24 July 2015

O's AAA Veterans Have No Trade Value

In an earlier article about the Norfolk Tides, the Orioles' AAA affiliate, I reported that many of my colleagues believed that Paul Janish was the best defensive shortstop they had seen in over 20 years of watching baseball. I didn't fully describe them in my earlier article, but those colleagues were long-time minor league executives (including the legendary Dave Rosenfield) and baseball writers.

Based on that observation, a commenter to another article suggested that another team might want Janish or Steve Clevenger, and so the Orioles might be able to get a useful player back if they trade them. In response, Matt Kremnitzer conservatively replied that he doubted that Janish or Clevenger had any trade value. It's possible that Clevenger might have value, but based on recent history, I will proclaim that Janish has no trade value whatsoever. In 2012, the Orioles had at Norfolk a player similar to Janish with a better track record of success. Indeed, as it turned out, this player proved to have significant value and has proceeded to have a highly successful career. The Orioles did trade this AAA veteran in August.

That player was Pat Neshek. I won't repeat Neshek's entire backstory, but he pitched very well for the Twins in 2006 and 2007. In 2008, he hurt his arm and underwent Tommy John surgery and spent 2010 and 2011 recovering. He signed with the Orioles in 2012 and pitched very well - in 44 innings, he had a 7-49 BB-K ratio, a 2.66 ERA, and 11 saves. He was, in many respects, the pitcher equivalent of Paul Janish - a specialist, who had had some success in the major leagues but had not experienced that major-league success for several seasons. Neshek was 31; Janish is 32.

The Oakland Athletics were engaged in a tight division race with the Rangers and felt that they needed bullpen help. They asked the Orioles about Neshek, and the teams agreed on an exchange. Of course, Neshek has gone on to pitch well since he joined the Athletics, making the 2014 National League All-Star Team and signing an eight-figure contract with Houston this past offseason.

All in all, Neshek has proven to be quite a useful player, especially for a player signed to a minor-league contract as a free agent. When the Orioles dealt Neshek to the Athletics, what did they get for him? Cash. Not a player of any stripe, cash.

The purpose of this history is not to berate the Orioles for not recognizing that Pat Neshek had more value and that they should have kept him; the Orioles had a similar pitcher in Darren O'Day and there wasn't room for Neshek in Baltimore. The purpose is to remind us of how little trade value AAA veterans have. If the Orioles are going to improve themselves for the rest of this season, it won't be by exchanging bargain-basement signings for quality major leaguers.

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