With the MLB trading deadline for non-waiver trades coming this Thursday, everyone naturally wants to know what, if anything, the Baltimore Orioles and other teams will do. Last week I was asked what the O’s had to trade to Minnesota in return for catcher Kurt Suzuki (by my counterpart Ted Schwerzler at Puckett’s Pond). My response wasn’t quite what he expected so far as I could see; I just don’t see the Orioles trading for Suzuki.
First off I will say that Suzuki would be a decent addition to an Orioles team that of course lost it’s starting catcher in Matt Wieters to Tommy John surgery earlier this year. And while the Orioles are happy overall with the job Nick Hundley and Caleb Joseph have done, the rumor mill says that they feel their catching could be better. The key word there is the rumor mill; my personal opinion is that while Suzuki is a good player and a good clubhouse guy, it just wouldn’t pay for the Orioles to pull the trigger on a deal for him.
Suzuki’s contract with Minnesota is up after the season, and of course the idea here is that Wieters would be back for most if not all of 2015. So would it really behoove the Orioles to send a prospect to Minnesota if this would end up being a rental? I would agree that it would, if and only if Suzuki would potentially put the Orioles over the top in 2014. And quite frankly he might for all I know; we never really know unless the move is made. However using the WAR stat (Wins Above Replacement) as a measuring stick, Suzuki is a +2.2 WAR whereas Hundley and Joesph combined are a+.6 (with Hundley at -.4 and Joseph at +1). That would be a net gain of a +1.8 WAR; which in effect means that Suzuki would win the Orioles two more games – on paper that is. Is two games worth a prospect?
I’m not suggesting that Suzuki wouldn’t be good with the Orioles, because I think he’s proven that he’d be an asset to any team of which he would be a part. I just don’t see the situation as being right for the O’s to trade for him. I don’t in anyway think that the Orioles should adopt the stances of other teams in the AL East which in essence says that if the player is the right guy price is no option. But if not Suzuki, who should be on the table for the O’s?
I still say that starting pitching is where the Birds need to be looking. Earlier this summer they were connected to Colorado starter Jorge De La Rosa, which surprised some people – myself included. De La Rosa isn’t a bad pitcher, but he’s not the type of guy that would blow one away and thus perhaps put a contending team over the top. However Colorado’s asking price was in essence Kevin Gausman straight up…which is an insulting request if you ask me. Reports out of Philadelphia are that A.J. Burnett might be dealt, and of course the Orioles were close to signing him this past off season. Burnett lives in the Baltimore area, which would make even more sense. The big question is whether or not David Price will be on the market down in Tampa. My gut instinct says no, given that Joe Maddon doesn’t quit. But stranger things have happened.
There’s also Jon Lester in Boston, who quite frankly could be the steal of the season in terms of a trade. Boston’s already dealt Jake Peavy, so if they’re committing to a rebuild it might be in their best interest to deal Lester as well. The question is whether or not they, or Tampa for that matter, would be willing to deal to a division foe in the Orioles. And the same would be true in reverse; would the Orioles be willing to send prospects to a team that competes with them directly?
Of all of these names, my personal opinion is that Burnett is the best and most likely option for the O’s. Given that he’s older he would come at much less of a cost, and if the cards fall the right way the O’s could possibly even get away with not dealing a prospect. There are also rumors of Philadelphia dealing second baseman Chase Utley. Could the Orioles not work out a deal that could potentially send someone like Ryan Flaherty or Steve Lobardozzi (who’s a big league caliber player at Norfolk) to Philadelphia in return for Burnett? This of course would be contingent on them finding someone that wants to deal for Utley, and there’s not much the Orioles can do for them in that regard. These decisions are always tough, but that’s where guys like Dan Duquette earn their money.
As concerned about “value” as the Orioles are, don’t be surprised if they stand pat at the deadline and wait for the waiver trade deadline next month. That’s how they got LHP Joe Saunders in 2012, and that trade worked out well for them. It all remains to be seen, however needless to say the landscape of the league will look slightly different come 4:01 PM on Thursday.