As they prepare to head to San Diego for this week's annual winter meetings, Orioles executives believe the industry-wide interest in a possible trade for left-hander Wei-Yin Chen is "very high."
The Orioles have received more inquiries about Chen's availability than any other player on their projected 25-man roster, according to an industry source.
Although they are not actively shopping the 29-year-old Taiwanese left-hander, the Orioles are willing to listen to offers that could strengthen other areas of their team. Chen is a free agent after next season and is represented by super-agent Scott Boras.
Earlier this offseason, the Orioles and Los Angeles Angels discussed the framework of a deal that would have sent Chen to the Angels for former All-Star second baseman Howie Kendrick.
Ultimately, the Orioles rejected the offer, and the Angels seemingly have cooled in using the 31-year-old Kendrick — a career .292 hitter in nine seasons who is also a free agent at the end of 2015 — as trade bait to upgrade their pitching depth, sources said.
Those talks illustrate the industry's value of Chen, who is making $4.75 million this year and went 16-6 with a 3.54 ERA in 31 starts in 2014. One talent evaluator said that if the Orioles seriously would consider dealing Chen, they could get a healthy return of either prospects or immediate major league help.
The Orioles have a surplus of starting pitching, with six players currently jockeying for five spots: Chen, Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez and Ubaldo Jimenez. With the exception of Tillman, the club's de facto ace, and the promising Gausman, Chen is probably the starter the Orioles would be least interested in losing; he is the rotation's only left-hander and blossomed last season.
Ideally, the Orioles would prefer to move Jimenez, who has three years and $38.75 million remaining on a four-year deal signed in February, but it likely would have to be for a similarly bloated contract.
Norris, 29, is also a free agent at the end of next season, and has garnered some interest in the percolating trade market as well, a source said. Gonzalez, 30, is under club control for at least three more seasons.