The Orioles announced on Wednesday evening that they have traded outfielder Alejandro De Aza and cash considerations to the Red Sox in exchange for a real human being who also plays professional baseball, namely minor league right-hander Joe Gunkel.
De Aza, who was designated for assignment by the Orioles on May 27, would have had to be traded or released by Saturday. Since De Aza is making $5 million this year, the O's would have been on the hook for the entire salary if they were forced to release him. That would be in the ballpark of $3.35 million worth of dead money. The O's have included an undisclosed amount of cash to the Sox in the deal. It wouldn't be a surprise if the O's were paying in the $1-1.5 million range of that remaining salary.
Gunkel, the player the O's received in exchange, is a 23-year-old right-handed pitcher who was originally drafted by the Sox in the 18th round of the 2013 draft. That is about the round you would expect a guy from West Chester University of Pennsylvania to end up being drafted. He is 6'5". We all love a tall pitcher if it means he gets ground balls, which based on Gunkel's GO/AO (groundout/air out) rate in the minor leagues he has done reasonably well.
In the three seasons he's been in the Sox system, Gunkel has been employed as both a starter and as a reliever, though it was in his relief outings that he's gotten the best results by far. Gunkel started the year at Salem, Boston's High-A team, before being bumped up to Portland, their Double-A team. The Orioles will be assigning him to Double-A Bowie, according to O's reporters.
With De Aza slashing .214/.277/.359 when the O's DFA'd him, it wasn't much of a shock they were ready to move on. The fact that they'll be able to save even a small amount of salary and get a live baseball player in the process is making the most of a bad situation. Gunkel may not have the big leagues in his future, but now it's the Orioles who get to find that out, and that's more than they had when the day started.
For their next trick, maybe they can win a game at the major league level.