Which Orioles prospects could be trade bait? Not a lot of options

January 31, 2012|By Dan Connolly

I’ve gotten several emails in the past few days about the Orioles and their trade possibilities.

I've been asked why they haven't made a deal already for St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Kyle McClellan or the Texas Rangers' Koji Uehara or another fill-in-the-blank name.

The reason is pretty simple. If the Orioles are going to get a big leaguer in return -- even in a potential salary dump -- they are probably going to have to give up a prospect. And, frankly, the Orioles don't have much to offer that they are willing to part with and that other teams covet.

We've been saying that for a while, so I decided to take a closer look at the club's top 10 prospects -- as ranked by Baseball America -- and it's pretty easy to see where the problem in finding a trade fit arises. Three of the Orioles' top 10 prospects, Dylan Bundy (No. 1), Nicky Delmonico (No. 6) and Jason Esposito (No. 8) were drafted last June. So even if the Orioles wanted to deal them -- and they don't -- they couldn't until August, a year after the players signed.

Two others, infielders Manny Machado (No. 2) and Jonathan Schoop (No. 3) are highly coveted by everyone, including the Orioles. The club simply won't give up either of those two right now -- and that's understandable.

Apparently, 20-year-old right-hander Parker Bridwell falls into this category, too. The 2010 ninth-rounder has impressed the Orioles' brass. He also was a guy other clubs brought up during the winter meetings. The Orioles are holding on tight to him, so he can be crossed off the trade-bait list at this time.

The Orioles' No. 7 prospect, according to the magazine, is infielder Ryan Flaherty, whom the Orioles selected from the Chicago Cubs in December's Rule 5 draft. He's basically untradeable because strings are attached; the team who gets him must keep him on the 40-man roster all season.

And prospect No. 10, right-handed reliever Dan Klein, is an impressive prospect and someone who could interest other clubs at some point. However, he had shoulder surgery in August, probably won't pitch until June and is damaged goods until he can prove otherwise.

So, that basically leaves two of the top 10 who are legitimate trade targets: infielder-outfielder L.J. Hoes (No. 5) and outfielder Xavier Avery (No. 10). Frankly, scouts are all over the board on these two.

Hoes, who will be 22 in March, hit well at Double-A Bowie in 2011, but he might be a man without a position. He struggled at second base and may not have enough power to be an everyday left fielder. Some see him as a utility man in the big leagues, but he may not have the glove for that.

Avery, 22, is a tremendous athlete who is still learning the game and has held his own as one of the younger players at each level. But the center fielder strikes out a ton (156 times) for a guy who hit just four homers last year.

The Orioles gave Avery $900,000 as a second-rounder in 2008 and $490,000 to Hoes as a third-rounder in the same draft. So, basically, those two are probably worth more to the Orioles right now than to any other team since the club invested a chunk of cash into each just a few years ago.

By the way, there aren't a whole lot of other guys to dangle in the second tier of Orioles prospects listed by Baseball America. For instance, Mike Wright (No. 11) and Kyle Simon (No. 18) are 2011 draftees, so they can't be moved, and Matt Angle (No. 16) and Joe Mahoney (No. 13) are 40-man roster players whose big league ceilings are in question and would have to take up a roster spot or be exposed to waivers.

There are usually potential trade options at the bottom of an organization's 25-man and 40-man rosters. But much of that has been overhauled by new executive vice president Dan Duquette, and he's unlikely to trade someone he just obtained.

And there are not a lot of holdovers left at the end of the rosters. Maybe right-hander Brad Bergesen, but he'll make at least $800,000 this winter, or infielder Josh Bell, but his star has dulled severely.

All that said, one club source told me he could see the Orioles making a minor deal in the next week or 10 days. Uehara may still be the best bet. But trade partners will have to dig a little deeper into the Orioles' system or they'll go elsewhere for a mid-level minor leaguer.

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