Yankees make a point about bullpens, but O's don't have much else to deal for rotation help - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Yankees make a point about bullpens, but O’s don’t have much else to deal for rotation help

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

I’ve covered postseason baseball for years, and I’ve always had friends tell me they’ll watch some of the playoffs, but the games drag on and they have to go to sleep. I’d nod and think, ‘Suck it up, buttercup. The games don’t go that late.’

I get it now. I tuned out of Tuesday’s American League Wild Card game in the seventh, at about 11 p.m., with the New York Yankees leading the Minnesota Twins by three runs. They won by four, and the game officially ended at 11:51 p.m., ET.

It lasted three hours and 51 minutes, which is a long, nine-inning game, but that’s to be expected for playoff baseball, which often features lots of pitching changes (11 pitchers threw for the Twins and Yankees on Tuesday).

My first thought is what it is every year around this time: Start the games earlier. I know that is kowtowing to us East Coast types, and I don’t care. We have a generation growing up that isn’t baseball fans, and we need to give it postseason memories. Start the games at 7 p.m. – the West Coast kids can come home from school and watch.

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My second thought after seeing – most of – the wild card game Tuesday night: Dan Duquette has a point.

Toward the end of the season, Duquette, the Orioles’ executive vice president, and I talked at length about what he needs to do to improve the team’s rotation for 2018.

Although there is a contingent that believes the Orioles should scrap this team and rebuild, that’s not going to happen, at least not by dealing off top talent for youngsters before next season. Duquette made that clear.

And since I don’t expect this club to change philosophy and spend top dollar on ace types in free agency – and there really are only two, Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish – Duquette’s options are limited.

He’s hoping the farm system can provide some help, but its crop of rotation arms at the top level of the minors is thin (or non-existent) right now. Help isn’t coming for the rotation from down below in the first part of 2018, at least not in a form you haven’t seen before (Miguel Castro, Gabriel Ynoa, Alec Asher, et cetera).

It’s obvious that the trade market is the way to go for the Orioles – and maybe any team at this point. Consider that the Cleveland Indians had the best rotation ERA in the AL this year. They had five pitchers make at least 20 starts in 2017; four of those were acquired via trade. The only one that wasn’t was Josh Tomlin, and he had the worst ERA of that group.

The 2017 Orioles, boasters of the worst starters’ ERA (5.70) in the majors in the past five seasons, had six pitchers make at least 10 starts this season: Three came via trade, two were homegrown and one was a free agent.

Trading for rotation help is pretty standard these days, but it’s harder than it seems.

The Orioles don’t have a top-heavy farm system that could be tapped in exchange for an ace – the way the Boston Red Sox landed Chris Sale last winter.

Their trade pieces are limited.

The Orioles would certainly ship away Mark Trumbo for a starting pitcher, but it would likely be for a pitching version of Trumbo – someone with a hefty contract that failed to meet expectations in 2017. And any team that would trade for Trumbo would either have to be an AL squad with an open designated hitter slot or a NL team convinced Trumbo can play outfield or first base.

So that one gets complicated. The same with dealing Chris Davis. That contract is likely unmovable.

There’s the Manny Machado avenue – the superstar third baseman certainly would fetch a couple quality arms in return. But Duquette has already said he wants to try and sign Machado to an extension before he’s a free agent after the 2018 season. And, since we know this team isn’t rebuilding for next year, I don’t see Machado being used as bait to fortify the upcoming rotation.

To me, that leaves only one legitimate path for a trade involving a rotation boost: Dealing one of the club’s top bullpen arms, closer Zach Britton or set-up man Brad Brach. They are both free agents after 2018, and though neither was as good as he was in 2016, trust me, either would bring a strong return in a trade.

But when I asked Duquette about that possibility recently, he said he would “probably not” deal either, and then he made a point to say he does not feel the Orioles have “a surplus” of bullpen arms. He supported his claim by using the Yankees and Red Sox bullpens as examples.

“I’m not sure it’s surplus, OK?” Duquette said. “You see these teams that come in here that we just played. The one from New York and the one from Boston. You think we have surplus?”

