A handful of players or so have found themselves new homes during the Winter Meetings, but none of them have made Oriole Park at Camden Yards home for them. Baltimore Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette has indicated an unwillingness to venture too deep into the free agent market, at least at the current going rate for free agents at all tiers, and it could be a while before the market settles some and a bargain or two can be found. Instead he has been focusing on the trade market as a way to improve the team for 2013 and two potential trading partners have emerged over the last 24 hours, indicating that a trade could be completed by the end of the Winter Meetings.
The one team that the Orioles have had some contact with, which everyone seems to know about already, is the Washington Nationals. The Orioles are in need of a bat they can plug into the middle of their lineup and the Nationals are willing to trade slugger Mike Morse in exchange for bullpen help – IF they can re-sign Adam LaRoche. The prospects of the Nationals bringing LaRoche back certainly look better than today than it did just 48 hours ago, but the holdup appears to be a third year. Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo is willing to offer two years, but not a guaranteed third. When it’s all said and done LaRoche will likely accept a two year deal around $24 million in total value, but he believes he can at least get a vesting option for a third year – we’ll have to continue to monitor this.
Once the Nationals have LaRoche officially signed then don’t be surprised to hear, or see rather, that any deal involving Morse coming to Baltimore would likely be centered on relief pitchers Pedro Strop or Troy Patton. Strop would be of high interest to the Nationals because of his ability to set-up, or even close, and manager Davey Johnson loves a guy that can hit 97 mph on the radar gun. Patton on the other hand would be a very valuable guy for the Nationals because they are in desperate need of a left-hander in their bullpen. What makes Patton so special though is that he can shut opposing hitters down in the later innings or come in and pitch multiple innings if a starter struggles.
But again, a potential trade between the Beltway teams hinges on Adam LaRoche re-signing with the Nationals and then them not asking for so much in return for Morse that it immediately turns Dan Duquette off from making a deal.
The other team that the Orioles have been in contact with is the Los Angeles Angels, and they are another team that is desperate to acquire quality relief pitching. After blowing an American League worst 47 saves last season they are looking everywhere they can to shore up their bullpen. The Angels are open to trading first baseman Mark Trumbo, but could possibly be talked into trading the best defensive outfielder in baseball Peter Bourjos.
If the Orioles only want to make the deal for a slugger than they couldn’t go wrong with Trumbo as he’s an above average fielder in left field and first base, can hit the ball a mile, and is just 26 years old. Trumbo is also coming off of a 32 homerun season, after hitting 29 in 2011, and projects to hit more over the next several seasons seeing as how he is just now hitting his prime. He’s not a guy that will walk a lot and will strikeout between 130 and 140 times in a season, but he’ll still provide you with a batting average around .260 and will hit the ball really, really hard.
Just in case the Orioles want to try to pry Bourjos way from the Angels as well, it’s possible they could but it would certainly drive the cost up a bit. A deal with the Angels for just Trumbo makes more sense at this point, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull off something slightly larger in scope involving Bourjos as well. This type of deal would most certainly involve Orioles closer Jim Johnson with an additional piece or two going over to the Angels as well, but Jim Johnson would very much so be the centerpiece.
Regardless though, the Orioles will need to do something to improve their team because they’ve lost a lot of ground this off-season to their American League East counterparts, with exception to the New York Yankees, and are likely looking at a fourth place finish if they don’t do something – even with a winning record.