Oct 24, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello (48) delivers a pitch during the eighth inning of game one of the 2012 World Series against the San Francisco Giants at AT

Baltimore Orioles: It's about the pitching

Yesterday afternoon John Morosi of Fox Sports sent out this tweet regarding the Baltimore Orioles’ interest in Rick Porcello of Detroit. Porcello was 10-12 with a 4.59 ERA this past year in Detroit, although he’s had winning seasons in the past. You could look at Porcello as a guy that perhaps hasn’t totally reached his full potential in a sense at only age 24. The first question is what would Detroit be looking for in return? From the Orioles standpoint it would make no sense to send a starting pitcher given that they’d be getting one in return. Unless you’re trading a prospect for Cy Young, what’s the point? However perhaps a reliever along the lines of Troy Patton or even Pedro Strop would be worth giving up.

Porcello would be far from a front-line starter, however he does have some experience and he’s had some limited success thus far in his career. He became an instant favorite with Orioles fans a couple of seasons ago when Kevin Youkilis of Boston charged him on the mound and Porcello body-slammed him onto the field. However that aside, the Orioles need to figure out whether or not a would-be trade for Porcello would truly help the club, or whether it would be making a move for the sake of making a move.

Oct 24, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello (48) delivers a pitch during the eighth inning of game one of the 2012 World Series against the San Francisco Giants at ATGiven that statistically he had a lackluster 2012, he’s a guy that might come fairly cheap. Or he should come fairly cheap to say the least. This is where the business side kicks in and it ceases to be a game in a sense. If I were the Orioles I wouldn’t give up anything more than a reliever and perhaps a low-level prospect for Porcello. The problem of course is that they aren’t the only team that’s in on him; apparently Seattle has some interest also. I highly doubt that we’ll have a bidding war over Rick Porcello, however Detroit is obviously going to accept the best deal for them which is offered.

I would also mention that former Oriole Joe Saunders is still on the market. Saunders may have joined the Orioles pretty late in the year (via a waivers trade in August), however his service was invaluable to the club as they made their push to the postseason. And let’s not forget that he started and won the first Orioles’ playoff game in 15 years back in October at Texas. If it came between re-signing Saunders or obtaining Porcello, I’d go with Saunders. A huge part of the Orioles’ success this past season was the closeness of the clubhouse, and Joe Saunders seemed to fit right into that scene. Properly vetting potential new Orioles (either via trade or free agency) is important because if you stick someone in there who won’t fit in it will cause problems.

There are other names out there in which the O’s have interest, however it’s really just a wait and see thing for fans – and writers – right now. I think it’s clear that the Orioles will probably step up and sign or trade for someone, it’s just a matter of finding the right fit and the right deal. Incidentally, if Porcello ends up being the Orioles’ guy he’ll have a lot of chances to face Youkilis again…as he’s now a member of the New York Yankees.

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  • turn2

    Getting Porcello would be adding yet another question mark to the Orioles’ pool of potential starters. He could turn out to be a steal as he’s young (24 next season), bright (National Honor Society) and, therefore one could assume, coachable. I don’t think anyone denies the talent. Another possible trade scenario I’ve seen online today is Porcello and Jhonny Peralta for J.J. Hardy, with Manny Machado presumably moving back to short and Peralta taking over at third.

    • Domenic Vadala

      I’ll be addressing the Hardy rumors in tomorrow’s column, however my personal opinion is that would be a mistake. I think that Porcello is a guy that COULD possibly be a fit with the Orioles, however the key is the price. Porcello has had his struggles and he’s also had his good moments with Detroit. He’s no Cy Young candidate, but I’m not sure he’s slated for double-A anytime soon either. It’ll be interesting to see if they end up landing him, and if so at what price. Thanks for reading!

      • turn2

        I agree that it would be better to hang on to Hardy than deal him for Porcello, one, because it’s not a good deal for the Orioles, even if Peralta’s thrown in for good measure, and two, because the O’s are supposedly looking for a middle of the lineup bat after letting Reynolds go, so does it really make sense to get rid of someone who’s averaged 26 home runs a year for them in the past two years (Hardy), after parting with someone who averaged 30 over the same span (Reynolds)? I don’t think so. (Yes, Peralta has a little pop, but not even at replacement level for J.J.)

        Quite honestly, I’m not crazy about giving up Strop for him either, because I don’t think Pedro’s reached his peak value, either as part of the Orioles’ bullpen or as a trading chip, whether it be after the All-Star break or a year from now. I’d rather sign Saunders again, than give up too much for someone who may not pan out. Thanks for posting, and yes, it’s about the pitching…as always.

