Even though it might be frustrating to see Jake Arrieta reach new heights in another uniform, you had to feel good for the former Orioles right-hander Wednesday night as he won this year’s National League Cy Young Award.
The guy who was pitching in Triple-A when he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in July 2013 beat two of the game’s best pitchers, the Los Angeles Dodgers' Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, to win the award.
There’s no doubt it's deserved. Arrieta went 22-6 this past season with a 1.77 ERA and 236 strikeouts in 229 innings over 33 starts. Arrieta led the majors in wins and tied for the major league lead in complete games (four) and shutouts (three). He also allowed the fewest hits per nine innings (5.9) and home runs per nine innings (0.4) in the NL.
I thought the difference between Arrieta and the other two finalists was his historic second half, and the voters agreed, giving him 17 of 30 first-place votes.
Arrieta won 11 of his last 13 starts, and 16 of his final 17 decisions, recording the best post-All-Star break ERA in baseball history (0.75) and yielding just nine earned runs in 107 1/3 innings during that 15-start span.
And yes, I know what you’re saying. The Orioles could use a pitcher like the one Arrieta developed into in their starting rotation right now. But when the Orioles dealt Arrieta and reliever Pedro Strop to the Cubs for right-hander Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger, there wasn’t a “this trade will haunt us” mentality.
There was some cringing when the Orioles traded left-handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez for Andrew Miller at last year’s trade deadline, and we saw Rodriguez’s promise first hand this season. Some didn’t like the fact that the Orioles threw left-handed pitching prospect Josh Hader, now a top prospect with the Milwaukee Brewers, into the Bud Norris trade two years ago.
But with both Arrieta and Strop, it seemed like they had worn out their welcome. And the Orioles were more than happy to get an established veteran starter in Feldman for the pair, even though Feldman was a pending free agent and left for the Houston Astros the following offseason.
It’s interesting that not only has Arrieta become one of the best starters in the game, but Strop is still a contributor in the Cubs bullpen.
Back to 1954
To find the last pitcher to win the Cy Young award after the Orioles traded him, you’ll have to go back a long way – back to the franchise’s first few years.
In fact, the only pitcher before Arrieta to win the award after being traded from the Orioles started the franchise’s first home game at Memorial Stadium in 1954.
Right-hander Bob Turley, who was an original Oriole who was among the holdovers from the old St. Louis Browns, was traded to the New York Yankees after the 1954 season and four years later he won the American League Cy Young Award for the Yankees.
That 17-player trade worked out for the Yankees, who received seven players including Turley, Billy Hunter and Don Larsen (best known for throwing a perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers).
The Orioles received 10 players in the deal, highlighted by catcher Gus Triandos and shortstop Willy Miranda. Triandos was the Orioles’ best player in their early days, a three-time All-Star who hit 30 homers in 1958.
But Turley ended up being the best player in that deal. He won the 1958 AL Cy Young award after going 21-7 with a 2.97 ERA and 19 complete games. Despite also being a three-time All-Star, that was by far Turley’s best season.
Six pitchers won Cy Young awards as Orioles: Mike Cuellar in 1969, Jim Palmer in 1973, ’75 and ’76, Mike Flanagan in 1979 and Steve Stone in 1980.
But here’s a better trivia question. Which four former Cy Young Award winners went on to pitch for the Orioles later in their career?
That’s not as easy. Those pitchers are 1981 NL winner Fernando Valenzuela (1993), 1984 NL winner Rick Sutcliffe (1994), 1990 NL winner Doug Drabek (1997) and 1996 winner Pat Hentgen (2001-'03).
On Neil Walker
This is a storyline to follow through the offseason. It definitely seems like the Pirates are open to moving Walker, who hit .269/.328/.427 with 32 doubles, 16 homers and 71 RBIs last year in 151 games and is one year removed from a career-high 23 homers. They have nine arbitration-eligible players and three of them – Walker, infielder Pedro Alvarez and closer Mark Melancon – are projected to make $9-to-10 million each.
Still, Walker is a Pittsburgh native and a fan favorite, so the Pirates likely will tender him a contract by next month’s nontender deadline, even if they’re unable to move him by then.
So, if Walker lingers without a suitor, he could be a fallback option if the Orioles are unable to re-sign free agents Chris Davis or Steve Pearce. Walker has almost exclusively played second base in the majors, but the Orioles have Jonathan Schoop there, so they believe he could help them at first base or maybe the corner-outfield spots.
If Davis goes elsewhere – he’s projected to get an annual $25-30 million a year – Walker’s salary would be cheaper, but his power numbers don’t really project to first base.
And the Orioles have plenty of needs elsewhere, so add in the $15.8 million Matt Wieters will get after accepting the qualifying offer and the 11 arbitration-eligible players set to get raises next year and it doesn’t leave all that much to get those two starting pitchers that Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette has been talking about attaining.
Still, Walker is an interesting fit, and his name is one we should hear more as the offseason progresses.