo Rodriguez or Hunter Harvey would it be worth it?
Another option would be reaching out to the Cleveland Indians about either Justin Masterson, who is having a horrid season up to this point, or Zach McAllister, who has been banished to Triple-A after having a fairly unlucky and inconsistent start to his 2014 campaign.
Masterson would likely cost the most to acquire due to him having so much success during the 2013 season, but McAllister would be the real prize if the Orioles were able to convince the Cleveland Indians to part with him. At just 26-years-old the issues McAllister is having this year are completely fixable seeing as how a portion of his struggles have to do with him allowing hitters to have plenty of time to get comfortable in the box. The other issue that could be remedied is leaving too many pitches out over the plate. McAllister would provide the Orioles rotation with a young starter that has the ability to succeed at the major league level and has the ceiling of a decent number two starter if he can work the kinks out.
He was rated as the Indians sixth best prospect after the 2011 season by Baseball America, was considered to have the best control at the minor league level and a Baseball America scouting report stated that he could consistently throw a breaking ball for strikes and has a good feel for his changeup.
As far as second base is concerned the Orioles have the pieces to acquire the likes of Chase Utley – and though he has his drawbacks at this point, he would still represent significant upgrades over what Buck Showalter is currently trotting out there on a regular basis.
Utley would have the most to offer this season and possibly next but his age and declining power, couple with his non-existent speed at this point, make him nothing more than a stop-gap solution through 2015 at best. His on-base skills and defensive ability still make him one of the better second baseman in baseball though. It wouldn’t be completely unreasonable to trade a package consisting of Wright, Berry and a lower tier prospect like Adrian Marin to acquire Utley’s services but it would be a slight stretch to give up so much for him.
The final player that the Orioles could make a run at is a Texas Ranger – big shocker, I know.
Elvis Andrus has reportedly underwhelmed Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels, and fans, for two straight seasons now and they are reportedly willing to move him. The Rangers have an overabundance of young middle infielders and that has made Andrus expendable. He’s also being paid like a premier offensive shortstop, the one thing he is not, and trading him would help free up payroll for the Rangers.
His eight-year $118 million contract kicks in next season and he will be paid $15 million per year through 2020 and $14 million per year the final two years of the contract. Andrus also has to opt-out clauses in his contract that he could utilize after the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Any team trading for him would have him through at least 2018, with him opting out if he feels he could earn more as a free agent at 29-years-old. Otherwise the receiving team could be saddled with a contract of a player that won’t live up to it – a gamble that the Orioles simply don’t historically take.
However, Andrus is still only 25-years-old with room for improvement and its possible leaving Texas could be the best thing for him, much like it was for Chris Davis.
The bare minimum it would take for the Orioles acquire a defensively gifted shortstop with 40-plus stolen base potential is at least Eduardo Rodriguez. If anything else substantial would have to be included would likely depend on how much money, if any, the Rangers would be willing to eat as part of the deal.
Andrus won’t fill the void at second base, but acquiring him could allow Showalter to convince Hardy to shift over to second base for the remainder of the season. Andrus would also supply some much needed speed at either the top or bottom of the lineup. Whether this move or any of the others ones come to fruition is the great mystery here, but it is these quality of players the Orioles have the best shot of acquiring to strengthen the team for their playoff run.