Trade edition of news, notes and opinions
Earlier this week, Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail met with owner Peter Angelos to discuss potential moves with the trade deadline now nine days away. I’m told that there is nothing imminent at this point, but the sense that I get from talking to people familiar with the Orioles’ plans is that they’ll make one or two moves before the deadline. Their two biggest trade chips – and this certainly isn't breaking any news - are starter Jeremy Guthrie and reliever Koji Uehara.
There is a lot of action on Uehara right now. The Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers are among the potential suitors that I have heard, but I’d have a hard time believing that any of the contending clubs couldn’t find a spot for the right-handed reliever. I think there is some concern industry-wide about Uehara’s durability and his age (36), and that’s understandable. However, his numbers are awfully hard to ignore. In 44 innings, he’s allowed nine earned runs (1.84 ERA), 23 hits and eight walks while striking out 58. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 13 innings and he’s surrendered just three hits and two walks while striking out 19 during that span. He’s also managed to stay off the disabled list. The Orioles are certainly listening and are willing to move him, but this isn’t a salary dump situation. They want something in return. Uehara needs to appear in 15 more games to kick in his $4 million vesting option for next season. And the Orioles would welcome having Uehara on their payroll at that number in 2012 if they can’t get a decent return for him.
As for Guthrie, I think the thought process three weeks ago was to hold onto the veteran right-hander because the Orioles needed him the rest of the way to eat innings and protect some of their young arms which are faltering badly. The club didn’t feel that Guthrie would have any more value now than he would after the season or before next year’s trade deadline, where he would almost certainly be moved because he’s in the final year of his contract. I sense that the Orioles have softened a bit on that stance and if they can get a decent return for Guthrie, they’ll send him packing. I’ve seen reported or speculated a bunch of teams connected to him, including the Rangers, Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Indians. I’m not sure how serious any of their interest is and I do think it is probably a tough sell for the general manager of a potential playoff team to tell their fans that their new addition is the Major League leader in losses. However, Guthrie has solid stuff and I’m sure there are plenty of GMs that feel that he’ll flourish in a winning environment and in a less hitter-friendly ballpark away from the American League East. But make no mistake, with their lack of pitching depth, the Orioles aren’t in a position to give away a pitcher who is on track to log more than 200 innings for a third straight year. They likely are going to have to get at least one Major League-ready starter as part of the package back for him.
I’m told there is not much going on at this point between the Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies, but I think it’s worth mentioning that two of the Phillies top evaluators have been watching the Orioles during this home stand. Gordon Lakey attended the Orioles-Cleveland Indians series, while Charlie Kerfeld took in Orioles-Boston Red Sox. I would think that Uehara would fit in nicely with the Phillies and I wouldn't rule out Guthrie there either, but that’s just my speculation.
Foxsports.com was the first to report that the Tigers have interest in both Guthrie and Uehara. I can confirm that the Orioles have had scouts watching both the Tigers’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates in recent days.
The Orioles are in no position to make anybody untouchable, but there are some guys obviously unlikely to be moved. Count Jim Johnson as part of that group. There have been several clubs to express interest in Johnson, including the Rangers, but the Orioles would probably need to get an awful lot in return to prompt them moving Johnson. It’s not impossible, but I would label it unlikely at this point. Johnson is 27 years old and the Orioles still have him under contractual control for three more seasons after this one. Assuming that Johnson does OK as a starter later this season, the Orioles will likely pencil him into next season’s rotation.
This probably goes without saying, but beyond Guthrie and Uehara, I just don’t see any other Orioles being moved before the non-waiver deadline. With their contracts and their lack of production, Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero would almost certainly clear waivers so they could be traded at some point in August. Luke Scott has all but no value right now because of his injury issues and the fact that most teams see him as a DH. Outfielder Felix Pie has had a brutal year offensively and he hasn’t defended or ran the bases well so I can’t see another team having much interest in him as a potential bench player. Left-handed relief help is always in demand, but I can’t see Michael Gonzalez attracting much attention unless the Orioles ate the rest of his contract and asked for nothing in return.