The Orioles on Tuesday made their second trade prior to the trade deadline, acquiring right-handed relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for infielder Nick Delmonico, who played first and third base for the Frederick Keys this season.
(You can discuss this article at the BSL Board here.)
Rodriguez, 31, was signed to a minor league deal by Milwaukee on April 17 and was called up on May 16, one day before his opt-out kicked in. The deal is worth $2 million to $2.5 million in salary this year. Rodriguez recorded 26 strikeouts and nine walks in 24.2 innings for the Brewers this year and posted a 1.09 ERA. However, Rodriguez has stranded 99.1 percent of base-runners this season – a trend which is currently depressing his ERA and is highly unlikely to continue.
Rodriguez saved 10 games for Milwaukee this year, but will likely fill other late-inning roles for the Orioles. (However, he gives Buck Showalter another option for the ninth inning if he wants to stay away from Jim Johnson in a particular game.) He’s done better against left-handers than right-handers this year, holding lefties to a .100/.185/.184 line, while righties are hitting a robust .316/.390/.432. However, given the tiny sample size and Rodriguez’s track record, those splits are likely just random. Left-handers hit for more power against him in 2012, while right-handers got on base more; left-handers were better against him across the board in 2011 and 2010.
Rodriguez posted monster save totals with the Los Angeles Angels; he saved 194 games from 2005 to 2008, which included a 62-save season the year before he broke the bank with the Mets. Rodriguez has also made a name for himself through unsavory actions, as well. He was arrested in September 2012 due to a domestic violence complaint, but charges were eventually dropped. Rodriguez was also charged with third-degree assault on his father in-law back in August 2010. He eventually pleaded guilty to the charge.
Nick Delmonico is a left-handed hitting infielder that came in at No. 7 on Tucker Blair’s recent mid-season top-30 Orioles prospect list. Delmonico, 21, was drafted in the sixth round in 2011 and was given more than $1.5 million to sign on the dotted line. He hit .249/.351/.411 with 47 walks and 73 strikeouts in 393 plate appearances with the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds in 2012. Delmonico moved up to High-A Frederick this year, hitting .243/.350/.469 with 36 walks and 59 strikeouts in 263 plate appearances. He’ll likely move to the High-A Florida State League with the Brewers.
The trade is not dissimilar to deals that Orioles general manager Dan Duquette has pulled the trigger on in the past. While these deals are not likely to be of much (if any) consequence, the apparent process leading to these trades is questionable. Duquette has traded the following prospects during his tenure as O’s general manager:
- Gabriel Lino
- Kyle Simon
- Jarret Martin
- Tyler Henson
- Randy Henry
- Greg Miclat
- Nick Delmonico
And in return, has gotten:
- Jim Thome
- Taylor Teagarden
- Dana Eveland
- Francisco Rodriguez
Rodriguez, Thome, Teagarden and Eveland provide very limited value, and possibly negative value. Rodriguez – or someone just like him – could have been had for nothing but cash this winter. Thome, predictably, didn’t provide much last year aside from the awesomeness that comes with being Jim Thome. Teagarden is a typical backup catcher that can be found without sacrificing prospects. Eveland is currently pitching in Korea.
The prospects that Duquette has surrendered will likely not become difference makers at the big league level. Chances are, none of these middling prospects will pan out in a way that would make the Orioles kick themselves. But all of them have tools that made them attractive in trade talks in the first place. Delmonico, for instance, can hit. Lino has a cannon behind the plate. Henry is performing well in relief at the Double-A level for Texas. As Daniel Moroz said, if you deal enough of them, one of them eventually might make the organization kick itself.
With that said, part of the purpose of having a farm system is to funnel talent to the big league team right now. And it sure seems as though Duquette is very willing to trade middling prospects that he deems expendable if he sees the opportunity to add even the slimmest of upgrades at the big league level right now. Rodriguez may be worth a half a win the rest of the way. However, as we saw in the AL West last year, one game can be the difference between winning the division and finding yourself in a one-game playoff. For that tiny upgrade, Duquette gives up Delmonico. Perhaps Duquette found Delmonico expendable because of he’s currently positionless, or maybe it was because of his durability. Whatever the case may be, Duquette obviously didn’t envision Delmonico to have a big impact on the big league roster down the road, so off he went. Duquette thought more highly of the tiny upgrade that Rodriguez provides right now than waiting for Delmonico to potentially be a two-win player in 2016.
This trade may also tell us something about what Duquette thinks about his own farm system. Delmonico would have likely fallen somewhere around the five to eight range of the Orioles farm system – as he was in Blair’s ranking – if all the prospect types were to have published Orioles lists before the trade. Duquette traded that player for two months of a reliever. That may mean that there’s barely a handful of players – perhaps just Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Jonathan Schoop and Eduardo Rodriguez – that he deems worthy of “saving” a big league spot for.
And if that’s the case, Duquette needs to find more young, impact talent, so that when they package a top-10 prospect in a trade, it’s not for just two months of a reliever but for a true difference maker at the big league level.