With the trade deadline approaches, many fans and experts have speculated about who might be traded and where. I myself have written several articles about players that I think can help the Baltimore Orioles, but in the absence of insider information, I can only guess. In the last week the Orioles have given a bit of clarity about what they intend to do (or not do) at the trade deadline.
Mike Elias and the Orioles have historically taken a safer approach to free agents and trades. While many people expected the Orioles to sign one or two of the big name free agents this past off-season, they instead chose to sign role players that they thought fit with the club and could help the team.
Those decisions appear to have paid off as Ryan O'Hearn has provided several clutch hits for the Orioles and appears to have passed Ryan Mountcastle on the depth chart. Kyle Gibson has provided veteran leadership to a young pitching staff and is second on the team with nine wins, and Adam Frazier has provided several clutch hits of his own while driving in 46 runs (tied for third on the team).
The trade market has begun to take shape as teams have begun to announce their intentions. Teams like the Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres have announced that they intend to be buyers which takes several of the tops names off the market. Couple that with the Orioles ability to find a diamond in the rough (partially forced by owner John Angelos' refusal to support this team), and we start to get an idea of who the Orioles could go after.
Who could the Orioles go after in a trade to help their bullpen?
Baltimore has already made one significant trade, obtaining Shintaro Fujinami from the Oakland Athletics. Fujinami has shown great stuff but has struggled with control and gotten off to a rocky start with his new club. He also is on an expiring contract and we have all seen that the O's are always looking at the big picture.
Even with the potential that Fujinami possess, it still feels like the Orioles could use another bullpen arm to help hold leads long enough to get to all-star closer Felix Bautista. Here are three players that the Orioles that could sure up the bullpen, while only making a splash in the bird bath.
The Chicago Cubs are expected to be sellers at the deadline with the majority of the attention going to Cody Bellinger. Bellinger is having a bounce back year, but Adbert Alzolay better fits the O's needs. Alzolay has taken hold of the Cubs closer position and has been effective getting out hitters on both sides of the plate. In 39 appearance this season, Alzolay has a 2.40 ERA and a spectacular 51 / 7 K/BB ratio over 45.0 innings.
He is 28 years old (approximately three months older than Bautista), and is on a team friendly contract. Alzolay will be have three years of arbitration eligibility, beginning in 2024, before becoming a free agent in 2027. Alzolay also has experience as a starter and could help the club as a long man or at the back end of the bullpen for years to come.
One of this years biggest disappointments has been the New York Mets. After spending a record amount of money bringing in talented players this offseason, the Mets have not been able to come together as a team. They have already begun the sell off by trading David Robertson to the division rival Miami Marlins and Adam Ottavino is another reliever expected to draw attention. If the Orioles are looking to trade with the Mets I think Brooks Raley is the best fit.
Raley is a bit more expensive but is a proven arm with swing and miss stuff. The journeyman reliever has averaged 10.1 K/9 over his career and could replace Cionel Perez as the late inning lefty with Perez being unable to return to his 2022 form. Orioles Manager Brandon Hyde is always looking to match up against opponents, and Raley is a reliable arm.
After having a breakout season in 2022 with the Colorado Rockies, Bard has returned to earth this season. He is 38 years old but has still posted solid numbers. Bard has a 2.97 ERA over 36.1 innings this season. His strikeout numbers are down this year but his ERA shows that he can still get people out. Bard does have another year under team control but he is 38 years old and clearly not a arm for the future. The Orioles have the best record in the American League and can make some moves to win now. Bard could help bridge the gap between the starters and Bautista.
Each of these pitchers could probably be acquired without the Orioles touching any of their top 10 prospects. None of them would make the proverbial big splash if the Orioles acquired them, but they all could be beneficial to the team. They are all on teams that are expected to sell at the deadline and all have contracts that keep them under team control beyond this season.
While trading for the star players is always the more enticing move, I agree with the Orioles that they do not need to trade for a superstar. There is more than enough talent on this team already as evidenced by the success they have had this season. We have all dreamed big about the players the Orioles could go after, but these players fit the mold for success that has gotten the O's to where they are today.