Trade Could Be Solution For Orioles' Pitching SurplusPosted on March 20, 2013
By Jim Henneman
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Trying to pick the Orioles' 25-man roster for Opening Day is little more than an educated guess, and, frankly, at this point I'm not educated enough.
But you can almost feel the trade winds blowing all the way back in Baltimore.
That's how I see manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette resolving part of the puzzle. The competition for the fifth spot in the starting rotation is more intense than it was a year ago. The good news for the Orioles is that some of the candidates this year are the same as the ones last year, the difference being they are competing for the No. 5 and not the No. 1 spot.
There has been a lot of discussion about the bullpen, which carried the team for the first half last year, remaining intact for this year, but something tells me that won't be the case. It's an area where the Orioles can deal with a degree of strength. If I had to venture a guess, educated or not, I'd say Luis Ayala would attract some attention on the trade market, and the Orioles will listen.
Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez are bound to claim the first four spots in the rotation. Brian Matusz is going to make the team either as a starter or reliever, and you can ink Tommy Hunter into a relief role.
Jake Arrieta and Steve Johnson have not taken themselves out of the running for the No. 5 spot, and either could be shuffled to the bullpen, which could get crowded. Troy Patton is the left-handed fixture there, and Pedro Strop and Jim Johnson are certainties. The O's just signed Darren O'Day to a two-year contract, so it's probably safe to assume he's not going anywhere. Ayala was an important part of the bullpen brigade a year ago, but there might not be enough chairs out there this year.
Showalter will open with a 12-man pitching staff, and the math tells you there are more who, for the moment at least, are deserving. And we haven't even mentioned T.J. McFarland, the Rule 5 draft pick who started slowly but has made steady progress; Jair Jurrjens, who will start at Triple-A Norfolk but figures in the long-range competition for a starting job; or Zach Britton, the left-hander who seemed a sure thing for the rotation as recently as last year.
And while everybody wonders where phenom Dylan Bundy will fit into the picture, last year's No. 1 draft pick, Kevin Gausman, is closer to being major league ready. When you do the math, it's easy to see that a trade is the only realistic solution. And when was the last time the Orioles dealt from strength in that department?
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com.
Posted March 20, 2013