Now that the Blue Jays continue to load up this offseason – agreeing to acquire NL Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey from the Mets pending signing him to an extension – I’m continuing to get questions about why the Orioles are being so quiet.
The Red Sox have upgraded with a plethora of signings. The Rays dealt starter James Shields to get one of the top prospects in the game in Wil Myers to boost their anemic lineup. And the Blue Jays are showing there’s no concern of a fiscal cliff in Toronto, delving out toonies in bulk like they’re out of style.
Meanwhile, Orioles fans wait for a move. The highlight of the Orioles’ offseason is resigning outfielder Nate McLouth and drafting left-hander T.J. McFarland in the Rule 5 draft.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said last week that he’s still looking to upgrade the lineup with a power bat, one that would most likely be acquired through trade. But the Orioles still see themselves in a situation of bargaining power when it comes to making a trade.
Yes, they like their pitching depth, but they’re still not going to deal one of their young arms – Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton or Steve Johnson – without a solid reward. One-year rentals don’t seem to be an option.
The Orioles appear willing to make a move, but they value their trade pieces immensely, probably more so than other teams do, and if other teams don’t see the same value, they’ll keep them.
One problem is the trade market value on those young arms is unclear. Tillman’s success last season was outstanding, but in the big picture, we’re talking about a small sample size. Same thing with Johnson. Britton didn’t pitch the last few weeks of the season. Matusz and Arrieta shined in the pen, but they still haven’t found consistent success as starters.
The Orioles definitely reached out to the Mets about Dickey, but it was obvious their asking price was too much. In trade talks, teams are asking about the organization’s top prospects, like pitchers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, as well as incumbent third baseman Manny Machado.
Yes, trade talks often start talking in extremes, then meet on a middle ground, but the Orioles aren’t dealing any of those three. And since the team feels that Bundy and Gausman aren’t far away from being major league contributors, they’re a big part of the reason they’re able to move some of their young pitching.
That being said, we’re still eight weeks away from the beginning of spring training, so plenty can happen. Most of the big free-agent fish are starting to bite – including top position player Josh Hamilton – so expect a trickle down of moves. And as my colleague Dan Connolly pointed out last week, Duquette hasn’t been afraid to make some late offseason moves.
We will see.