The trade deadline is upon us and we need to brace ourselves, the unnamed sources are coming. The heaviest and hottest Orioles rumors so far have been for two San Diego Padres, Melvin Upton Jr. and Andrew Cashner.
Both are flawed and both have their own upside. Remember though, as our fearless leader loves to say, the first rule of baseball rumors is that nothing will probably happen. So, let’s get into me writing thousands of words about moves that probably won’t happen.
Melvin Upton Jr.
Orioles fan know Melvin from back when he went by B.J. Upton. He played on the Tampa Bay Rays for at least parts of eight seasons. He has primarily played left field for the Padres this season. He is a right handed hitter and will turn 32 years old later this year. He is currently hitting .256/.304/.439 posting a 101 wRC+. He is owed around $7.5 million for the rest of 2016 and will be owed $16.4 million in 2017.
Upton had a bit of resurgence last season at the plate posting a 110 wRC+ for the year. He signed his big contract with the Braves after the 2012 season and was atrocious.
While in Atlanta his plate discipline eroded as did his contact skills and power. He went from an above average major leauger to below replacement level. While in San Diego, his power has reemerged and while he is still struggling to make contact, his power numbers have kept him above water.
Upton can help the current Orioles roster in three ways. First, he is an excellent base runner which the Orioles sorely lack. He has 20 stolen bases which would be seven more than the entire Orioles team. He also is an above average bases runner all around—he has accumulated 4.2 base running runs (you can read more about that here) which would put him second on the team behind of all people Chris Davis (it’s not all about speed).
Second, Upton is an above average defender. The Orioles outfield defense is atrocious. It is the 29th ranked outfield defense according to UZR. The easiest way for the Orioles to improve their run prevention would be to improve their outfield defense.
Upton has been an above average left fielder his entire career. His overall defensive numbers are not pretty this season, but that is mostly due to a poor small sample size of 80 innings in center field. He is still an above average defender on the corners.
Three, he hits for power and can hit lefties. So far in 2016, his walk rate has fallen to a career low 6.1 percent, not a great sign. However, he has a .183 isolated power number and already has 16 home runs and 11 doubles.
The Orioles have a plethora of low on base/high slugging hitter, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the offense adding even more fire power to the bottom of the order.
Furthermore, he hits lefties. He has a career 110 wRC+ against left handed pitching and has posted a 146 wRC+ in 2016. The Orioles could use some help against lefties. As a team they have posted a 88 wRC+ against left handed pitching this year which is tied for 25th in the league with the Rockies.
Upton is a flawed, but useful player that I believe can help the Orioles, the only question after that is what the cost will be to acquire him. The rumored deal is Upton for Ubaldo Jimenez and a “prospect.” I love a good “bad contract swap” trade.
For the Padres, this saves them some money, gives them a reclamation project they can possibly flip next season, and a lottery ticket.
For the Orioles, it gives them not what they’re looking for—a starting pitcher—but it helps them in areas that can be easily improved. It will cost them about $5 million more over the course of the next season and a half and the “prospect.”
The only so called prospect the Orioles should not be giving away is Chance Sisco, otherwise I am not tied to any of them. Maybe Jomar Reyes, but otherwise the whole lot are tradeable assets. Giving up much of value for Upton is foolhardy. He is not a great player, but a useful one. He also doesn’t come cheap.
The name being floated is Tanner Scott. A flame throwing lefty reliever just promoted to AA Bowie with severe command and control problems. If the deal was Jimenez and Scott for Upton, I’d do it. Anyone much better then Scott, I’d have to think about it.
The other Padre the Orioles have been rumored to be after is Andrew Cashner. He is set to be a free agent, so this would be a rental deal. He is a right handed starting pitcher who has struggled the last two seasons. His ERA currently sits at 4.79 the worst mark since his rookie year.
While he struggled last year results wise pitching to a 4.34 ERA, his peripherals were still alright in 2015. He was essentially a league average pitcher who threw 180 innings, which the Orioles could use. However, in 2016 the peripheral statistics have nose dived as well.
He currently has his highest walk rate since 2012 and the lowest whiff rate of his career. Not to mention that hitters are making contact on his pitches at a career high rate as well even though they are swinging less overall at those pitches.
On top of all that, Cashner has been giving up the gopher ball at a 14.7 percent home run to fly ball rate. The highest rate he has given up home runs at since 2012.
Cashner had good results last in 2013 and 2014 for the Padres. He was able to run a low BABIP and a low HR/FB rate. Whether or not that was due to luck or skill is up to you, but for the last two years and especially in 2016 he has been the same pitcher.
A lot of teams are in on the Cashner sweepstakes at this point. On top of the Orioles, the Giants, Tigers, Rangers, Marlins, and Astros have all been connected to Cashner. The reported asking price from the Orioles is “two prospects.”
Ah, there are those magical words again. For a half season rental of a soon to be 30 year old right handed pitcher the price cannot be all that high. However, if the Orioles are competing with that many teams, they will quickly be outmatched in terms of buying power.
I am a little hazy on why Cashner is so desirable. His three most predominate traits are that he has an arm attached to his torso, that arm can throw the ball sixty feet six inches, and he is currently breathing. He hasn’t gotten good results since 2014 and those results are dubious.
Cashner isn’t even an innings eater as he never thrown above 200 innings in a year and has only gone over 175 innings once. The Orioles could use all the help they could get in the rotation and if the price is low enough then Cashner makes some sense, but I am not convinced he is worth getting into a bidding war over.
The Orioles are in first place and are looking to add, with a weakened farm system they are going to have to get creative. I would bet on the Orioles making at least one trade before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline and at least one more before the August 31st waiver trade deadline.
Whether or not it is for either of Upton or Cashner remains to be seen. Either way, it’s shaping up to be a fun stretch run in Baltimore.