        • Domenic Vadala

          The Orioles do need to make a concentrated effort to re-sign Saunders, and by all accounts they’re doing just that. However they aren’t the only team that’s interested in him, as Minnesota apparently has an offer on the table. You’re absolutely right about replacing production in the lineup; however perhaps more importantly than homers we should also look at RBI. Hardy drove in 68 runs last year, and in 2011 he drove in 80. Peralta may be able to come close to that in RBI, but 20+ homers might be a different story. Peralta’s a good player, but him plus Porcello don’t equal a gold glover.

          • turn2

            I think as long as the Orioles’ offer to Saunders is comparable to that of other teams, they should be in the driver’s seat given him playing for them down the stretch last season (presuming he liked playing for the O’s), not to mention his Virginia home. You’re right, of course, about run production trumping home runs. The thing about Hardy’s RBI in 2012, though, is that a large part of his homers seemed (like the rest of the club) to be solo blasts, at least until late in the year, so there was somewhat of a correlation between that and his overall diminished run production.

            While I like Duquette as a GM in general and think he’s done a good job so far with the Orioles, what appears to be foot dragging from him and a lack of aggressiveness can get really annoying at times. I’m sure his being hamstrung by budgetary constraints has something to do with that, but it does tend to put him in the position of a shopper who arrives late at the Black Friday sale and is reduced to picking over leftovers.

            Considering that the Orioles accomplished something they hadn’t done in over a decade by making it to the playoffs, I’d have though he’d use that new-found success to parlay a fairly significant free agent signing (while I like McLouth, he’s not exactly a household name). I think Duquette really needed to do that to let the baseball world know that the O’s were back and that Baltimore was again an attractive destination for big name players.

            There’s still time to for this to be a truly successful offseason, but now, unless the Orioles get Swisher, it’s looking more and more like they’ll need to make a trade for that bat (depending on how the LaRoche-Nats negotiations in D.C. play out), which is something I would prefer them not to do, because I’d just as soon hang on to all those arms.

          • Domenic Vadala

            The fact is that the Orioles have a surplus of arms on the staff. Jim Palmer’s often told the story of how on the first day of camp Cal Ripken Sr would tell guys that they would be on a big league roster at some point…maybe not with the Orioles, but with someone. From what I’ve heard the Nationals are growing impatient with LaRoche, and the Orioles are definitely interested in him. Ideally you’d like to sign LaRoche to a contract and avoid sending anything away (aside from the 24th pick in the draft). However Michael Morse wouldn’t be a bad second option if Washington’s selling. Some guys are worth more to a team on the trade market than on the field. You never want to lose guys, but that’s part of the game.

            Dan Duquette is probably MUCH more aggressive than he comes across in public. I respect the idea of allowing people to underestimate me, and that appears to be Duquette’s modus operandi. You also have to remember that if Duquette doesn’t like the offers he’s getting, he’s not going to take them.

          • turn2

            If the Orioles need to give up an arm for Morse, I’m good with that, depending, of course, just which arm we’re talking about. I wouldn’t want to get rid of Tillman after what I saw last year. Very impressive.

            I’m sure you’re right about Duquette’s M.O. He likely is much more aggressive behind closed doors. I like the fact that he’s not going to make a trade if he thinks he’s giving away too much for the return, or yield to a free agent’s demands just to sign someone. I have no problem there, at all.

            No, what I’m talking about is the perception that in general he’s just not as active–or maybe even PROACTIVE–as other GMs early on, about getting things done. Granted, one-and-a-half postseasons isn’t much of a sample size, and last year really can’t be compared with this year, given the O’s surprise success. Likewise, there are budgetary constraints, as I mentioned. Finally, I haven’t scrutinized his tendencies at Montreal and Boston, so my observation is pretty superficial.

            All that conceded, I’m not going to be happy if he doesn’t find a quality bat. There’s really no excuse for letting Reynolds walk, and then not finding a solid replacement. I don’t know about you, but I’m not entirely sold that the current position players/DHs will be quite enough to contend in the division.

            Could they be enough? Possibly, if players like Wieters develop offensively, while Jones and Davis don’t regress, Roberts shows he still has something in the tank, he and Reimold, who I think could be a big part of the lineup, stay healthy, and players like McLouth and Machado contribute. But that’s a lot of “ifs” that the team shouldn’t need to rely on exclusively. A signing is a necessity.

