Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun cites an industry source who says the Orioles are "going hard" after Zach Greinke. What are the chances a fire is causing all of this smoke? (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Dan Connolly of The Sun posted a story this afternoon in which "an executive with another big-league club" was cited as saying that the Orioles are "going hard" after Zach Greinke. Wait, what?
You may have also seen this headline and had a momentary freak-out. You may have freaked out for more than a moment, which is okay, because if there's ever going to be anything to freak out about it's the idea of the Orioles dealing prospects for a half-season rental of one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past few years.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) the very next paragraph throws cold water on the whole concept by reminding us that "talks are preliminary" and that the Orioles won't be the only team calling about Greinke. So some industry source claiming the Orioles are presently the most aggressive suitor isn't really worth a hill of beans. There will be a lot of suitors and most probably have better farm systems than the Orioles.
Worth noting from Connolly's article is that the pitching coach of the Milwaukee Brewers, where Greinke is currently, is none other than Rick Kranitz, who has some familiarity with players like Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton. Their stars have been tarnished of late, but may have some value to the Brewers if Kranitz believes he can turn things back around. I still find myself skeptical of this idea, because it seems like one of those things that the media writes about because they need to fill some column inches and it's probably never going to matter in the real world.
That the Orioles need starting pitching, none of us can doubt. Certainly, the Orioles don't doubt it, since they've demoted Tommy Hunter, Matusz and Arrieta over the past seven days. Whether it's worth getting worked up about the Orioles acquiring someone at the top of the market is another story.
Another article written today, this one by MASN's Steve Melewski, quotes Dan Duquette as saying, "The future is always now, when you are trying to win." On the other hand, Duquette also told Melewski when asked about Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado - two of the top ten prospects in all of baseball by most of the mid-season rankings being published - that "they look to be long-term solutions for the Orioles."
You can throw just about any other player in the Orioles system at a wall and some of them might stick and a team might say, "Sure, I'd like that guy," but whether those other names will be enough to beat the offers of other teams, well, I am pretty skeptical of that.
Dan Duquette has been upgrading on the margins throughout his time in Baltimore. One thing you can say about the Orioles rotation is that it's been so bad that you don't need to plug in a star to upgrade it. A 4.00 ERA innings eater-type - if they could actually manage a 4.00 ERA and eat innings in Baltimore - would still be a heck of a lot better than some of what we've seen recently.
Even that said, if you look at the list of starting pitchers in the 3.70-4.30 ERA range, what you see is a lot of guys who probably either aren't available or I'd rather not see on the Orioles at the price being asked. For instance, Matt Garza is being talked about as one of the marquee guys on the market. This year he has a 4.32 ERA - in the National League - while averaging fewer than 6 IP. That's not gonna cut the mustard for eating innings, especially since he'll be facing better lineups in the AL.
Another name running down that list is Bartolo Colon, who's managing around a 4.00 ERA in the cavernous O.co
Mausoleum Colosseum and averaging just under 6 IP as well. I just don't see where it'd be worth getting into a bidding war to acquire the likes of these guys.
Then again, what do I know? One of the pitchers who's on that list - not as a trade target, just as a guy in the right range of ERA who's eating innings - is Edwin Jackson, who I expected would not be worth the contract he was seeking and argued against the Orioles signing over the offseason. Jackson has a 3.73 ERA this season and is averaging about 6.1 IP/GS. Maybe he would look good in orange after all - although the NL is not the AL East. And as we all know, there was no way it seemed over the offseason that the Orioles would be contending soon enough that it'd be worth a big expenditure on a guy like Jackson.
Indeed, as I was in the process of writing this article, the smoke to these rumors grew a bit more. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick posted a couple of tweets indicating he is hearing the same rumors as Connolly, and he specifically mentions Brian Matusz as a potential change-of-scenery trade chip.
I still don't see it happening, but it would be neither the first time nor the last time that I would be absolutely, completely and totally wrong about something involving the Orioles. My standard advice is to prepare to panic or celebrate as you deem appropriate, but also prepare for absolutely nothing to happen, because nothing is usually what happens.