14 August 2015

Dan Duquette's August Waiver Trades (2012-2014)

As the non-waiver trade deadline came and went, fan bases began gnashing their teeth over missed chances as incoming shooting stars turned into airplane lights.  To console their audience, general managers and beat writers alike repeated the age worn mantra that the non-waiver trade deadline is an arbitrary deadline; that weaknesses can be shored up in August.  This is true.  Big trades do happen in August when the players involved are massively overpaid in relation to their performance.  That is true for when the Dodgers and Red Sox hooked up with the Dodgers agreeing to pay for the past sins of handing deals to Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett.  More cash strapped teams like the Orioles tend to aim quite a bit lower.  In this post, we will review what Dan Duquette's August deals were made for the Orioles.

Joe Saunders - photo by Keith Allison
In 2012, the Orioles were fighting tooth and nail to get into the playoffs for the first time since 1997.  Duquette made moves to try to shore up his bullpen.  On August 12th, the Orioles acquired J.C. Romero for at-the-end-of-the-road organizational filler Carlos Rojas.  Romero had been a very good and sometimes great reliever for the previous decade.  However, it all fell apart in St. Louis in 2012 with Romero being assigned to AAA.  Dominating AAA, the Orioles spent essentially nothing to get Romero from the Cardinals.  He proceeded to pitch as he did with the Cardinals and sputtered through five August appearances.

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
When 2013 rolled around, the Orioles were struggling to get into the playoff picture.  They wanted a right handed bat to provide some offense at the designated hitter position.  Danny Valencia had been crushing lefties, but the club moved on August 30th and sent AAA depth OF Xavier Avery for struggling, ailing professional hitter Mike Morse.  Briefly, my concern at the time was dealing for a redundant part with season long leg issues while giving up a minor league player who was young, still raw, and had options.  What transpired was that Morse apparently had an injured wrist that he did not disclose and was of negative value for the Orioles, taking plate appearances away from better hitters.  Avery remains a raw talent, but is not so young anymore.  In the end, the deal did not work out, but the club was not exactly hurt.  I would maintain though that dealing out fringe mid-level prospects hurts the club's ability to have complementary players on larger deals.  Though that is splitting hairs a bit.

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
Back to De Aza, though.  De Aza wound up replacing David Lough in left field as his bat blossomed again with a slash of 293/341/537.  What was surmised as a De Aza/Delmon Young platoon shifted to a De Aza show with 20 games started in September.  He then continued to rake in the Tigers and Royals series in the post season.  With such an impressive month and a half under his belt, the Orioles tendered De Aza a contract for 2015.  De Aza proceeded to repeat his 2014 season, but was horrible for the Orioles and stellar for the Red Sox.  De Aza is once again a likely August trade candidate.  For their troubles, the Orioles acquired Joe Gunkel who is like Mark Blackmar, but with one less pitch.

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)
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)
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.

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