Matt Kremnitzer wrote an article yesterday for MASN about the Orioles' corner outfield problem. Matt noted that none of the five corner outfield options have been hitting the ball well and that they should really be categorized as "spare parts". Snider has been the best offensively but is inconsistent defensively. Lough has the best defense of the five but has only received 29 PAs and has received a huge offensive boost by being hit by two pitches. Take those out and he has an OBP of .270 with only one extra base hit. De Aza is adequate defensively but has struggled offensively despite minimal at bats against left-handed pitching. Young and Pearce have struggled offensively and aren't known for their defense. So far, the Orioles' plan of signing a whole bunch of outfielders and hoping that a few would have good years hasn't been successful and therefore the Orioles need to come up with a new plan.
The problem is that the Orioles seem to have their payroll maxed out. The Orioles recently traded away two international draft picks in return for a fringe prospect. They've also traded away a competitive balance pick in order to add a few fringe prospects and dump Ryan Webb's salary. It's possible that the Orioles are trying to clear money in order to have resources to make a huge splash at the trade deadline. It's also possible that the Orioles have spent all that they can on payroll and need to cut expenses.
The Orioles also have a mostly barren farm system. Baseball America ranked the O's system #29th this year with only two prospects ranked in the Top 100. The fact that one of them, Hunter Harvey, is currently injured just further limits the Orioles' options. It doesn't appear like the Orioles will be able to spend a lot of money or offer prospects in return for that outfielder that they need.
That is why I think the Orioles' best option may be to trade for Shane Victorino. Shane Victorino is in the last year of a three year contract and is earning $13 million this year. After an excellent 2013, Victorino was hurt for a large chunk of 2014 and has been unimpressive so far in 2015. He only is hitting for a .212/.339/.308 line with a wRC+ of 83. However, he also has three stolen bases and does have good defense in right field. If he can bounce back then he can be the leadoff hitter this club needs that allows Machado to bat second or he can be an excellent threat in the ninth spot in the order. With one year remaining on his contract, the Orioles wouldn't be taking on a huge risk by trading for him.
Even better, the Red Sox have a surplus of outfielders and could afford to let him go. They already have Ramirez in left field, Mookie Betts in center field as well as Holt and Nava as possible replacements in the majors while having Castillo, Bradley and Craig in the minors. Given that they already have Ortiz at DH, Napoli at 1B and Sandoval at 3B, the Red Sox simply have too many position players for too few spots and would probably be open to trading a player or two.
If the Red Sox have position players then what they lack is pitching. Their rotation has been terrible so far this year. Their best starter has an ERA of 4.26. Clay Buchholz has an FIP of 2.91 but an ERA of 4.93 and has always struggled to stay healthy. Their bullpen has arguably been even worse. Their closer, Uehara, has been solid. Tazawa has had good results so far with a 1.56 ERA but only a 4.48 FIP. They only have four relievers with positive fWAR and as a whole their bullpen has been worth negative WAR.
They do have a considerable amount of pitching depth in the minors but they have a lot of holes to fill and could use some major league talent. Meanwhile, the Orioles' pitching has struggled but has plenty of arms in the majors and minors. Trading a starter would simply open up a spot in the rotation for Gausman. The Orioles have a number of relief prospects in the minors and could therefore afford to consider trading a reliever.
A possible deal could be Shane Victorino for Tommy Hunter and Bud Norris. These players have similar salaries combined and therefore money shouldn't be an issue. All of these players have struggled so far this year but each could potentially bounce back.
Bud Norris has been terrible so far this year and is currently on the DL. But he is coming off of a year where he went 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA and a 4.22 FIP. It is possible that once he's healthy he would be able to bounce back. More likely, the Red Sox could immediately slot him in the bullpen and see whether he can be another pitcher that sees success when moved from the rotation to the bullpen.
Tommy Hunter has also struggled so far this year but has been a good reliever the past two years. After having a rough April, he has put together a solid May with a 2.70 ERA over 6.2 innings and could potentially have turned a corner. He is a potential late inning reliever that could help the Red Sox bridge the gap to Uehara. However, the Orioles have a number of good relievers with Britton and O'Day and therefore could afford to trade Hunter.
Shane Victorino would be the player in this deal most likely to make an impact. However, it's unlikely that he could do so in Boston given that he's not one of their top outfielders. And as he'll be a free agent next year, the Red Sox would be well served to move on as quickly as possible given their other options. The thing is that even if Victorino does bounce back, it is questionable whether he can be better than the other outfielders that Boston has.
The interesting thing about this potential deal is that all three players are expendable and therefore this could happen relatively quickly. These two teams wouldn't need to wait until the trade deadline because these players have more use on the other team than their own.
The Orioles need to find a way to increase the production that they're receiving from corner outfielders without spending a lot of money or trading a lot of young talent. Trading for Shane Victorino is a good way to do just that.