More than two months into the 2023 season, the Baltimore Orioles are in second place in the American League East and possess the third best record in all of baseball. The team is full of young talent with a few veteran leaders and are looking to make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
The O's lineup has been very good, scoring 292 runs on the season, tied for 7th in the league (all stats are prior to games on 6/6/23). The bullpen got off to a slow start but has since righted the ship. The Orioles bullpen has the fifth best ERA (3.41) and are tied for fourth with 16 wins by relievers. The biggest need for this team to get over the hump is starting pitching.
Birds starters have improved lately, and Tyler Wells could be in the midst of a breakout season, but historically, teams looking to make the jump from playoff caliber to World Series contender usually look for a big bat or true ace pitcher to get them over the top. The Orioles don't have many holes to fill in the lineup, and they can look to their top minor league system to plug any they want to, so let's take a look at what top pitchers might be available at the trade deadline. All trades were created using the trade simulator on baseballtradevalues.com.
What starting pitchers could the Orioles look to acquire by the trade deadline?
Corbin Burnes: Milwaukee Brewers
Probably the least likely, but still possible, trade candidate on this list is Corbin Burnes. The 2021 NL Cy Young award winner remains the ace of the Brewers staff, and the team is only half a game out of first place in the NL Central. Burnes was a work horse for the Brew Crew in 2022 and led the majors with 33 starts. He also led the Nation League with 243 strikeouts. Burnes has not been able to regain his Cy Young form this season, posting a 3.75 ERA and 8.5 SO/9, both of which would be the second worst in his career. Even though Burnes is not having a Cy Young season, he is still a top pitcher and would command a kings ransom. Burnes would require the Orioles to send DL Hall, Heston Kjerstad, Joey Ortiz and Adam Frazier to the Brewers. The O's will get an up-close look at Burnes on Wednesday to see if he would be worth it.
Shane Bieber: Cleveland Guardians
Looking at another Cy Young award winner, the 2020 American League recipient, Shane Bieber, is rumored to be made available by the Cleveland Guardians. The Guardians sit in second in the AL Central division but have just a 27-32 record and might be looking to make some changes. Bieber's ERA has inflated to 3.72 this season, thanks in part to the Orioles putting seven runs on the board against him in 4.0 innings on May 31, but overall he's having a good year. Nine of Bieber's 12 starts this season have been quality starts, and he's averaging over six innings per start. Bieber's services would require sending Hall, Ortiz, Ryan McKenna and Hudson Haskin to the Guardians.
Dylan Cease: Chicago White Sox
Last year's AL Cy Young runner up, Dylan Cease, came into this season looking to prove that his 2022 season was no fluke. Unfortunately, things have not gone as planned. Cease is still averaging 9.8 K/9 this season, but his ERA is up to from 2.20 last year to 4.63 this year. There's no doubt that Cease still has the stuff to be an ace pitcher, it's just whether or not Cease can make an adjustment and return to form. Even with his numbers this season, a trade for Cease would require Hall, Kjerstad and Ramon Urias.
Any of these pitchers could help the Orioles contend and would not cost the O's any of the top players in their own farm system. It has been said that a true ace actually affects three games per rotation. Because you know your ace will give you a strong showing each time out, a manager can use up his bullpen the game before the ace pitches, rely on his ace to get him through the second game, and have a rested bullpen for the third game.
The Orioles starters have shown improvement but are still not getting deep into games consistently. Hopefully John Angelos has seen enough to no longer think the team is simply over producing and will allow Mike Elias to make the right moves.