The Yankees made Duquette’s point Tuesday night. After starter Luis Severino could only get one out, manager Joe Girardi brought in four relievers who combined to give up one run on five hits and three walks while striking out 13 Twins in 8 2/3 innings.

The Yankees’ bullpen got the team to the next round of the playoffs. Simple as that. That wasn’t surplus talent; that was essential for survival.

So, yeah, Duquette’s right. Maybe having Brach and Britton – and Darren O’Day and Mychal Givens – isn’t a surplus. It’s what you have to have in your bullpen to compete in the big leagues.

But you also need quality starting pitching. And I don’t see how the Orioles get that without making a fairly significant trade or two – and Brach and Britton are still the Orioles’ best veteran trade chips not named Machado.

50 Comments

50 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 5, 2017 at 7:37 am

    Maybe I’m in the minority around here, but I wouldn’t give you one good starting pitcher for BOTH Brach & Britton. If we could find someone that would, I’d go for it in a heartbeat. I think both Britton & Brach have seen their career years already.

    If I’m Dan Duquette, I’m diving deep into a few more dumpsters and hoping to get lucky. Maybe scrounge the Pacific Rim for an arm one more time. As much as it would hurt, trading Machado would be an option … but only for an ace. The only other player(s) I’d be willing to trade out of the current lineup, that could possibly bring anything in return, are Davis & Trumbo. But then again, like you said Dan, those contracts aren’t likely going anywhere. Looks like we’re in the proverbial pickle.

    We’ve got a more-than-solid lineup, but the window is closing fast. It’s World Series or bust in ’18. Damn the torpedoes, Dive Deep Dan … Dive!!!

    • Dan Connolly

      October 5, 2017 at 11:34 am

      Trust me. No matter what fans may think, teams have major interest in Brach and Britton. Frankly, relief pitching is often cyclical. Hard to be good 2 years in a row. Assuming Britton’s medicals check out — and they should — someone would pay for him. Not as much as last winter. Or maybe this summer. But you could get starting pitching types for him. And Brach too. At least that’s what some within the game have told me.

  2. 54orioles

    October 5, 2017 at 8:06 am

    The crux of the problem for the O’s can be directly linked to not having the courage to let Davis walk

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 5, 2017 at 8:49 am

      10-4 that …. his contract will haunt us for HOW many more years? If I were Buck, my number one offseason priority would be to teach that man to bunt.

      • Dpsmith22

        October 9, 2017 at 11:14 am

        The Trumbo contract was in the same ballpark. 13-14mil is the cost of a #3 starter. With that starter, instead of Trumbo, we have far better shot.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 5, 2017 at 11:36 am

      If Davis had walked the Orioles still weren’t paying major money for free agent starters. It’s not normally a smart investment. And pitching is the problem. Not Davis. That money wasn’t in the budget. It was created specifically for Davis. So I disagree here.

    • 54orioles

      October 5, 2017 at 4:23 pm

      Dan – maybe you’re right about Davis but I still believe the decision to sign him reflects poor judgement that most likely rears its ugly head other places (sorry for Angelo ugly)

  3. Osfan73

    October 5, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Well then what are the Os to do?? DD doesn’t want to trade any bullpen, Machado and anyone out the lineup seems just too difficult to do. If you can’t do something to help this rotation, we’ll essentially be looking at the same type of year. Look, you deal from your strengths wich in this case are all the Os hitters and bullpen. I don’t care what DD thinks a surplus is or isn’t to him, but that’s one area he almost has to dip into to fix this mess of a rotation, the bullpen if only one guy. We all know he’ll dumpster dive. He’s the champion of that.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 5, 2017 at 11:37 am

      Preaching to the choir on this one.

    • Ben1

      October 5, 2017 at 6:53 pm

      Champion? You make me laugh so hard.

    • Dpsmith22

      October 9, 2017 at 11:17 am

      Dumpster diving will not make this team a contender. He as already proven that.

      They need to be aggressive in the market and overpay for a guy like Cobb and hope someone (Castro?) steps up.

      We have these issues because of a plethora of poor free agent signings and trades/sales of potential starters.

