Why don’t the Baltimore Orioles young starting pitchers, such as Chris Tillman, Zach Britton and Brian Matusz have more trade value in a market where cost controlled starting pitching is in high demand?
It’s a question that many Orioles fans are asking because they hold the trio in such high regard, at least in terms of what they perceive their relative value in a trade to be. You know, the Orioles should be able to build a trade offer around <insert young starters name here> for a middle of the order bat or something along those lines.
The only issue is that the Orioles young starters, as highly touted as they are in their own organization, just don’t have much trade value right now. That’s not to say that other organizations don’t see the potential there or don’t believe in any of them, but due to inconsistent performance, health concerns, or both those guys just don’t hold a lot of value. If the Orioles were going to trade any one of them then now is probably the absolute worst time to do it, as other organizations are salivating at the opportunity to buy low on three young, cost controlled starting pitchers that still have a great deal of upside.
Although the upside is still there, each one of the three starters I’ve mentioned aren’t without their issues or concerns. In this piece I am going to focus on Chris Tillman and explain why his value didn’t absolutely boom after the half season he put together during the second half of the 2012 season.
Chris Tillman was the Seattle Mariners top pitching prospect when the Orioles acquired him in the deal that sent Erik Bedard to Seattle. Tillman was promoted to Triple-A Norfolk in 2009 after having a great deal of success in Double-A Bowie the year before. After just 18 starts in Norfolk and a 2.70 ERA over those 96.2 innings of work the Orioles apparently felt that Tillman was ready for the big leagues, although some would say they probably didn’t feel like they had many other options outside of him at that point.
Tillman struggled mightily at the major league level in 2009, to the tune of a 5.40 ERA over 12 starts and 65 innings. He put together another strong showing in Norfolk during the 2010 season, posting a 3.34 ERA over 21 starts and 121.1 innings of work. The Orioles, once again, felt that he was ready for the big leagues but he ended up struggling even worse than before – posting a 5.87 ERA over 11 starts and 53.2 innings. In 2011 Tillman ended up putting up horrible numbers at both the Triple-A and major league level to the tune of a 5.19 ERA in Norfolk and a 5.52 ERA with the Orioles.
It was after this 2011 season that the organizations opinion of Tillman started to wane, as did the fans and the other organizations around baseball. Was this just another example of the Orioles failing to develop a top pitching prospect?
Something clicked for Tillman leading up to the 2012 season though, as he worked extensively with Rick Peterson to overhaul his mechanics and become better able to repeat his delivery. The work paid off as Tillman picked up a solid three miles-per-hour on his fastball and had better command overall on all of his pitches. The work first paid off in Norfolk, where after a slow start he really started to put it together and had a 3.63 ERA over 15 starts and 89.1 innings. Once again the Orioles felt that he may just be ready for the big leagues and called him up.
He completely dominated the Seattle Mariners in his first start of the season with the Orioles and never really looked back. He put together a string of 15 starts over 86 innings that saw him put up a 9-3 record with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP.
While it certainly looks like Tillman’s trade value should have sky rocketed after a half season performance like that, it hasn’t and it has everything to do with his history of never remaining a consistent starter at the big league level. If Tillman puts together a 2013 similar, or even close, to what he did this past season then yes – I’m sure that every pitching needy organization in baseball will be calling the Orioles about him. But right now, it’s the question of whether he can do it again that’s suppressing his trade value.
I will be reviewing the reasons why Zach Britton and Brian Matusz don’t have as much trade value right now, as they did a season or two ago, in the coming days.