How Baltimore can craft a deal with a division rival to acquire this former Orioles' starter

The Orioles should look to the Toronto Blue Jays for rotation help, starting with former Oriole Kevin Gausman.
Cleveland Guardians v Toronto Blue Jays
Cleveland Guardians v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

With the Orioles officially passing the half-way mark of their season this past weekend, trade deadline chatter now feels like more than just talk. Thoughts have transformed from "it's early, but the Orioles are off to a hot start" to "what can the Orioles do to make this a championship team"?

Perhaps it was watching this weekend's series victory over the Rangers, which conjured up vivid reminders of what the Rangers had last October en route to a series sweep of the Birds. Or perhaps it was the Orioles' unexpected five-game losing streak that preceded the Rangers series that brought their 2024 needs into sharper focus.

Whatever it is, it's no secret that the Orioles need to acquire pitching before the July 30 trade deadline. The Orioles' offense has been as good, if not better than expected, with a frenetic home run pace in June and Heston Kjerstad's hot bat powering the team to wins. However, during their recent losing streak Orioles' pitchers posted a 7.71 team ERA. No matter how good the offense is, the Orioles won't win many games pitching like that.

At present, the Orioles rotation includes Corbin Burnes, Grayson Rodriguez, Albert Suarez, Cade Povich, and Cole Irvin. Although Suarez, Povich, and Irvin have pitched well at times, it is not controversial to say that the three of them do not belong in a championship team's rotation. The Orioles have lost four starting pitchers to injury this season, and aside from Dean Kremer who returned to pitch Wednesday in Seattle, all will miss the remainder of the year.

The Orioles should look to the division rival Blue Jays at the trade deadline

The Blue Jays were expected to complete for an AL Wild Card this year. But for a myriad of reasons, the Jays are dead last in the AL East at 39-46. While they haven't formally announced they'll be sellers at the deadline, it would make sense for them to offload some contracts this month.

The Orioles should take advantage of this and target starting pitcher Kevin Gausman. Yes, trades between the Orioles and Jays are rare, but they have happened before. The Orioles acquired outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. for international bonus money in 2019. In 1998, the Orioles traded Nerio Rodriguez and Shannon Carter to the Blue Jays for right-handed starter Juan Guzman. And in 1987, the Orioles traded Mike Flanagan to the Jays for Oswaldo Pereza.

Gausman was drafted by the Orioles with the fourth overall pick in 2012. Famous for eating donuts before every start, Gausman eventually blossomed into one of the league's best starters, but only after the Orioles traded him as part of 2018's sell off. Gausman pitched for the Braves, Reds, and Giants before signing a 5 year, $110M contract with Toronto before the 2022 season. Gausman pitched well in 2022, going 12-10 with a 3.35 ERA. He was even better in 2023, leading the American League with 237 strikeouts and finishing third in the AL Cy Young voting.

But Gausman has struggled in 2024. He is currently 6-7 with a 4.75 ERA, though his 4.05 FIP is encouraging. Perhaps the shoulder injury that sidelined him in Spring Training is still lurking but despite that, he has made every start this season and has 91 strikeouts over 91 innings.

The questions are (a) whether Toronto wants to sell low, and (b) how quickly the Jays expect Gausman to bounce back. There is also the issue of whether the Orioles would be willing to take on the remaining 2+ years and over $50M remaining on his deal. But with Burnes and Rodriguez the only sure things in the rotation at present, a call to the Jays for Gausman makes sense.

What would the Orioles have to give up to acquire Kevin Gausman?

What would Gausman cost the O's? This depends heavily on whether the Blue Jays would see dumping Gausman contract as a positive. At the same time, the Orioles will be leery of sending a division rival too many prospects who could haunt them for years to come.

The O's could send cash to Toronto to partially offset the money coming in. Austin Hays has struggled to find consistent playing time in Baltimore but could be part of the return package. But the main prize for Toronto would be right-hander Chayce McDermott. The Orioles' number 8 prospect has pitched to a 3.58 ERA with 121 strikeouts in 83 innings in Norfolk this year.

The Orioles could also send Toronto Jud Fabian (#12 overall) and Max Wagner (#14 overall) to close out the deal. It's possible the Jays would hold out for someone like Connor Norby, the Orioles' number 6 prospect. If the Jays required Norby instead of Fabian and Wagner, the Orioles would be wise to consider it, especially since Norby remains blocked at his primary position.

Will Toronto trade Gausman? That remains to be seen. But there have been whispers of the Jays making superstar first-baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. available in a trade. And if the Jays are willing to trade Guerrero, one would imagine no one on the team would be untouchable.

To be sure, the Orioles should not - and likely will not - deal anyone from their top 5 for Gausman. Enrique Bradfield Jr., Heston Kjerstad, Coby Mayo, Samuel Basallo, and Jackson Holliday should be untouchable.

Now that it's July, the trade deadline is upon us. The Orioles need to strike fast to hold off the Yankees and to avoid a repeat of the 2023 playoff collapse.