The Orioles made two moves in advance of the August 31st Trade Deadline. They traded minor league pitchers Mark Blackmar and Miguel Chalas to the Chicago White Sox for 30 year old left handed outfielder Alejandro De Aza. Blackmar and Chalas are noteworthy only for the lack of noteworthiness. Also, the Orioles traded minor league infielders Jemile Weeks and Ivan DeJesus Jr. to the Boston Red Sox for 32 year old left handed infielder Kelly Johnson. Weeks was acquired in the off season when the the team shipped increasingly expensive reliever Jim Johnson to the A’s and DeJesus was a minor league depth signing. It was clear that the organization thought that neither player brought much of anything to the major league team. These moves add left handed bench depth as Dan Duquette continually looks to improve the 25 man roster, even if the moves add the most marginal value possible.
Kelly Johnson is a notable acquisition for really only two reasons. One, he is breathing. Two, he swings the bat left handed. Johnson has been abysmal at the plate this year with a current batting line of .212/.290/.354. Moreover, he actually has hit left handed pitchers better than right handed ones in his career. But, he still brings a left handed bat with some pop and can play first base, second base, third base, and possibly even left field. His skill set boils down to Ryan Flaherty with a little more pop and a worse glove. He improves the quality of the bench, but will likely not make a huge impact to the starting lineup in any meaningful way.
Alejandro De Aza is a more interesting player. De Aza brings more skills to the table as a speedy outfielder who can hit righties well enough, steal some bases, and play every outfield position adequately. De Aza has struggled this year at the plate only hitting .243/.309/.354. However, he has hit righties to the tune of .276/.343/404 this season which is basically his career line versus right handed pitching. His role on the team will likely be to pinch hit and punch run in particular situations. Also, he is likely to grab a start here and there in September and spell some of the regulars especially if the Orioles clinch the division early. De Aza essentially represents what the Orioles thought they might get in David Lough. Lough’s struggles at the plate have been frustrating and have limited his time in left field. De Aza is superior with the bat, which is not saying much of anything. De Aza will be a useful piece moving forward in the regular season and if the Orioles find a way to make it work, in the postseason as well. His speed and ability to steal bases make him a valuable asset off of the bench.
These moves highlight the most common trait of the Dan Duquette regime in Baltimore. Every move Duquette has made in his tenure is to improve the 25 and 40 man rosters. The improvements have shown results at the major league level as the team is on it’s way to three straight winning seasons and in all probability two playoff appearances. These moves, even the paper moves where the team has one extra bench bat for just one game, simply give Buck Showalter more talent and flexibility to win games. This strategy of small moves and excellent roster manipulation has proven fruitful. However, his hyper focus on the major league roster has certainly attacked the minor league depth and while the 40 man roster is of a higher quality than it was when Duquette took over, the overall quality minor league depth has suffered. If Duquette is the general manager moving forward for multiple years it will be interesting to see if when he has to adapt his strategies he can adapt.