Does a trade for a division rival ace make sense for the Orioles?

The Rays are reporting listening to offers for their hard-throwing ace
Wild Card Series - Texas Rangers v Tampa Bay Rays - Game One
Wild Card Series - Texas Rangers v Tampa Bay Rays - Game One / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

It is no secret that Mike Elias' holiday shopping list for the Baltimore Orioles includes adding a starting pitcher for the "top half of the rotation," something Mike Elias said would be "wonderful."Of course, the Orioles are hardly the only team looking for starting pitching this offseason, with free agent starters Kenta Maeda, Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson, and Lance Lynn already coming off the board.

Several other free agent starters remain, including Blake Snell, Marcus Stroman, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Eduardo Rodriguez and Jordan Montgomery. However, with the Orioles notorious reluctance to spend money in free agency to improve the team, a trade for a starting pitcher may present the best and most realistic option.

We have previously discussed the possibilities of a deal for Shane Bieber of Cleveland or Dylan Cease of Chicago. Another starting pitcher who could intrigue the Orioles is Tampa Bay right-hander Tyler Glasnow, someone who Mark Feinsand of believes Tampa Bay will "definitely" move this offseason.

Glasnow, 30, has spent the past six seasons with the Rays after coming over from the Pittsburgh Pirates along with Austin Meadows and Shane Baz for right-hander Chris Archer in 2018. Health has always been the biggest concern for Glasnow, with the 21 starts he made in 2023 a new high in his career.

When he is healthy, Glasnow is nearly unhittable. A four-pitch pitcher, Glasnow predominantly relies on a 96 mile per hour fastball, hard slider, and devastating curveball. His best season came in 2021, when, in 14 starts with the Rays, he went 5-2 with a 2.66 ERA and a pristine 123 strikeouts over 88 innings. Glasnow has always been a high strikeout pitcher, having averaged over one strikeout per inning every year since 2018.

If the Orioles are interested, they better act fast, as reports have the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds "active" in trade discussions for Glasnow.

There are several valid reasons to believe the Orioles will steer clear of acquiring Glasnow. First, Glasnow is entering the final year of a two-year extension with Tampa Bay, with a high price tag of $25 million in 2024. Second, as mentioned above, he presents a significant injury risk, something the Orioles would, perhaps, be wise to avoid.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the Orioles would likely be hesitant to trade within the division, especially players who could come back to haunt them years down the road. Sure, the Orioles have previously traded with the Rays, but their prior dealings involved role players such as Tim Beckham and Steve Pearce, not a potential ace who could cost way more. It is no secret that the Orioles are one of the more risk-averse franchises in baseball.

To strike a deal, the Orioles would likely need to send some salary to the Rays along with a prospect or two. Anthony Santander is a logical choice, as Spotrac projects him to earn $14,100,000 in his final year with the Orioles. While dealing Santander may be tough for some fans to stomach, the Orioles have several replacements waiting in the wings, including Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser.

From the Rays' perspective, while they want to shed Glasnow's salary in 2024, they are likely still looking to compete after reaching the playoffs in 2023, and Santander as a power bat at $11M less than Glasnow may appeal to them.

Could a package of Santander, left-hander Cole Irvin (projected to make $2,500,000 in 2024), and a top 10-15 prospects in the Orioles' system such as Jud Fabian or Max Wagner get it done? Is this a deal the Orioles should even consider?

The cons of a trade for Tyler Glasnow are easy to spot: he is an expensive one-year rental. He is injury-prone. Acquiring him will also require the Orioles to send talent to a division foe.

If last winter was any indication, it is probably folly to expect Elias to take a big swing during the offseason. But there is no doubting Glasnow's talent and the significant difference a healthy Glasnow would make on the Orioles' rotation. With the Orioles looking for a starter for the top half of the rotation, adding a player with Glasnow's pedigree could be the "wonderful" move Mike Elias has in mind.