If the idea of Joe Saunders on the Orioles makes you sick, you may want to stop reading this post. If you think Joe Saunders is probably better than Tommy Hunter, you may keep reading this post. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
Would you like a Joe Saunders? Yes? He has a bit of mileage, and he's past the free-maintenance warranty, but he's a starting pitcher who hasn't completely crapped the bed this year and the Orioles are a team who needs a starting pitcher who won't do that heading down the stretch. OK, but you better really like Saunders, because the O's have traded Matt Lindstrom to get him.
This comes as a surprise to me and it is probably a surprise to you as well. Saunders was a name linked to the O's for a while, and assorted joking, "I wonder what six weeks of Joe Saunders costs?" comments have been met with the names of various utility infielders. My most recent guess was Blake Davis. Instead, it's Lindstrom, who came over to the O's in the Guthrie trade and has been a nice part of the bullpen for the season, with a 2.72 ERA in the 36.1 innings he's pitched.
The bullpen is a place where the Orioles have some surplus. With Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop and even Darren O'Day turning in great seasons, the back end is pretty well locked down. Trade the seemingly least-needed piece of the 'pen for something you do need - a starter - and that's probably about what you want to do.
Is Saunders worth the price? Now that is the more interesting question. In an 8-year big league career he has thrown over a thousand innings, including 200+ innings in each of the last two years. His career ERA is 4.17 and out in the desert in Arizona this year he pitched to a 4.22 ERA. His numbers aren't going to blow anyone's socks off, but that's not what the Orioles need - they need an improvement over Tommy Hunter, and that's what they should get. Saunders is more of a contact guy than a strikeout guy, and he's allowed 17 home runs so far this year, a HR/9 rate of 1.18 that's in line with his career 1.14.
None of which means that Saunders will do great in his next start. He could get lit up. There is something inherently bizarre and risky about stacking a starting rotation for Camden Yards that is full of fly ball pitchers. On the other hand, Dan Duquette seems to believe in the philosophy espoused by the 1996 Kelsey Grammar classic, Down Periscope: "I think we prefer to go with the bizarre and risky. Worked for us so far."
Jake Arrieta is taking Lindstrom's roster spot for today and he will be available in the bullpen. Whether he will remain on the roster beyond the day is another question, but he can be easily optioned back to Norfolk.
The O's are also receiving some "cash considerations" (amount not yet known) from the Diamondbacks and will be sending the Diamondbacks a PTBNL, probably after the season has concluded.