This trade package could net Orioles the closer they need in Cardinals fire sale

The Orioles need to improve their bullpen if they want to compete in October
St. Louis Cardinals v Detroit Tigers - Game One
St. Louis Cardinals v Detroit Tigers - Game One / Duane Burleson/GettyImages

When Orioles' closer Felix Bautista underwent Tommy John surgery back in October, there was a general consensus that the team needed to shore up the bullpen ahead of 2024.

Mike Elias opted to sign former All-Star Craig Kimbrel and it's gone about as well as anyone could have expected. Kimbrel choked in the playoffs last year, pitching to a 12.00 ERA in 4 games for the Phillies in a demoralizing NLCS loss to the Diamondbacks.

Unfortunately for the Orioles, those late inning issues have carried over into 2024. The Orioles have 10 blown saves this year, tied for worst in MLB. Kimbrel leads the way with three, but he's not alone on this pitching staff when it comes to late-inning failures.

While the bullpen as a whole is seventh in MLB with a 3.36 ERA, the staff hasn't performed well enough when the game is on the line. The O's will be battling with the Yankees in a tight division race all summer, and they can't afford to lose close games that will end up being the difference between a first round bye and a Wild Card series this October.

The Orioles should trade for Cardinals' closer Ryan Helsley

There's been a lot of speculation about how the O's will fix their bullpen issues this summer. They have some internal options, but one of the best guys out there on the trade market is Cardinals' closer Ryan Helsley.

Helsley is a proven late inning arm, and at just 29 years old, has plenty of gas left in the tank. The righty has pitched to a 1.62 ERA with a 2.25 FIP over the last three seasons. He missed time with a forearm strain last year but has looked sharp in 2024.

With the Cardinals struggling at 21-26 and major questions lingering about the stability of their pitching staff, it's only a matter of time before they switch to sell mode. The Orioles should get ahead of the market rather than wait until the bidding war begins.

What trade package would it take to get Helsley to Baltimore?

Helsley isn't a free agent until after the 2025 season, so he'll be a bit more expensive than a pure rental. But while he's been excellent when available, he doesn't have the extended track record of someone like Josh Hader, who was traded at the 2022 deadline.

It might take a prospect inside the Orioles' top-10, plus another interesting guy or two. A package of something like RHP Seth Johnson, infielder Max Wagner, and outfielder Billy Cook would be a lot for the Orioles to give up, but it makes sense to try to improve the bullpen.

Johnson missed most of 2023 while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery but has looked sharp in his return this year. MLB Pipeline has him as the O's 10th ranked prospect, and for good reason. He has a big fastball and a nasty slider that give him elite strikeout potential. Johnson is on the 40-man and could potentially make his big league debut later this year, or early 2025 at the latest.

Billy Cook is on a heater at Triple-A, but is way down in the pecking order for playing time, and Wagner is a high upside bat who should be in Triple-A by the end of the year. All three of these guys are good players hampered by a stacked major league roster in Baltimore.

The Orioles shouldn't wait for the deadline to improve the roster. Mike Elias has proven that he can build an elite talent pipeline in the minors. It's time to use some of that talent to upgrade the major league roster and make an effort to win in October.