Samardzija: Not the Answer for the Orioles

Mike's BylineIn what is always a competitive American League East division, the Orioles need to make a major move to upgrade a pitching staff that has the fourth-worst ERA in baseball. Two months into the season, the Orioles have played .500 baseball and sit in third place in the AL East, four games behind the surprising Toronto Blue Jays. Pitching is the key to winning the AL East, which is something that has haunted the Orioles since opening day.

Before the trade deadline July 31, the Orioles will have a new pitcher in Baltimore. General Manager Dan Duquette is always looking for pitching depth, and has proven over the past couple of years that he is willing to make a trade to help the team succeed.

Last season, Duquette acquired Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger from the Cubs in exchange for struggling young pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. Duquette also got pitcher Bud Norris from the Houston Astros, in exchange for young outfielder L.J. Hoes and pitcher Josh Hader. While neither trade was a major acquisition by any means, both helped provide depth for the Orioles.

In the past week, reports have linked the Orioles to Chicago Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija, saying the team has interest in picking up the 29-year-old, and that the two sides have mutual interest in making a deal.

This season, Samardzija has a 1-4 record and carries a 1.68 ERA, leading all of baseball. Acquiring a pitcher who leads the league in ERA is always attractive; however, trading for Samardzija would be a huge mistake for the Orioles.

The Cubs are in a major rebuilding phase, and are looking to trade any valuable player on their roster for young start-up prospects, namely pitching. The Orioles have many young pitching prospects that intrigue the Cubs, including Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Hunter Harvey.

The Cubs are said to be looking for two of these four pitchers in any deal for Samardzija. In the past, Duquette has been reluctant to trade any of these four guys, as they have a bright future, and are highly regarded by the Orioles organization.

While Samardzija has been great this year for the Cubs, his career statistics say that what has happened so far this season is quite a fluke. Samardzija owns a career ERA of 3.90, and a WHIP of 1.321, both of which are much higher numbers than this season.

Last year, Samardzija had the worst season of his career, where he finished with an ERA of 4.34 and a WHIP of 1.348. These are not the numbers a top-of-the-line pitcher should have.

To put that into perspective, the Orioles already have three pitchers (Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, and Ubaldo Jiminez) on their staff this season who have a lower ERA and WHIP  in their career than Samardzija. To trade for someone who isn’t a certain step up does not make sense for a franchise.

Two pitchers the Orioles should look at instead of Samardzija are David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays, and James Shields of the Kansas City Royals. Both teams, through two months of the season, have been very disappointing and sit toward the bottom of their respective divisions. They may be willing to trade some top talent if neither turns their season around in the few upcoming weeks.

Price is considered a true ace by most. He is only 28 years old, where he is beginning to enter his prime. He is a three -time All-Star and has won a Cy Young award. He has a career ERA of 3.28, and WHIP of 1.16. A pitcher like this is what the Orioles need.

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To get Price, the Orioles need to put together a huge package. Rays may be willing to accept a deal for Kevin Gausman, Christian Walker, and Johnny Monell. The Rays could walk away with the Orioles top hitting prospect, one of their top pitching prospects, and a catcher who could potentially be their everyday catcher, while the Orioles end up with a true ace to help make a run for the division title. It may seem like a lot to give up, but Price would be worth every penny to the Orioles.

Shields is a less-expensive option for the Orioles. At 32, Shields has a few more years in his prime. Shields owns a career 3.77 ERA and a 1.22 career WHIP, which are fairly good numbers, but his real advantage is his durability.

Shields pitched over 203 innings each of the last seven years, and pitched over 227 innings in his last three seasons. Durability is important, and Shields would be able to take the ball every fifth day for the Orioles without any fear of getting hurt.

Acquiring Shields would help solidify the Orioles pitching staff, and would cost a little less than Price. In a deal for Shields, the O’s should offer Gausman, Zach Britton, and Henry Urrutia. While the Orioles still will have to give up one of their top pitching prospects, they will be giving up far less by offering Britton and Urrutia instead of Christian Walker.

While these two trades may prove to be long shots for the Orioles, Duquette is always looking for starters to help his ballclub. Without a trade for a pitcher, the Orioles won’t contend in the highly-competitive AL East.

It’s time for the Orioles to make a move; one that starts by passing on Samardzija. There are better options out there, like Price and Shields, to help the Orioles contend in 2014 and beyond.

Should the Orioles go after Samardzija, Price, Shields or someone else? Comment below.


