Let the trade rumors begin to fly! The first significant trade of the season has occurred, as the Baltimore Orioles acquire Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger from the Chicago Cubs for Pedro Strop, Jake Arrieta and international bonus slots.
For those who don't know what the last thing in the last sentence is, neither do I. This is the first trade in MLB history to consist of international bonus slots. Basically it gives the Cubs more money to sign young players from primarily Latin America in the international free agency. However, I have no idea how much worth that is. The two slots total around 400,000 dollars, giving Cubs about five million dollars to spend on international free agents when combined with the Cubs' own slots. Just a gut feeling, these slots are worth less than even a C prospect, so there is no need to moan over them as an Orioles fan.
As for the other parts the Orioles give up in the trade, Strop has been so wild this season that it is impossible for him to remain on the 25-man roster of a contending team. Without options, he cannot be assigned to the minors and the Orioles would probably lose him for nothing if not traded. Arrieta is another disappointment who has not lived up to his stuff. He shares a similar problem with Strop, the lack of control. He has walked 15% of the batters he has faced, twice the league average. He has had above average strikeout rate for the past two seasons, but that has not been able to compensate for his tendency to give opponents free bases. Both Strop and Arrieta still have upside, and that is why the Cubs acquire them. Nevertheless, it seems increasingly unlikely that either of them will ever live up to their potential. As a rebuilding team, the Cubs can allow them to figure things out at the major league level. The Orioles simply cannot wait.
For these underwhelming pieces, the Orioles did not receive much in return. Clevenger is nothing more than minor league catching depth. Feldman represents an improvement over what the Orioles currently have, but not a significant one. The Orioles rotation has been fourth last in ERA, last in FIP, and third last in xFIP among all the teams this season. The worst part is that the rotation has not under-performed by much relative to the expectations. Feldman will likely assume the rotation spot of Kevin Gausman, who has been hit hard but actually has had the best peripherals among Orioles starters. Feldman has settled into a league average starter based on peripherals for the last three seasons, though his ERA has fluctuated due to changes in BABIP. He will likely be worth one win over half a season if he is replacing a replacement starter, but Gausman projects to be better than that. So the Orioles gain maybe half a win today, not great, but better than nothing.
The Orioles need to improve their staring pitching to make a run at a playoff spot. The trade did just that, but only on the fringes using fringe assets. Given what they give up, Feldman is someone the Orioles should expect. Improvement? Yes. Significant? No.