  4. Mau

    October 5, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Manny will be a Marlin. Manny wants to come home. Duquette wants to be a Canadian. He wants to go home. Maybe he wants to make sure the O’s get no value for Manny and that he goes to the National League.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 5, 2017 at 11:37 am

      If Duquette went home, he’d go to Boston again.

    • Jbiglen48

      October 5, 2017 at 12:57 pm

      Have you seen the marlins financial situation? Unless Manny wants to play for pennies he isn’t going to Miami. That’s quite the conspiracy theory you’ve put together though.

      • Mau

        October 5, 2017 at 1:11 pm

        Heard it from his cousin, not the Duquette part.

    • Ben1

      October 5, 2017 at 6:54 pm

      But Boston is too smart to hire him again only to fire him again.

    • OsFanStuckInNY

      October 6, 2017 at 6:42 am

      With Derek Jeter as a new part owner and director of baseball operations in Miami, I wouldn’t discount the Marlins just yet — especially if part of the package is part ownership in the team. “Mr. Miami” may yet become a reality.

  5. TxBirdFan

    October 5, 2017 at 8:50 am

    We wouldn’t need 3-5 good relievers if we had good starters, so isn’t the answer obvious? If you need better starters, and you aren’t going to trade Schoop, Machado, Mancini or Jones, then you have to deal some of your good relievers, especially if nobody wants Trumbo or Davis. I don’t see another path – unfortunately there is no inheritance or lotto in baseball – so DD needs a better plan than he’s been sharing. My fear is he’ll either stand pat or get back little when trading all stars.

    By the way – was anyone else surprised to see Girardi pull his starter after giving up just 3 runs in the first? That move actually won the game for the the Yanks. I don’t know if Buck would have done that until we were 5-6 runs in the hole.

    • Paul Folkemer

      October 5, 2017 at 9:22 am

      Very gutsy move by Girardi to pull Severino, and you’re right, that helped win the game. Some other managers probably should’ve taken a page from Girardi’s book and pulled their starters earlier. I thought Molitor stuck with Santana too long. Ditto Bud Black and Jon Gray. In a sudden-death game, all bets should be off — if your starter is struggling, pull him as soon as you need to, especially when you’ve got 9-10 guys in the bullpen.

      • Jbiglen48

        October 5, 2017 at 1:03 pm

        It’s hard to say Ervin Santana was in there too long considering Minnesota’s alternatives. Much easier for Girardi to make the call with an elite bullpen. They had a nice run but that team doesn’t have the pitching to go anywhere yet. No bullpen and an average rotation at best. Unfortunately It wouldn’t surprise me if the orioles rotation isn’t any better than the twins this time next year.

        • Paul Folkemer

          October 5, 2017 at 1:13 pm

          Very good point. The Twins and Rockies don’t have the great Yankees bullpen that Dan mentioned. So that tied their managers’ hands a little bit. But I still think they could’ve cobbled together 8-9 innings out of some combination of extra starting pitchers and relievers.

          Look what the D’Backs did by bringing in Robbie Ray after Greinke fell apart. Sure, now they don’t have Ray available to start Game 1 of the NLDS, but if they hadn’t used him in the wild card game, they might not have even gotten to the NLDS at all.

          Anyway, I agree with you overall. The Orioles need more pitching depth before they can hope to survive in the playoffs, much less make it there.

          • Jbiglen48

            October 5, 2017 at 1:27 pm

            It’s difficult in a one game series. Have to throw everything you have out there but the twins really do have so little. I’d argue that the only other viable pitcher in their rotation is Kyle Gibson. He has had plenty of struggles himself but turned it on late in the season. Hard to say if berrios would’ve been more effective if he came in earlier. To me, the Twins were overwhelmingly overmatched in pitching. If they didn’t get a gem it was going to be a tough game for them to pull out.

    • Jbiglen48

      October 5, 2017 at 1:14 pm

      You always need 3 good relievers. There’s a reason why they are hot commodities around the trade deadline. I’d argue that we really only have 4 very good relievers. Castro doesn’t excite me like he does some fans and the orioles organization. Have little faith in him as a starter if he doesn’t develop a major league caliber 3rd pitch. And honestly I think he is an alright reliever but I wouldn’t want him as a top set up man. Bleier is another guy who has gotten good results but I’m very skeptical as anything but a middle reliever/lefty specialist.

