Dan Duquette does this type of thing. We’ve seen it for years.
The Orioles executive vice president searches high and low for undervalued assets, guys he can pick up cheaply that might be able to serve a bigger purpose for his team than they did for someone else.
Some fans criticize it as baseball’s version of Dumpster diving. Sometimes that’s fair. Sometimes Duquette skirts the trash in the bin and strikes paydirt.
This is how he operates. So that’s why August is a perfect time for Duquette to unearth discarded treasure. The players that are available to acquire after the non-waiver trade deadline are usually fringy pieces. They either have bloated contracts or limited skill sets.
Otherwise, teams would have blocked trades by claiming potential difference-makers on revocable waivers. If those players get claimed once, they almost always remain with their current club.
So that’s why you didn’t see any moderately interesting starting pitchers change hands after this year’s Aug. 1 deadline.
We all know that the Orioles’ primary weakness is a lack of quality and consistent starting pitching – but that’s a weakness for most every team. And, in August, that inventory isn’t readily available, as Duquette would say.
Certainly not pitching of a quality that would be a true upgrade over the collection of back-end starters the Orioles currently have. (Surely, some of you will beat the drum that Duquette should have paid for better pitching in the offseason or in July, so that the club isn’t in this predicament now, and that’s true. But, to be fair, the pickings were slim and the significant upgrades demanded astronomical price tags that often become hindrances down the road).
So, aside from non-existent rotation help, these Orioles also needed a competent left-handed reliever and some outfield depth.
Technically, Duquette found both Wednesday, trading for lefty reliever Kyle Lobstein and veteran outfielder Michael Bourn in separate deals, and claiming veteran outfielder Drew Stubbs off waivers from the Texas Rangers.
These are scrap heap guys who could fill holes – Stubbs and Bourn were once upper-tier players who are on the downside of their careers and Lobstein hasn’t been able to consistently stick in the majors. Really, no major risk was taken.
Still, Duquette’s transaction flurry turned counterproductive at some point Wednesday.
Getting Lobstein, who has allowed just two hits to lefties in 24 at-bats for the Pirates, in exchange for minor league lefty Zach Phillips seemed sensible.
Hours later, though, Lobstein was designated for assignment to make room for the claimed Stubbs. And then Duquette added another speedy fourth outfielder with strong defense in Bourn.
Unless there is something majorly wrong with Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, which the hobbled Jones (hamstring) and the team deny, getting Stubbs and Bourn appears to be overkill.
Especially since it meant that Lobstein may go elsewhere. It’s possible Lobstein and lefty Ashur Tolliver, who was taken off the 40-man roster to make room for Lobstein, will clear waivers and remain in the organization. Then, it’s no harm, no foul.
But if Lobstein doesn’t clear waivers, I’m not on board with Duquette’s last stand Wednesday.
Because of all the minor additions the Orioles needed, the one I felt was most crucial was a lefty specialist that could compete for a roster spot with rookie Donnie Hart and a healthy Brian Duensing if the Orioles make the playoffs.
The cynical among you may say, after these recent stumbles on the field, that the Orioles aren’t making the playoffs anyway. That’s a fair point.
Duquette doesn’t think that way, though. And he shouldn’t. I respect that.
I just think he may have belly-flopped into the Dumpster one too many times Wednesday.