  • turn2

    Okay, Dominic, HERE’S what–if the rumor’s accurate–really bothers me about Duquette and the current Orioles’ philosophy for building a club. This morning Zach Link on MLB Trade Rumors posted that according to “a major league source” that the Orioles have some interest in Justin Smoak.

    Justin Smoak? Are they kidding? Why would the O’s even be kicking those tires? Smoak constitutes no upgrade over Reynolds, save that he’s younger and cheaper. Actually, Smoak doesn’t have the power that Mark has, and hasn’t otherwise distinguished himself as a consistent run producer, either.

    So, why the interest in Smoak? Wait for it…the Orioles “are hesitant to give up a draft pick to sign [Adam LaRoche].” Whatever happened to the axiom, “Sometimes you need to give up talent to get talent.” Sure, LaRoche is on the other side of 30, but he would be exactly the sort of player they need to solidify their lineup.

    I understand the importance of building a farm system, but I also understand the importance of building a contender. Look at successful teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, who have never hesitated on giving up a prospect for a proven player. Would that the O’s learn from them.

    • Domenic Vadala

      LaRoche would be a better addition than Smoak, and when I originally addressed LaRoche (last week I believe) I stated that for the most part you aren’t going to get a “Kevin Gausman-like prospect” with the 24th pick of the draft. HOWEVER…you bring up the Yankees and Red Sox. It seems to me that Boston’s modus operandi of trading prospects for players finally caught up with them over the course of the past couple of seasons. New York might see that same fate at some point as well. So sure that attitude worked for them for quite some time, but it’s not fool proof. You can’t out run father time.

      You mentioned Tillman at one point. I agree that he showed the Orioles a lot in the second half of the season. Quite frankly, as a writer that’s kind of followed Chris Tillman’s career I was really proud of him. A re-birth like that couldn’t have happened to a harder worker, or a more humble guy. But one could argue that his trade value will never be higher. Of all of the Orioles’ pitchers, he would probably yield the most return. My personal opinion is that he’s worth more to the Orioles on the field than on the trading block. However I can see the reasons for considering him as trade bait as well. (He’s also out of options, which might in theory make him less attractive to a prospective trade partner.)

      • turn2

        I agree that a team can’t keep going back to the “prospect for player” well too often or it will dry up (ala Boston), but for a single “let’s do this to help make us relevant again” move, signing LaRoche just seems the right thing to do.

        He’s the current NL Gold Glove, Silver Slugger recipient at first, has decent power and makes the kind of contact that Reynolds probably dreams about making. What’s not to like? He’s exactly the kind of player that Duquette’s been talking about wanting to get all offseason, and now when he may available, the O’s go “thanks, but no thanks”? It’s craziness for them not to jump on that opportunity, not only because they’re bypassing someone who seems ideal for their needs, but because it’s quite possible that whomever they end up with (Smoak?) is going to be woefully pedestrian, and not make the club better at all.

        As for Tillman, the sticking point for trading him (or any of the young O’s arms, for that matter) is something that both Buck and DD have obsessed on more than one occasion–and rightfully so: If the other club doesn’t value that pitcher the way we do, then we’re going to hang on to him. And that makes perfect sense.

        Of course, who could they get for Tillman that would be a fair exchange? Morse? The danger, I’m afraid, is that while Duquette foot drags on who to sign, another team swoops in and scoops up LaRoche, and the Nats hang on to him. Of course, he waited to long on Swisher, who, though not ideal, definitely could have helped the O’s, and now the Indians signed him.

        Although there’s still nearly two months left before pitchers and catchers report, that’s a mirage when we’re talking about getting a veteran bat for the lineup, and as far as I’m concerned, if the Orioles are reduced to signing Smoak or someone that far down the food chain, then the offseason must be regarded as a largely a failure in terms of improving the offense. Sure, we can point to resigning McLouth, which is a good move as far as it goes. When we look, however, at signings like Casilla, Jackson and Valencia, those only will real pluses in the context of a significant signing.

        LaRoche or go broke?

        • Domenic Vadala

          The Orioles talked with Swisher’s representatives at the winter meetings, and I’m not sure it was a fit for either side. Keep in mind when looking at LaRoche that price is always an issue. Fans don’t want to admit that, however any team can just throw money at people and move on. That doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. If I were the Orioles I’d be willing to give LaRoche three years, but the fact is that we don’t know what the dealings are. My prediction is that the Orioles end up with either Morse or LaRoche. Duquette’s also a guy that uses a lot of smoke in mirrors, and in effect he’s not necessarily very up front. Fans should have no problem with that for obvious reasons. Ultimately keep in mind that people were outraged at the offseason moves last year. We all know how that turned out.