  6. Marshall

    October 5, 2017 at 8:56 am

    I’ll chime in on the time thing. I think it’s ridiculous there isn’t an earlier start time when the playoffs occur.

    Kids aren’t staying up for that at all, especially on school nights. Most 9-5 adults won’t. Most gov’t & military I know don’t.

    So the target audience is who?

    • Dan Connolly

      October 5, 2017 at 11:41 am

      The advertisers who get more run in prime time.

  7. jonniebmore

    October 5, 2017 at 8:58 am

    The problem, as I see it, is this attitude of “we’re going for it.” What a joke. A team “goes for it” when they are one player away so they drop a ton of money on the hot shot free agent or make the trade by giving up the prized prospect. The O’s have so many holes there is no way they can “go for it”. Get real Duquette. You have no choice but to trade Machado and probably Britton/Brach too. Hopefully that will get you two young real starting pitcher prospects (and hopefully a future third baseman). The dollars you save not paying Machado & Britton/Brach could go to a veteran free agent to lead the staff, like Sabathia. Then go get a third baseman free agent like Jed Lowrie to fill in until the said third base prospect is ready, and grab a nice lefty outfielder like John Jay who could lead off and play great D. I think this would result in a much more competitive team.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 5, 2017 at 11:43 am

      That would make the team more competitive. I do disagree however that they aren’t a player or two away. Two top starters make this team a serious contender. The problem is it’s damn near impossible to get those 2 based on what you have to give and or team philosophy.

    • Dpsmith22

      October 9, 2017 at 11:21 am

      Duquette is gone after this season. He isn’t going to trade those players UNTIL we are out of it again.

      Duquette has made this mess with a high payroll and an average team.

      Can’t take much money on and have no one to trade = Another long losing streak. Thanks Dan.

  8. Bancells Moustache

    October 5, 2017 at 9:25 am

    I’ve been saying this for years Dan, MLB is knee-capping itself by starting games so late. Baseball’s greatest strength in terms of drawing power has always been youth. Always. I would venture to guess that at minimum 95% of baseball fans got into the game between the ages of 3 and 9. Whereas fans routinely become NFL fans at a more advanced age, MLB gets ’em while they’re young. So it just seems absolutely insane for them to start their showcase event when the audience they need to reach is getting ready for bed, and will be long asleep when the late game heroics happen. Say what you will, but baseball’s descent from the dominant national sport to where it is now began in the late 60’s-early 70’s, just when television began dictating the schedule It’s taking the short view, kowtowing to their television overlords and the almighty dollar, while continuing to bleed fans in the long run. Manfred is the guy under whose direction the Little League Classic game transpired (note: every baseball Commissioner in the Hall of Fame should have their plaques removed for not coming up with that no-brainer idea 50 years ago) so maybe MLB is starting to get it, but I doubt it. Major League Baseball’s biggest weakness is that they absolutely suck at marketing their product.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 5, 2017 at 10:06 am

      I’ll second BanMo on this one. Case in point:

      I remember watching the 1970 World Series from my desk in the 6th grade while waiting for the school buses to arrive to take us home. Then after running in the front door, watching Brooksie snag a liner from Lee May down the 3rd base line. The Sun was far from setting … and yet the stadium’s stands were full and there I was watching it on TV well before dinner time. I was hooked on this great game for the rest of my life. I guess it’s truly an old man’s game these days.

      Unfortunately Mr. BanMo is spot on. Budweiser & General Motors pay the bills.

      PS … Millenials …. soccer sucks.

      • Jbiglen48

        October 5, 2017 at 1:19 pm

        Very much a millennial. Agree with you here. Soccer is complete garbage; I can’t stand it. Another note, I don’t have much hope for things such as a pitching clock or any other of these proposed changes will really draw more people into the game. I believe it’s just the nature of the game that’s drawing people away. It isn’t a fast paced, high impact sport like the ones that are popular today. I’m a relatively young baseball fan and that will never change but I’m not optimistic about drawing in a whole new base. Hope I’m wrong.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 5, 2017 at 11:45 am

      I don’t have much to add here.

