Trading for Feldman is a chance the Orioles had to take

Team could someday regret giving up Arrieta and Strop, but O's had to act for this season

Sun sports columnist Peter Schmuck on the trade between the Orioles and Chicago Cubs. (Baltimore Sun video)

It was easy to draw one particular conclusion after the Orioles completed a deal with the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday that added veteran pitcher Scott Feldman to the rotation and gave mercurial starter Jake Arrieta and struggling reliever Pedro Strop a much-needed change of scenery:

The Orioles solved one big problem and got rid of two others.

Of course, it's not that simple, but Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette moved very decisively to shore up the rotation for the second half and also came away with some minor league catching depth (Mount St. Joseph alum Steve Clevenger) at a time when the midseason trade market was just starting to develop.

Feldman is a big, rangy right-hander who once won 17 games in a season for the Texas Rangers and was in the midst of a pretty good season for the fourth-place Cubs. He stands right now with a 7-6 record and a 3.46 ERA and has given up more than two earned runs just five times in 15 starts.

If there is a downside to the deal it is the fact that Feldman can become a free agent at the end of the season, so the Orioles have essentially rented him for three months in exchange for two players who until recently were considered promising components of the club's long-term schematic.

That means there is the very real possibility the Orioles will come to regret the deal if they do not play deep into the postseason this year, but it's a risk that is well worth taking under the circumstances.

Clearly, Duquette and manager Buck Showalter recognize that the window for winning the American League East is never open very wide and a solid opportunity exists to do that this season. The Orioles just pushed the injury-riddled Yankees into fourth place with a three-game weekend sweep at Camden Yards and entered Tuesday's games trailing the Boston Red Sox by only 2 ½ games after spending the first half continuously plugging holes in the starting rotation.

They weren't exactly desperate. Duquette had done a good job of stocking the system with starting pitchers, and left-hander Wei-Yin Chen appears close to returning after six weeks on the disabled list with an oblique injury, but there definitely was a need to add some more experience and quality to the rotation. Feldman provides both, and he also removes some of the pressure to rush top prospect Kevin Gausman.

This is the third time that Duquette has pulled off a significant trade for a starting pitcher, which is not easy to do. He dealt Jeremy Guthrie for right-hander Jason Hammel and reliever Matt Lindstrom right before spring training last year in a deal that was critical to the Orioles' strong 2012 start. He traded Lindstrom in August to get lefty Joe Saunders, who beat the Texas Rangers in last year's American League wild-card game.

Hammel, Saunders and Feldman aren't classic top-of-the-rotation guys, but when you consider where the Orioles were 17 months ago, acquiring them without tearing up the player development depth is a fairly impressive feat.

It's also another signal to the fan base that the Orioles are relevant again, and not just in Baltimore. The trade comes right on the heels of a series at Oriole Park that featured wins televised on Fox and ESPN.

Sure, it didn't hurt that the visiting team was the Yankees, but that kind of national attention still is proof that the Orioles have re-established themselves as one of the best teams in baseball. The fact that the Orioles slam-dunked the game's most expensive team three times in a row was just gravy.

To make a deal of any consequence, of course, you have to give up something to get something. Arrieta still has the kind of raw ability that could pop at any time and transform him into a solid major league starter with at least 3 ½ years remaining under team control. Here's hoping that happens, because he's a nice young man who has had a star-crossed career.

Strop also has big-time natural ability, and he proved that as one of the game's top setup guys for much of 2012. When he's right, he can still deal in the high-90s and make hitters look foolish with his slider, but he has suffered a crisis of both command and confidence this season that made it increasingly more problematic for Showalter to use him in important situations.

There's a good chance he'll bounce back and dominate National League hitters. He might even develop into a big-time closer and make people wonder what the Orioles were thinking when they let him — and Arrieta — get away.

It was a chance the Orioles had to take.

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" at noon Fridays on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.

 

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