Nelson needs to stay

Byline MattWhen the Orioles signed Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $8 million contract Feb. 25, the team wasn’t sure what to expect. Cruz was coming off a suspension-shortened season, in which he missed 50 games after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Hence, the one-year deal as opposed to something more long term.

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The Orioles have a history of players who were caught using PEDs (think Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmiero, Brian Roberts. Jay Gibbons and many more), so the signing of another proven user was scary for fans. Plus, many current Orioles have spoken out against PED use.

Here are just a few examples:

“I think when McGwire and Sosa did what they did in 1998, it was awesome to watch. And then when all the stuff came out with the PEDs and all of that, it was really disheartening,” Chris Davis told the Baltimore Sun in 2013. “And if there are people that want to get upset with me saying that 61 is still, in my opinion, the single season record, I’m entitled to my own opinions and own beliefs. I was a fan before I played this game at the big league level, and I think what Roger Maris did is still considered by a lot of people to be the legitimate home run record.”

“These guys that are doing performance-enhancing drugs are taking away from a lot of other people that are doing it the right way. They are taking opportunities away and they are basically stealing,” Nick Markakis told the Sun’s Dan Connolly. “Stealing money away from owners because they are basically purchasing damaged products. It’s not a good situation all the way around. And all of us that have done it the right way, we are going to suffer and have to answer questions about this for a while now. I think that puts us in bad situations that we don’t deserve to be in.”

So when Cruz decided to sign with the Orioles, he knew that he needed to prove to his new teammates that he was not what his past defined him as. He had unquestioned talent, as evidence by his stat line. Despite playing in just 109 games last year, he hit 27 home runs and drove in 76 runs.

Orioles fans came into this season hoping Chris Davis could lead the league in home runs yet again, but he has just seven of them so far. He trails the major league leader by 12 home runs.

Who is the major league leader? Nelson Cruz, of course. Cruz has focused completely on baseball and leads the Orioles in almost every offensive category. He currently has leads two of the three categories for the Triple Crown, home runs (19) and RBIs (48).

When he’s at his best, he can change a game. Like this one, for example.

Cruz proved what he can do, and without him, the Orioles may have been looking at the cellar in the AL East. Instead, Cruz has lead his team to a third place standing and a 26-25 record.

The question remains now, will the Orioles try to lock him up for more than this year? The answer better be yes.

Cruz proved that he can produce without the help of PEDs and the Orioles are currently depending on him for offense. And in 2014, the Orioles have committed to the “win now” philosophy. Heck, they gave up a draft pick for him and Ubaldo Jimenez; something that was out of the question just a year ago.

Think about: a core of Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Nelson Cruz and possibly Matt Wieters playing for a handful of years for the Orioles. If the team could ever seal up some consistent pitching, it could compete for a World Series title for the next 4-6 years.

Before you get all excited and jump around the house, we have to actually make the move. It won’t come mid-season, but in the barrage of deals that will come in the offseason, I hope that Cruz stays with Baltimore.

Taking a Step Back


Byline MattWelcome everyone to Baltimore Birds! It’s a pleasure to begin writing about the Orioles and Ravens non-stop. Without further adieu, let’s begin with the news of the day:

Just what the doctor ordered for Ravens fans: another running back getting into trouble with the law. Yes, these accusations are likely to be misdemeanors, but the fact remains that Taliaferro got off on the wrong foot with his new teams.

Sometimes, it’s hard to keep yourself away from alcohol, especially in public, but Taliaferro needs to understand who he is now. Taliaferro is no longer a star running back for the Football Championship Subdivision power Coastal Carolina. He’s now part of a storied franchise, where he represents more than just himself and his team.

Taliaferro now is a public figure in the city of Baltimore. Rookies sometimes have a tough time adapting to the life of an NFL player and this instance does not bode well for the public believing Taliaferro is ready. Plus, there’s a quick trigger for Ravens fans, given all that happened with Ray Rice this offseason.

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Now, Taliaferro must leave the limelight for the rest of the offseason and preseason and get ready to perform his way out of a blemish on his resume. Can he do it? Sure. Just like Ray Rice will have to out-run his offseason trouble, where he was arrested for striking his now wife, Janay Palmer.

At Coastal Carolina last year, Taliaferro ran for 27 touchdowns and caught 23 passes for scores. He’ll need to show the Ravens that he can find the end zone and not the opposite side of the law. He’s got plenty of potential, but now is not the time to take a step back.