  9. Birdman

    October 5, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Does not sound like there is any coherent strategy to make the team better, either short term or long term … looks like Duquette will simply try to cobble something together for 2018 and hope everything breaks the Orioles’ way (i.e., Gausman is actually effective for an entire season, Castro becomes a solid starter, Davis and Trumbo hit 40 homers again, etc.)

    • Dan Connolly

      October 5, 2017 at 11:46 am

      Unless there are bold moves in the offing, I totally agree this seems to be the plan.

    • Dpsmith22

      October 9, 2017 at 11:25 am

      I agree. Duquette has never shown to have a plan.

      Example, traded for Miller. let him walk claiming he would NEVER pay that kind of money to a reliever. Next season, he over pays for O’Day, roughly same contract.

      Duquette has been VERY slow to make moves, forcing him to be reactive, and collecting junk.

      Example: 2015 was OVER and he traded for Parra. Had he made a move earlier, 2015 could have turned out better. EVERYONE knew the outfield was atrocious, but Dan held pat until the last second. 2015 was over. He gave Davies away.

  10. GSISDANNO

    October 5, 2017 at 10:11 am

    If the Orioles could find a team that needs power, they should move Trumbo as soon as they can. We don’t need a .235 hitter who will never approach 47 home runs again. Plus, he doesn’t have a position. With Mancini and Hayes, I think we have our corner OFs for the next few years. Offensively, I think team is good enough as long as they start drawing more walks. But the pitching is brutal. In the 1960s and 1970s, this organization had an abundance of young pitchers that they developed, Barber, Pappas, Estrada, Palmer, Phoebus, McNally, Hardin, Garland and all. That pipeline ended in the 1980s. That coincides with the last time the Orioles won the world series. The farm system needs to develop more pitchers. Until then, the Orioles are going to be a 78-88 win team that makes the playoffs once in a while.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 5, 2017 at 11:48 am

      You know GS, I totally get it. But I do think the “develop more pitchers” thing is a tad overblown. Growing your own is the cheapest way. And a great way. But there are other ways. The Indians had the best rotation ERA in the AL this year and four of the five guys who made the most starts came via trade. The only one of those 5 that was homegrown was Tomlin, the worst of the bunch.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 5, 2017 at 12:29 pm

        Dan, I’d love to know when and how far along in their careers these 4 guys you’re referring to?

    • Jbiglen48

      October 5, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      Hays ought to be a starting OF. For us for a long time but for 2018 I’d like to have an alternative option. He’s very young and you saw his struggles when he came up this year. He wasn’t an asset to our team this year and we certainly need a positive out in right field if we are going to win next season. I have faith he will be a contributor but I’m not sure that time is now.

      • Dpsmith22

        October 9, 2017 at 11:28 am

        I believe Hays needs more time.

        However, Jones was banged up again at the end of the season because Duquette AGAIN (3 year running) didn’t surround him with actual outfielders.

        I guess after 3 years if you don’t see it, you aren’t going to.

        After all, outfield and pitching is what was lacking when Duquette came. What is lacking now? Same thing.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 5, 2017 at 5:21 pm

      Three hadn’t even thrown a big league pitch when they were first dealt if Im not mistaken.

  11. Steve Cockey

    October 5, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Here’s a trade proposal that’s crossed my mind: Trumbo for Ian Kennedy.

    The O’s take on $22.5M in the deal, making it attractive for KC. Plus, the Royals had the 2nd-worst DH production this year and could be losing Hosmer at 1B to free agency. Trumbo gives them an option at both spots.

    The O’s get a SP body who’s had some success in the past, as well as a bit of AL East experience. With Trumbo’s spot in the lineup cleared, the club can add a more versatile offensive player in his place, perhaps even moving Mancini to DH and upgrading the OF defense/speed at the same time.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 5, 2017 at 5:23 pm

      I don’t know if it is Kennedy. I don’t know who all is in this situation. But that’s the kind of thing that could happen. Maybe needs to happen.

