In 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.
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.