KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the non-waiver trade deadline approaches in a week, the Orioles have become the biggest buyers among American League East contenders, acquiring their second veteran arm for the stretch run Tuesday evening.
On Tuesday, the Orioles acquired right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez to bolster their bullpen for the second half from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for prospect third baseman Nick Delmonico.
The 31-year-old Rodriguez, formerly one of the top closers in the game with the Los Angeles Angels, was 1-1 with 10 saves and a 1.09 ERA for the Brewers. He has 26 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings. In Rodriguez, the Orioles get a veteran reliever who can get both left- and right-handed hitters out and work the late innings.
“We like Frankie Rodriguez’s experience, especially in pitching in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. “And he’s done it well. He gives us a little more depth to our bullpen. We really like his changeup, his signature pitch that has had success against left-handed hitters. And he’s a Major League veteran. He has got experience and he’s a competitor.”
Rodriguez has held left-handed hitters to a .102/.185/.184 batting line this season. Primarily used as a ninth inning arm with the lead, Rodriguez had not allowed a run in 15 of his last 17 outings, recording seven saves in that span.
After playing two seasons with the Brewers, Rodriguez re-signed with the team in mid-April, signing a minor-league deal with a mid-May opt-out clause, but Milwaukee purchased his contract on May 16. Rodriguez had been sharing closer duties with Jim Henderson but has been the primary closer this entire month.
“We are pretty solid defensively and we’ve got some pretty solid players in the lineup,” Duquette said. “We were trying to upgrade the pitching to give us a chance to make the run for the AL [East] title and the pennant. So we did what we had to do to help the team now and we have enough players sharing good years at the plate. It’s my hope that we can have a steady stream of prospects going through the system so we can have some that we can trade to supplement the Major League team.”
The club has been hesitant to deal prospects, but in acquiring Rodriguez, the Orioles had to trade one of their highest-rated farmhands. He was ranked the organization’s No. 4 prospect by Baseball America before this season and No. 5 by MLB.com.
Delmonico, the club’s sixth-round pick in 2011, recorded a .244/.351/.371 batting line at Class-A Frederick, hitting 13 homers and 30 RBIs. After playing mostly second base in his first pro season last year, Delmonico made 43 of his 61 starts in 2013 at third base.
“Nick Delmonico shows a lot of promise as a hitter, but the major league club needed a little more depth for our pitching staff to accomplish what we want to accomplish this year,” Duquette said.
On July 2, the Orioles traded for Scott Feldman in a deal that sent Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Cubs. The addition of Feldman — as well as the return of left-hander Wei-Yin Chen — has fortified the club’s starting rotation.
“We hope the addition of Frank Rodriguez will be additive as well,” Duquette said. “It’s a tough league and a tough division we are competing in. Again, we have a number of position players having good years. I think our pitching needed to be bolstered and that’s what these two trades are trying to do to help make our pitching stronger.”
As for what is next for the Orioles' roster, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after Tuesday's loss to the Kansas City Royals, that the team has some options.
"I found out about it just before the game," Showalter said. "I’m still kind of taking it in. It’s still something that we’ve been talking about a little bit and we decided to go in that direction. He's a veteran arm down in the bullpen who doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear on him this season because he started the year late. He’s been in the American League. It’s a positive there and you can never have too many quality arms."