  12. sjm5131

    October 5, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    For a time, a lock down bullpen was the new moneyball. It was the asset that elevated the recent unheralded Orioles teams to the playoffs, and it’s what made Kansas City champions.

    Teams like the Yankees, Cubs and Red Sox have taken notice and driven the price for elite relievers way up, and it’s now basically a given that the big market teams will try to assemble multiple shutdown late inning arms.

    The Orioles aren’t going to win a relief arms race with big market teams, so I agree in theory with the logic in trading away relievers, just not sure it will work in practice.

    The market for relief pitching was sky high last winter and at the 2016 deadline, but given that Duquette couldn’t find an acceptable return for Britton or Brach this past deadline, it makes one wonder if the market for relief pitching (at least in trades) has peaked. Teams may theoretically want our bullpen pitchers, but who out there is willing and able to pay the premium to make it worth it for the Orioles?

    If the bullpens are key protagonists in the playoffs again this year – and if the Wild Card games are any indication, they will be – then maybe a team will be desperate enough to acquire a Britton or Brach to give the Orioles the pitching prospects we so desperately need.

    That said, how many teams are willing to trade a solid starting pitcher who will throw 200 innings for a reliever that won’t give them even half of that? I would think we’d still have to accept relatively unproven pitchers in return.

  13. bv22

    October 5, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    In regards to the start time of playoff games, they totally need to start earlier. I’m a lifelong fan of the sport and will watch any teams play, but I can’t stay up that late and function the next day. The only way I’d do it is if the O’s are in the playoff game. I think another problem is that playoff baseball is super long. I remember realizing that in 2014 when I was at the games and it was like 4 hours each time. A lot of time in between innings, it was just dead time (which really was commercial time on TBS). MLB needs to cut back on the commercials during the playoffs to make them a reasonable length, in addition to starting them earlier. They’re totally losing a generation of fans by starting the games so late.

    As for what the O’s need to do, they totally need to trade Brach and/or Britton. They have O’Day, Givens, and Castro in the bullpen so losing one of those guys isn’t the end of the world; losing both would be worth it for a starting pitcher though. I wonder if the O’s have considered outside the box ideas such as scouring the league and world for long relief pitchers who can come in and keep the game close for 1-5 innings? Maybe doing so allows them to hold onto Miley or Tillman with the expectation that those guys only go 4 innings, then bring in the long relief to bridge to the bullpen? Vance Worley had that role and it was beneficial then and would be helpful now. Another idea is how about moving back the fences and increasing the foul territory on each side of the diamond? Doing so would help create more easy outs and maybe allow the pitchers to go deeper in the game? Maybe games become lower scoring, and maybe, just maybe, it’ll teach our lineup how to hit in bigger parks so we aren’t overmatched on the road in the ballparks of the AL Central and AL West.

  14. Ben1

    October 5, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Everything and everyone should be on the table dor a GM and owner committed to winning period. What strategy have we seen in 5 years? Same ol same ol … look for bashers (and put up their strikeouts) to take advantage of OPACY) and try to win games 8 to 7 every night because the fans love Homers.
    I think Os fans like winning more than HRs. The bash the ball strategy hasnt worked so how about the old Os way … PITCHING and defense?

    • Dpsmith22

      October 9, 2017 at 11:31 am

      1 time in MLB HISTORY has the team with the most homers, during the season, won the world series. Don’t expect to see it again.

      It takes balance and pitching.

  15. OsFanStuckInNY

    October 6, 2017 at 6:38 am

    Here’s the answer: hire Jim
    Brady’s guy who deflates the balls…

  16. OsFanStuckInNY

    October 6, 2017 at 6:50 am

    Hey, we had to smuggle transistor radios and ear phones into school to listen to the World Series when I was a kid — now *those* are great memories!
    Of my 3 sons, one follows baseball. Of my 8 grandsons and 1 granddaughter, 1 follows baseball.
    (Both are oldest sons.)

    Post season games should start no later than 7:10 EST. No one on the Left Coast will care enough to make a difference, right?

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