By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
6:00 AM EST, January 30, 2012
So apparently Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is a pretty popular guy these days.
Over the weekend, several rumors gained steam that the Orioles were willing trade partners in at least two possible deals.
From the look of things, it appears that not only are the Orioles trying to land Rangers closer Koji Uehara and Cardinals right-hander Kyle McClellan, but they’re also interested in obtaining Peyton Manning, trying to trade for Chris Paul and pushing to get Landon Donovan on loan.
Obviously, that last part’s a joke.
But after playing a quiet role in the trade market this offseason, the Orioles are definitely looking to make a move with less than three weeks to go before pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota.
The Orioles have been active in trade talks throughout the offseason, but sometimes it takes a while for deals to develop.
I’m not sure that all of these deals will shake out, but I think the Orioles are definitely posturing for a trade. Duquette said he’s monitoring both the trade and free-agent market to upgrade the team, with an emphasis on pitching. What’s left in free agency – with the exception of Edwin Jackson and a few relievers -- is pretty diluted. Right now, the trade market offers better dividends.
Talks between the Rangers and Orioles are nothing new. And the Orioles dealt Uehara to Texas at last year’s trade deadline. The Rangers acquired Joe Nathan to close and their addition of Japanese star Yu Darvish moved Alexi Ogando back to the bullpen, making Uehara – and his $4 million 2012 salary – attractive to shed. Last week, Uehara, who has a limited no-trade clause, blocked a trade to Toronto, nixing another suitor. And it’s well known that Uehara enjoyed his time in Baltimore.
But the Orioles have been talking to the Rangers about Uehara since the Winter Meetings early last month, and the talks have been up and down like a roller coaster.
But here’s the problem, when the Orioles dealt Uehara last summer, they got two key pieces to this year’s team – RHP Tommy Hunter and 1B/3B Chris Davis – so you can’t really expect Rangers GM Jon Daniels to just give Uehara away to the Orioles and just accept a fleecing like that.
Yes, Uehara is a fan favorite, but he turns 37 just before Opening Day, and he wasn’t great in Texas. And when we saw him last, he was getting battered around in limited use during last year’s postseason (33.75 ERA in three appearances). Maybe the Orioles dealt him when the time was right.
McClellan is an interesting fit. We all know that Duquette has spend the offseason building the club’s starting pitching, and at this point he has more arms than rotation spots. Some of the rotation candidates could land in the bullpen, or in Norfolk.
In recent days, it seems as though his attention has turned to the bullpen. The courting of closer Francisco Cordero, who signed with Toronto, and consistency of Uehara’s name coming up show that.
What he doesn’t have yet is a pitcher who has a track record of success at the major league level as both a starter and reliever. That’s what McClellan brings. He started last season as a starter, opening the season with a 6-1 record and a 3.43 ERA. By late July, he was back in the bullpen, working mainly the seven or eighth innings for the Cardinals, going 5-1 with four holds and just one blown save in 25 relief appearances.
The Cardinals reportedly want to move McClellan – and his $2.5 million salary for 2012-- to make payroll from for free-agent veteran right-hander Roy Oswalt. He’s in his second year of arbitration eligibility so he would remain under team control until after the 2013 season.
Whether the Cardinals deal McClellan actually has more to do with Oswalt, who has other suitors out there for a one-year deal. Discussions are always fluid with a possible trade like this one, where time could be of the essence. And since the Cardinals need to make a move to sign Oswalt, their bargaining power takes a hit. The Orioles would seem to be in the driver’s seat on this one, but who knows how it all breaks down.
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