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What Orioles Got At Trade Deadline Just Might Be Enough

August 15, 2016
Covering Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette at the non-waiver trade deadline always reminds me of a Rolling Stones lyric.

"You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need."

Duquette doesn't just try sometimes; he tries all the time. And he doesn't always get what he wants, that's for sure.

What he wanted at the Aug. 1 deadline was a top-of-the-rotation starter, a left-handed reliever, and a right-handed hitting, fourth outfielder who can play a little center field. As a bonus, he would have liked to have dumped Ubaldo Jimenez's albatross contract.

What he got instead was a back-end rotation starter; a versatile, right-handed-hitting infielder/outfielder; and a right-handed reliever snagged out of Japan.

Duquette also got a headache when his attempt to send Jimenez and a couple low-level prospects to the San Diego Padres for outfielder Melvin Upton Jr., fell through after a deal seemed imminent.

So the haul wasn't necessarily what Duquette wanted, but his hands were tied by his own minor league system, which has a significant void of upper echelon prospects.

Consider 25 former first-rounders were traded this July by other teams. It's what rebuilding clubs expect now when they give up a solid piece in July. The Padres, for instance, received the Miami Marlins' first-round pick from 2015, first baseman Josh Naylor, in a deal that essentially was for right-hander Andrew Cashner, the poster boy for middling starting pitchers.

The Orioles don't have that kind of surplus in their system. Their 2015 first-rounder, DJ Stewart, is a work-in-progress at High-A Frederick. They had no 2014 first-rounders because they lost the pick when they signed Jimenez as a free agent.

Their 2013 first-rounder, Hunter Harvey, just had elbow surgery and won't be ready to pitch until 2018. And their three first-rounders before that, Kevin Gausman (2012), Dylan Bundy (2011) and Manny Machado (2010), are all key members of the current 25-man roster and, really, can't be dealt without hurting the club's 2016 playoff chances.

Given that, Duquette had to make deals that fit with what he had. So he signed 6-foot-8 right-hander Logan Ondrusek, who had most recently pitched in Japan, and put him on the 25-man roster. He sent Triple-A left-hander Ariel Miranda to the Seattle Mariners for veteran lefty Wade Miley and, moments before the deadline ended, he traded High-A Frederick catcher Jonah Heim to the Tampa Bay Rays for former Oriole Steve Pearce.

We assume Duquette's not done, of course. Trades can still be made in August; players have to pass through trade waivers first, so usually lesser names are the ones that get dealt during that time period. Acquiring lesser players, or supplemental pieces, is a Duquette specialty.

Of the moves made by Duquette in July, the one that really stands out to me is trading for Miley, a 29-year-old former supplemental first-rounder who was in the middle of the worst season of his career.

No one really knows what the Mariners received in the 27-year-old Miranda, a Cuban defector who had only been in the Orioles' system since May 2015. He throws his fastball in the low-90s and has a good split-fingered fastball, but the sense was his slider and changeup weren't major league pitches.

Miranda's ceiling is probably as a big league swingman, but he pitched well in his first start Aug. 4 for the Mariners against the Boston Red Sox (two runs in six innings). Still, he's a real mystery.

Miley, on the other hand, comes exactly as advertised. There's little unknown. He's the typical, average, big-league lefty who's pitched around the block.

The Orioles are his fourth team. He has pitched in 158 big league games and has a career 56-55 record with a 4.09 ERA. He's thrown 193 or more innings and made 29 or more starts in each of his past four seasons.

He'll take the ball every fifth day. He'll give his team a chance to win. It's not often pretty, and there are some inevitable clunkers along the way, but Miley's a competent left-hander, something the Orioles haven't had since Wei-Yin Chen left for the Miami Marlins during the offseason.

Because he hasn't done particularly well for most of 2016, Miley came cheaply. He cost just one fringe prospect since the Orioles agreed to pick up the $11 million or so remaining on his contract through 2017.

When the Boston Red Sox acquired Miley from the Arizona Diamondbacks in December 2014, they gave up three players. Last offseason, Miley was involved in a four-player deal with Seattle, and he was the marquee player in that transaction.

So it's possible Duquette worked his magic again and acquired a buy-low candidate from the Mariners (see Trumbo, Mark, December 2015).

What's even more intriguing about this deal is it wasn't just a rental opportunity. Miley is signed through 2017 and has a $12 million club option for 2018 (with a $500,000 buyout).

That's key because the Orioles, like most clubs, are continually seeking starting pitching. And the upcoming free-agent class is littered with question marks. Philadelphia's Jeremy Hellickson is potentially the best on the market, and he could be saddled with a qualifying offer. The best of the unrestricted 2017 free agents may be former Oriole Rich Hill and Cashner -- not exactly an inspiring class.

So Duquette has gotten ahead of that curve in a sense, especially if Miley is energized by a pennant race. He hasn't been in one since his rookie year five seasons ago.

"I was a part of it in 2011 in Arizona and just the way, in that August and September, we were making that playoff push and that excitement that you get. The playoffs are like a whole new season," Miley said. "So, obviously, I would love to get back and do that, and then actually be a part of the playoffs and get to pitch in the playoffs, in meaningful games like that."

His first start for the Orioles Aug. 4 was adequate, but not special. He gave up four runs in five innings, but he was pitching solidly before some bad luck and some uncharacteristically shaky Orioles defense hampered him in the fifth inning.

Afterward, he said his jitters were gone. And now, he said, he's ready to help this team in the next two months.

Miley's not an ace. He's not a superstar. He's an improvement to the rotation, but not significantly so. He's not really what the Orioles wanted most.

But he might just be what they need to get to their third postseason in five years.

Issue 224: August 2016