Baltimore Orioles executive vice president Dan Duguette talks about the trade that got the team outfielder Gerardo Parra and the reason why the team traded reliever Tommy Hunter to the Chicago Cubs. (Kevin Richardson)
When the dust settled following Friday afternoon's nonwaiver trade deadline, the Orioles had filled their most glaring need by dealing for an established, hot-hitting outfielder while dealing away one of the core members of their bullpen in a separate move.
On Friday morning, the Orioles acquired 28-year-old outfielder Gerardo Parra from the Milwaukee Brewers for minor league pitcher Zach Davies. Then, at the 4 p.m. deadline, the Orioles sent right-handed reliever Tommy Hunter to the Chicago Cubs for minor league outfielder Junior Lake.
The trades ignited a flurry of roster moves for the Orioles that included designating right-hander Bud Norris and first baseman Chris Parmelee for assignment and recalling top minor league pitchers Mychal Givens and Mike Wright.
Viewed all together, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Friday's action makes his club better as it prepares for the pennant push over the final two months of the season.
"I hope so. I think so," Showalter said Friday afternoon. "I'm not getting too deep right now. I'm trying to win tonight's ballgame in nine innings."
Because their system is not particularly deep and they didn't want to deal away pitchers such as Kevin Gausman, Givens and Wright, the Orioles were limited in what they could do. And although there is always inherent risk in giving up a prospect such as Davies, a 22-year-old right-hander who had a 2.84 ERA in 19 games at Triple-A Norfolk this season, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette felt it was worth it.
"We're real happy and excited that we were able to pick up Parra. He's one of the top hitters in the National League this year and he fits the profile of an everyday position player for us," Duquette said. "I think when you're close and you have a chance to get into the playoffs, you've got to do what you can around these deadlines to strengthen your team and keep going toward the goal."
The Orioles entered Friday six games behind the division-leading New York Yankees in the American League East and trailing the Minnesota Twins by two games for the final AL wild card. The Orioles' biggest deficiency this season has been a complete lack of production from the six players who have combined to play left field.
Heading into Friday, Orioles left fielders combined to hit .210 (29th out of 30 for MLB left fielders) with a .283 on-base percentage (27th) and a .330 slugging (27th). Parra is a career .279 hitter, but the pending free agent is batting .328 with a .369 on-base percentage and .517 slugging percentage this year. Parra, who arrived just before game time, is also a two-time Gold Glover with an above-average arm who can play left field, right field or center if needed.
"I've always been a fan of [Parra's]," Showalter said. "I know the guy won a Gold Glove in left and right and [is] having a big year offensively and plays the game like our fans like to see it played. He fits us and kind of who we have to be to be competitive."
Showalter wouldn't commit to whether Parra would play left or right — he said he'd talk to the player about that soon — or whether he would immediately become the club's primary leadoff hitter, allowing Manny Machado to be slotted into more of a run-producing role.
"He's an option [to leadoff]. He's doing real well out of that role and some other roles," Showalter said of Parra, who has batted first more than in any other spot in his career. "I look at him as about [having] the ability to hit in three or four spots if we wanted to."
The move also signified to the Orioles players that management is still pushing forward after speculation that the club might begin to trade some of its pending free agents if it didn't rebound recently.
"I think it was big. We needed some help in the outfield, and we all knew that," closer Zach Britton said. "Adding him is good, a guy that we can maybe put in the leadoff spot. I'm not Buck, I'm assuming he is probably going to be a top-of-the-lineup type of guy. He's hitting the ball really well, so that's good for us."
The Orioles absorbed what's remaining of Parra's $6.24 million salary and might have to do the same with what's left of Norris' $8.8 million salary unless he is traded within the next 10 days. So the Orioles received a little financial relief by dealing away the 29-year-old Hunter, who has been with the club since the Orioles acquired him and Chris Davis from the Texas Rangers for Koji Uehara in July 2011.
One of the most popular players in the clubhouse, the gregarious Hunter took the move in stride, saying it probably would be harder on his pregnant wife than on him.
"There were a lot of fun times here and a lot of good people," Hunter said. "A lot of friendships made and hopefully they continue through the years."
Hunter, a free agent at season's end, had been the subject of trade rumors since early Friday morning. The Orioles had talked with the Cubs about dealing Hunter for infielder Mike Olt, but ultimately agreed to acquire Lake as the deadline expired.
"I actually told Darren O'Day that we really can't play catch until 4:05 — so you get that four- or five-minute grace period," Hunter said. "And at 4:03, he came in and asked me and I was like, 'I don't know.'"
Hunter, who began last year as the Orioles closer and posted a 4.22 ERA in 212 games as an Oriole, didn't rule out the possibility of returning to Baltimore this winter.
"There's not going to be any shut doors," Hunter said. "I'm not trying to run, stomp out of here like I didn't like it, because I loved it here."
By trading away Hunter and designating Norris, the Orioles created some flexibility in their bullpen. Previously, no reliever could be sent to the minors unless they first passed through waivers. Givens and Wright both have options.
"That's a little bit of it, but a very small part of it," Showalter said.
Duquette said Lake, who has batted .241 with 16 homers in 193 big league games in parts of three seasons with the Cubs, will start at Norfolk but could work his way back to the majors this season. He was hitting .315 this year for Triple-A Iowa, where he worked with former major leaguer Manny Ramirez.
"He's become a lot more of a selective hitter. Looking for his pitch, hitting the ball to right-center field, using the whole field," Duquette said of Lake, who is a former minor league roommate of Orioles infielder Ryan Flaherty. "I think he is going to be a helpful player for our team. He's a lot like Jimmy Paredes was a year ago when we picked him up from Kansas City."
Now that the nonwaiver trade deadline has passed, the Orioles can still make deals, but the players involved must first clear trade waivers. Duquette has made at least one August trade each season he has been in Baltimore, and that likely won't change. He said he is still seeking a pitching upgrade — or any incremental move that will help the Orioles get to the postseason.
With so much potential volatility surrounding next year's roster, Showalter embraces that philosophy.
"There's a lot of things contingent on signing players. Next year is next year. We are trying to win a World Championship this year," Showalter said. "That's what it is all about with the situation we are in. It's as simple as that."