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Working a trade to upgrade Orioles' rotation easier said than done

Since yesterday’s ugly loss to the Blue Jays, I’ve seen a lot of fans calling for an upgrade to the Orioles starting rotation.

I don’t necessarily disagree with that notion, but the question is how?

There will be plenty of rumors over the next five weeks and the Orioles will likely be involved in many of them. The Orioles have some trade chips, but at what price would the club make a deal?

Orioles starters have an ERA of 4.88, which ranks 28th out of 30 major league clubs. For the most part, their rotating door with the back end of the rotation hasn't been successful. And the oblique injury to left-hander Wei-Yin Chen has made the rotation's weaknesses more glaring. Left-hander Zach Britton, who starts tonight against Cleveland, can help by solidifying a spot.

But the ugly fact is that the Orioles don’t have much to trade in acquiring an arm to solidify the rotation, and anything they do have wouldn’t have enough market value to draw a significant upgrade.

If the Orioles are truly in the market for pitchers like Ricky Nolasco, Matt Garza, Bud Norris, Cliff Lee or Jason Vargas, all of their teams are going to want prospects in a deadline deal. Obviously, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman are going nowhere, which takes us to second-tier pitching prospects like Eduardo Rodriguez and Mike Wright.

The Orioles will already likely be hesitant to deal pitching prospects anyway because they've held the philosophy that building a strong rotation hinges on developing pitchers rather than buying them. Rodriguez, who was just named a Carolina League All-Star, could draw interest. But since he seems to be a few years away from the big leagues, you’d probably have to package him to get something adequate in return. The Orioles’ first-round pick this season, right-hander Hunter Harvey, is already ranked the organization’s No. 5 prospect without even officially signing a deal.

Looking at the rest of the Orioles’ farm system, top position player prospect Jonathan Schoop raised his stock in the offseason but is on the DL until at least mid-July with a stress fracture in his lower back. Teams will undoubtedly be interested in right-hander Jake Arrieta, but because of his recent struggles, he won’t command the trade value he deserves.

One thing Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette won’t do is make a hasty move.

The Orioles made a nice move last season in acquiring Joe Saunders and didn’t have to give up much in right-hander Matt Lindstrom, but that deal was made well after the deadline in late-August. At the time, Lindstrom was an expendable part of the bullpen depite a 2.72 ERA. At this point, the Orioles' current staff doesn’t have anyone like that. So those of you who want to move Pedro Strop and his 7.17 ERA and no minor league options for something of real substance, save your breath.

What does that mean? It means that the Orioles will likely be involved in plenty of trade rumors. It means that they will talk to a lot of teams about making deals, but they will also likely wait out the trade market as the deadline nears to see if they can get a bargain. Because right now, their trade chips won’t draw anything that will improve the rotation.

The Orioles aren’t going to deal any of their core players either. So before any J.J. Hardy rumors crop up again, he’s not going anywhere.

Having said that, let’s throw it out there to you. What trade would you make to bolster the Orioles’ starting rotation?

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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