The Orioles found themselves on the fringes of contention pretty much throughout the 2013 season, and they did what teams on the fringes of contention do -- they went into full-on "buy" mode as the trade deadline approached. The team completed four major trades, of which fans can broadly categorize three as rent-a-players, and one as longer-term swap, even though all four involved the Orioles shipping off prospects for major-league players. The obvious big summary, of course, is that the Orioles didn't make the playoffs in exchange for the future talent they gave up -- but there's more to it than that. Let's take a look.
Trade #1: The Feldman trade
Orioles trade: SP Jake Arrieta, RP Pedro Strop
Orioles receive: SP Scott Feldman, C Steve Clevenger
The first major in-season deal the Orioles made in 2013 was essentially Joe Saunders redux. The Orioles traded two struggling-but-promising commodities in Arrieta and Strop for a fairly proven piece in Scott Feldman, more or less a replacement-level pitcher to provide some stability in the rotation, taking over a slot being occupied by the likes of Freddy Garcia, Zach Britton and Arrieta. Clevenger was essentially a sweetener in the deal, a local kid who evidently had some kind of conflict in the Cubs organization who probably profiles as a backup catcher at best. But really, the deal for the Orioles was about getting Feldman, who pitched 90 innings with a 4.27 ERA for the Orioles, notably accumulating the team's only complete game victory of the year. Arrieta and Strop continued to have their ups and downs with the Cubs, but the fact is that both were classic change of scenery candidates, unlikely to ever turn a corner in the Orioles organization.
Trade #2: The K-Rod trade
Orioles trade: 3B Nick Delmonico
Orioles receive: RP Francisco Rodriguez
This is a deal that I didn't hate at the time, but probably should have. Contending GMs should really have the mantra drilled into their head that relievers are fungible commodities, not worth giving up major prospects for. Delmonico wasn't a grade-A prospect, a potential power hitter with defensive liabilities and poor batting average skills. But the fact is that K-Rod wasn't worth giving up anything to obtain. K-Rod had dazzled with Milwaukee, but his peripheral statistics indicated that he was due for some regression, and sure enough, his Orioles tenure was marked by a 4.50 ERA in 22 IP, with 5 HRs and an .899 OPS allowed. The Orioles thought they were adding another late-inning right-hander, and instead they gave up Delmonico for a performance worse than what they probably could've gotten in-house from Mike Belfiore or Jairo Ascensio.
Trade #3: The Bud Norris trade
Orioles trade: OF L.J. Hoes, SP Josh Hader
Orioles receive: SP Bud Norris
This trade is the real wild card of the bunch. Hoes was a local prospect who was showing a promising OBP in the minors, but his power wasn't developing to match his corner outfield position. He might stick around as a major-league starter, but probably not an irreplaceable one. Hader, on the other hand, was the most promising chip the Orioles gave away this year -- probably because Norris wasn't a simple rental player (under team control through 2015). Norris, of course, isn't an elite starter. The real question in this trade is whether Norris has a future as a member of the Orioles rotation (in which case it may pan out well) or ends up as a long man in the 'pen (in which case it probably won't). Of course, it also matters whether Hader becomes a successful major-leaguer, but that's true of all of the trade chips, and it's even harder to predict. For Norris's part, his Baltimore tenure was marked by a 4.80 ERA in 50 IP, with a scary 1.68 WHIP. Norris is your prototypical #5 starter -- some K's, some durability, unlikely to dazzle but also not too likely to completely implode. What remains to be seen is whether the Orioles need a guy like that on the back end of the rotation (recent years would indicate yes), and whether Norris's tightrope act will hold up to league-average results in the AL East.
Grade: C+ (but pending)
Trade #4: The Michael Morse trade
Orioles trade: OF Xavier Avery
Orioles receive: OF/DH Michael Morse
This is the trade that really didn't matter. Baltimore's fans and front office alike had seen enough of Avery to believe that his ceiling was limited to fourth outfielder, given his lack of power and OBP skills. Maybe his contact-and-speed approach will play in the spacious confines of Seattle, but they probably weren't going to land him a starting gig here. Meanwhile, Morse was supposed to come over as a platoon for Nate McLouth, a lefty-mashing partner for Danny Valencia. Instead, he slashed just .103/.133/.103 in 30 PAs with Baltimore, likely due to what was later revealed to be an unhealed wrist injury from early in the season. It's a trade that had an OK idea behind it, but didn't work out at all.
It's hard to say anything positive about a series of trades that had a net result of a depleted farm system and no playoff appearance. But the fact is, each of Dan Duquette's moves were designed to address a pretty specific deficiency on the 2013 roster, and with the exception of Hader, who was swapped for a non-rental player, Duquette limited the damage in terms of players with a probable future on the big club. The worst trade of the batch, by a mile, was the K-Rod trade, and even that one couldn't have been foreseen to end quite as badly as it did (though some regression should've been obvious). The real final tally will depend on whether Clevenger becomes a serviceable backup catcher, and whether Norris sticks in the rotation or not, but I'm willing to be generous and give the Orioles' total trade efforts in 2013 a...