If you're a glass-half-full type of person, then, at best, you may view the Orioles' trade deadline deals of the past few years as a mixed bag. If you're not, then surely you hated many of them. There are a couple of players who helped the O's -- Andrew Miller, Bud Norris, Scott Feldman -- and also a bunch of guys who didn't. And when you look back at the price to acquire them, it doesn't look so great.
July Trade Players Of Note In The Duquette Era
O’s get: Jim Thome, Omar Quintanilla, Scott Feldman, Steve Clevenger, Francisco Rodriguez, Bud Norris, Andrew Miller, Gerardo Parra, Junior Lake
O’s gave up: Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, Nick Delmonico, Josh Hader, L.J. Hoes, 2014 comp. balance pick, Eduardo Rodriguez, Zach Davies, Tommy Hunter, Gabriel Lino, Kyle Simon
I might have left a couple out, but it's clear that the O's didn't get many bargains. The O's pulled off a cream-of-the-crop addition one time: Andrew Miller. Regardless of what you think of the Miller trade, he was very good in an O's uniform.
The rest of the time, Duquette aimed for the middle, or for relatively minor or moderate upgrades, and those moves mostly did not pay off. If the Orioles wanted to go after another reliever -- clearly Buck Showalter craves another left-hander in the bullpen -- they could put together a trade package for that. But many teams desperately need starting pitching upgrades, and nearly all of them will be able to assemble more enticing groups of prospects than what the O's can cobble together. That could lead the Orioles again shooting for a fringe starter.
So how should the Orioles proceed? It's not an easy question to answer. The way I see it, the Orioles could do one of three things. They could do nothing, rolling the dice with what they have and hoping it somehow works out. Second, they could target a few low-risk, high-variance players who wouldn't cost much. That could keep the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Mike Wright, and/or Tyler Wilson out of the starting rotation, even if there's no guarantee the new additions pitch any better. Or third, they could go after a legitimate starting rotation upgrade, whether that's Julio Teheran, Jake Odorizzi, Sonny Gray, Matt Moore, Rich Hill, Drew Pomeranz, Jeremy Hellickson, Ervin Santana, or someone else. Maybe some of those guys aren't on the market. Most likely, the O's would struggle to put together an enticing package for many of those names. And maybe they'd struggle to outbid other teams in the hunt for rotation upgrades. But at least some of those names are within reach.
I've been going back and forth about this. For a while I was in the do-nothing camp, but it's extremely difficult to talk yourself into riding things out with this group of starters. It's just too painful for a core that has a chance to win something significant right now.
The Orioles clearly want to add a left-handed starter. My guess is they would prefer to add two starters to go along with Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, and Yovani Gallardo. Maybe it would be easier to do that by adding someone like Jon Niese instead of Rich Hill. Either way, you're rolling the dice. These guys aren't aces.
You'd figure it wouldn't take a whole lot to acquire Niese. And again, Niese is just one example. There don't appear to be any slam-dunk starters in this market, or anything similar to the skill level the O's acquired when they picked up Miller to improve their bullpen a couple years ago. Maybe the O's could similarly acquire an add-on to a powerhouse bullpen to aid a bad rotation, but it's unlikely they go for a top-shelf reliever again. The O's also probably view Darren O'Day's impending return as the shot in the arm the bullpen needs.
At the minimum, I think the O's need to pursue a starting pitcher of some kind and a left-handed reliever. But no matter what, I won't feel great about it. The O's have the opportunity to make a decent move or two and improve their chances of getting into the playoffs, but in order to do that, they'd hurt an already weak farm system. Just because the Orioles have a low-rated minor league system doesn't mean it's completely devoid of talent. Whether the O's would be able to get the most out of those prospects is a fair question to ask, but that that's even a question is pretty sad for the state of the O's prospect development system currently in place.
This is what can happen when you both refuse to pay top dollar for starting pitching but are also terrible at developing your own pitching prospects. And yet, the O's are still, somehow, two games up in the American League East.
Being a GM is hard. The Orioles need starting rotation help. They also routinely need prospect help. Who's ready for the trade deadline?