Baltimore’s playoff run in 2012 both surprised most across the baseball landscape and brought a sense of optimism to a fanbase that had dealt with disappointment for years. The Orioles of 2013 are setting out to show that last season may not have been a fluke, as the team currently holds the second best record in the American League. The team’s success has been in spite of, rather than because of, their starting rotation. Buck Showalter has already used eleven different starters on the year. Some (Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez) have found more success than others (Jake Arrieta, Freddy Garcia, Jair Jurrjens).
Dan Duquette has never been shy about making a move midseason and it would seem that might just be what he’s trying to do this summer. MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli responds to an inquiry from one of her readers in her latest mailbag, specifically whether Duquette could target a starting pitcher in a deal before the trading deadline. Ghiroli’s response:
The Orioles are aggressively seeking another starter to help their rotation, and you can bet Duquette will explore every possible avenue. Miami’s Ricky Nolasco and Houston’s Bud Norris are on their radar, as are Angels pitcher Jason Vargas – whom they had interest in at least year’s Trade Deadline – and Seattle’s Joe Saunders, who was a late-season trade from the D’backs and started the Orioles’ first playoff win in 15 years in last year’s American League Wild Card game. Minnesota’s Mike Pelfrey is another name that has come up.
Nolasco and Norris are two names that have already been appearing in trade rumors, as the pair were already linked as possible options for the San Francisco Giants. Each has since spoken positively about a potential move to San Francisco, not that most players are allowed to weigh in on their own fates at the trade deadline. That aside, acquiring either won’t be an easy task for the Orioles as they appear to be the most appealing candidates who could realistically be available this summer and there isn’t much available talent to deal in Baltimore’s minor league system.
Vargas, Saunders, and Pelfrey all could be realistic targets for the Orioles, though none of them really qualify as an “ace caliber talent” and might not present a significant upgrade. Vargas has been solid for the Angels in 14 starts. He’s 6-4 with a 3.65 ERA and 1.358 WHIP over 91.1 IP, but he may not even be available after landing on the disabled list late Friday with a blood clot under his left arm. Saunders (5-7, 4.48 ERA, 1.397 WHIP, 92.1 IP) and Pelfrey (3-6, 6.11 ERA, 1.627 WHIP, 70.2 IP) haven’t exactly posted impressive results on the year. Each will be a free agent at season’s end and it seems likely that they could be acquired for a relatively minimal cost given their respective team’s on-going rebuilding processes.
Baltimore ultimately does not have much available to deal from a prospect standpoint. Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are surely untouchable, as they should be at this point in their relative careers. Jonathan Schoop is the team’s top position player prospect, but he’s been limited to just 34 games thanks to a stress fracture in his lower back that is expected to keep him on the sidelines at least through July. He had a strong showing in March’s World Baseball Classic and had been hitting .268/.331/.386 in 139 PA in his first taste of Triple-A. Schoop might be knocking on the door to the Orioles clubhouse if not for the injury, likely eliminating any chance that the team were to move him. Beyond that there’ve been few top tier talents to emerge within the team’s system.
Duquette and the Orioles may look to make an acquisition to bring aboard another innings-eater to insert into the rotation, but the team’s best move may simply to be to stand pat. Tillman, Gonzalez, and Jason Hammel have all been relatively reliable to date. Wei-Yin Chen is working his way back from injury. Gausman and Bundy will both also arrive. There could be enough to fill out a rotation strong enough to finish out the year, potentially letting the team focus their limited moveable assets on another area of need.