|Joe Saunders - photo by Keith Allison|
This led to the Orioles recalling failed starter Brian Matusz and putting him in the LOOGY role next to the more robust southpaw Troy Patton. With such a long history of failure and only a couple stellar outings under his belt, the Orioles decided to trade from their bevy of right handed relief options and sent Matt Lindstrom out West as compensation for struggling lefty Joe Saunders from the Diamondbacks on August 28th. It appeared the intention was for Saunders to spot start, if needed, and be a veteran lefthander out of the pen. However, that did not happen. The Orioles had difficulty filling out there rotation with Hammel ailing and Chen tiring. Saunders effectively was handed a spot in the rotation and pulled off seven Houdini starts to end the season. He was also handed the ball for the play-in wild card against Texas and provided 5.2 innings of one run ball. Saunders did the same later in the series against the Yankees. Likewise, Matusz was surprising elite when used as a lefty specialist. Things did not wind up how it seems they were expected to, but it seems fair to say in hindsight that this deal was essential.
|Xavier Avery - photo by Keith Allison|
Anyway, the club finished 12 games out of first place and 6.5 games behind the wild card.
There was a different feel in 2014,the club enjoyed August mostly sliding around 6 to 9 games ahead in the AL East. However, the club had a few areas where upgrades were desirable. David Lough was enjoying a deceptively solid season, but was providing sub-optimal performances with his bat. Additionally, Manny Machado going down with a knee injury made the club thin at third with Ryan Flaherty backed up by Chris Davis or whoever was visiting from Norfolk. On August 30th, Duquette made two deals.
In the first one, a struggling (243/309/354) OF Alejandro De Aza was considered a probable non-tender. The Orioles, however, decided to give De Aza a shot and managed to acquire him for RHP Mark Blackmar and RHP Miguel Chalas. Blackmar is one of those lackluster four pitch mix command and control guys who get by in the low minors with being able to get guys to chase pitches that more advanced pitchers simply won't swing at. He is turning in another solid season starting in AA, but is doing so with 3.9 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. That pitch to contact style won't play well in the Majors. Chalas has a mid 90s fastball with life and, well, not much else. He currently is getting eaten up in Charlotte.
|Alejandro De Aza - photo by Keith Allison|
In the second deal, the Orioles tried to address their third base issues by acquiring Kelly Johnson and Michael Alamanzar (who had originally been the Orioles' Rule 5 pickup). Kelly Johnson had begun the year with the Yankees, but had not performed. The Yankees in need of better infield options acquired Stephen Drew from the Red Sox in exchange from Johnson. Johnson spent less than a month with the Red Sox before he was packaged off to Baltimore. Michael Alamanzar is apparently a favorite fringe prospect for the Orioles. They tried to stash him through the Rule 5 draft, but injury and lack of opportunity resulted in them handing him back to Boston where he was not appreciated. The Orioles were able to acquire both for Ivan DeJesus and Jemile Weeks. De Jesus quickly left Boston while Weeks stayed on with a solid September that turned into a 2016 contract that went South.
For the Orioles, Johnson provided a league average bat with poor defense. He made it to the postseason roster and saw a single uneventful at bat in each of the series. Johnson was essentially a non-factor. Meanwhile, Alamanzar has likely not enjoyed his season in Norfolk. He will go as far as his bat takes him and his bat tends to accompany him only between the dugout and home plate. It would not be surprising to see him in another organization in 2016.
All in all, there have been meaningful trades in August, but with players who were largely considered to be worthless. The Orioles have had good fortune smile on them on a few occasions. Joe Saunders helped take the Orioles into the post season in 2012. However, it should be noted that it was originally considered a move to shore up the bullpen by taking advantage of his splits. In 2014, a largely unwanted outfielder was acquired and turned back into a prime version of himself. Maybe the Orioles saw something there or maybe they simply shrugged and took a chance on a proven, yet struggling player. It worked out here, but it did not work out with Romero, Morse, or, perhaps, Johnson.
As it stands, here are some potential players that are upcoming free agents who could potentially help in left field:
Rajai Davis, Tigers (251/305/410)Too bad De Aza is not currently in left. Duquette tends to make his move toward the end of August from the scraps of talent that make their way through the waiver wire. I imagine that this season will be no different.
Alejandro De Aza, Red Sox (266/321/434)
Delmon Young, Free Agent (270/289/339)
Austin Jackson, Mariners (250/294/352)
Drew Stubbs, Rockies (222/294/444)
Marlon Byrd, Reds (246/298/474)
Will Venable, Padres (261/322/388)