Want starting pitching? Orioles need to look at a potential contract swap with the Giants - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Want starting pitching? Orioles need to look at a potential contract swap with the Giants

Earlier this week, the Chicago Tribune ran a piece about Cubs outfielder Jayson Heyward’s bloated contract and suggested that the San Francisco Giants might be a good trade partner.

The thought is that the Cubs will need pitching in 2018, the Giants have some expensive, underperforming starters and need offensive firepower.

To that I say, hold the phone, Giants’ GM Bobby Evans.

Dan Duquette should be on Line 2.

Duquette should be kicking the tires of Giants’ right-hander Jeff Samardzija and lefty Matt Moore with steel-toed boots.

The Orioles need major help in their rotation. They must add at least two, and ideally, three starting pitchers. As we know, the free agent market is somewhat thin and is going to be expensive and competitive.

And you all know my skepticism, based on past precedent and the reputed bandbox known as Camden Yards, that the Orioles will be able to attract quality pitching via free agency without a severe overpay.

Trades, though, are different.

The players involved have little choice unless they have no-trade clauses in their contracts (and some in this suggested transaction have no-trade clauses that would prevent them from being dealt to undisclosed teams).

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The Orioles have gone the trade route in the past to obtain pitching under Duquette, the club’s executive vice president. And the likelihood is strong he’ll try that avenue again.

But instead of dealing away young players – pitchers, in particular – what makes the most sense is for Duquette to find a team that is dealing with an underperforming contract in the rotation and is willing to swap it for one of the Orioles’ underperforming, well-paid hitters.

First baseman Chris Davis is the Orioles’ closest version to the Cubs’ Heyward. Davis has five years remaining on a seven-year, $161 million deal he signed in January 2016; Heyward has six years remaining on an eight-year, $184 million deal he agreed to in December 2016.

Heyward has a full-no trade clause, making his deal even more of an albatross than the Davis contract, which includes a partial no-trade provision.

Frankly, acquiring Davis or Heyward would be a tough sell for other clubs unless major money is thrown in. The Orioles and Cubs are likely are stuck with the untenable deals and must hope that Davis and Heyward can return to form despite disappointing performances the past two years.

But the Orioles have a mini-version of Davis that should be — at least somewhat — intriguing to the Giants: outfielder/DH Mark Trumbo.

Yes, I know the National League doesn’t employ a designated hitter.

But Trumbo is more than that. He’s a solid first baseman – just not as good defensively as Davis – and he can play the corner outfield if necessary.

And though the 31-year-old Trumbo had a thoroughly disappointing season in 2017, his 23 homers and 146 games played would have led the 2017 Giants, which had no player hit more than 18 homers or play more than 144 games this past season.

Trumbo has roughly $26 million and two years remaining on the three-year, $37.5 million deal he signed in January. That’s certainly not a bargain, but it’s not prohibitive, either. He also has a limited no-trade clause (allowing him to block deals to seven undisclosed clubs).

The Giants’ regular first baseman, Brandon Belt, can play the corner outfield as well, so some positional flexibility is available. And if the Giants are truly seeking power, well, Trumbo is one year removed from leading the AL with 47 longballs.

The Orioles can afford to jettison Trumbo because they have plenty of power – and manager Buck Showalter would love to use the designated hitter role as a floating rest stop, and not have it bogged down by one player (plus, Trumbo hits better when he’s also playing in the field).

Samardzija, 32, was pretty awful last year; he was 9-15 with a 4.42 ERA while pitching his home games in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. But he threw a league-high 207 2/3 innings, walked only 32 and struck out 205. Having someone who can hit spots and miss bats would be welcomed in the Orioles’ rotation, though his 30 homers surrendered in the NL is an ugly harbinger.

Also ugly: He’s owed $18 million each of the next three seasons (part of a five-year, $90 million deal) and has a limited trade clause.

Samardzija’s not an ideal fit, but he should be a legitimate consideration. Yes, he’s got a huge contract, but minus Trumbo’s salary from the payroll when you add Samardzija’s and it doesn’t seem too outlandish.

Moore, the 28-year-old lefty and former Tampa Bay Ray, was even worse for the Giants last year. He was 6-15 with a 5.52 ERA in 32 games (31 starts).

He’s had success before in the AL East, is young enough and far enough removed from Tommy John surgery that there still is some potential upside. The problem is his contract, signed when he was with the Rays, is fairly reasonable. The Giants have already picked up his $9 million option for 2018 and the club also has a $10 million option for 2019.

If the Giants were to deal Moore, it would likely take more than just Trumbo. Heck, so might any Samardzija deal.

But given the Giants’ rotation strength and need for power, you’d think Moore and (especially) Samardzija would be available in the right deal.

Maybe the Orioles can’t offer the right deal – but they sure should take a shot.

Let’s face it: Their options are limited and their rotation problems are significant.

So, stay on hold Duquette. Don’t hang up. Make a deal if the Giants are listening.

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