With the recent slate of teams willing to give up some of their top hitting prospects or one of their better positional players for pitching, the question must be asked – should the Baltimore Orioles seriously consider trading one, or more, of their best pitchers?
Jim Johnson is an obvious trade candidate given his career year this past season and the amount of money he’ll earn through arbitration because of it. That’s an easy decision though – if you’re able to secure a package in exchange for him that makes you better then you do it. Relief pitchers are replaceable, just ask the Tampa Bay Rays, and while dominant closers don’t grow on trees the team does have a few internal options for that role if Johnson is traded (Pedro Strop, Jake Arrieta, and Brian Matusz).
What’s not such an easy decision to make though is whether or not general manager Dan Duquette should entertain the idea of trading away one of his better starting pitching options for guys like Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, or Alex Gordon from the Kansas City Royals, who are absolutely desperate for a solid starting pitcher that can slot into the number one or number two spot in their rotation.
Even the Miami Marlins, after having just about dealt every player on their roster making significant money, are entertaining offers for Logan Morrison, Giancarlo Stanton, and starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco (because he’s due to make $9+ million next season) in exchange for prospects and major league level talent that still has years of team control left.
If I were Duquette then my first order of business would be to check with the Marlins about the type of package it would take to bring back Nolasco, Stanton, and Morrison. Obviously it would take quite a haul but if the team was able to acquire Nolasco as a part of that deal then it would soften the blow, somewhat, of having to give up the talent necessary to facilitate such a trade. However, I’m not sure how a deal involving that type of talent (Stanton) gets done without including Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, or Manny Machado – three players I wouldn’t trade under any circumstance.
The real question is whether or not a package consisting of Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, and Jonathan Schoop would be enough to get the ball rolling that the Marlins would at least have a more in depth conversation with the Orioles about the three players mentioned on their end. It’s possible, but again – they would likely demand one of our big three (Bundy, Gausman, or Machado) as a part of any deal that includes Stanton. So, is that a deal breaker for the Orioles – including Bundy or one of the other two in a deal that includes Stanton?
Heading to the Midwest now, the Royals are willing to part with their best hitting prospect who is very likely ready for the majors out of spring training in Wil Myers, but are also willing to part with Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and even Eric Hosmer for the right return in a trade. They would be looking for a top of the rotation starter in exchange for Myers, meaning that Jason Hammel would have to be in play for that to work.
If the team doesn’t want to trade Hammel then they’d have to forget about acquiring Myers and direct their attention towards one, or more, of the other three. Gordon and Hosmer hold the most value between them and Butler, especially since Butler is nothing more than a designated hitter and will probably never be more than below average at first base defensively. The conversation on Gordon and/or Hosmer would probably begin with Tillman and work its way down from there to Miguel Gonzalez, Brian Matusz, and so on.
If the Orioles were able to acquire Gordon and Hosmer in the same deal then I think it’s fair to assume that Tillman and another promising, young starter is included in the deal to acquire them. That wouldn’t be such a bad deal for either team either considering that Tillman finally looks the part of a solid major league starter and the Orioles do have several other options for the rotation behind him if he is dealt.
One thing is clear though – the price for premium talent on the free agent market is just as inflated as ever and if the Orioles want to improve they will have to trade young pitching to do it. At this point it really just becomes a matter of whether Duquette feels that the team has enough depth to handle trading away a few pieces to improve other parts of the club.