The Orioles solved two of their problems in one trade on Friday afternoon, pulling off a surprise swap of starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo to the Mariners for outfielder Seth Smith. It’s a move that seems so positive for the O’s that it almost seems too good to be true.
The idea that the O’s might actually be able to move one of their veteran starting pitchers is one that popped up from time to time over the last couple of months and seemed like a pipe dream. As usual, I know even less than Jon Snow. Although the Orioles sent some cash in the deal, it still seems like a miracle that they got an actual, useful player for Gallardo.
Smith, 34, is the solid lefty bat that the Orioles have been searching for all offseason. His power is not prodigious, but over 137 games in the most recent season, Smith batted .249/.342/.415. Those aren’t “WOW!” numbers - but that .342 OBP would have been second on the 2016 Orioles among players with 400+ plate appearances.
This is such an exciting move that it makes me nervous. How could the Orioles possibly trade Gallardo, who was one of the most useless players on the 2016 team after they sacrificed a draft choice to sign him, for a player who could ever be useful? There must be a catch somewhere, right?
If there is a catch, it hasn’t revealed itself yet. Even more in the “too good to be true” category is that O’s beat writers, including The Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo Encina, tweeted that the Orioles will save about $4 million with the trade. That likely means the Orioles are paying for the $2 million buyout of Gallardo’s 2018 option. This is mind-boggling! Saving money by trading Gallardo! A trade can’t be this good.
Perhaps the catch is that Smith, who one would have to guess will now be the Opening Day right fielder, may be losing a step in the outfield. His numbers on the publicly available defensive metrics took a dip in the 2016 season to the worst of his career.
That’s probably to be expected for a guy who’s moving into his mid-30s. And yet even if he has lost a step, Smith should be an improvement over Mark Trumbo out there in the field. Is there a downside? People tell me I’m too negative sometimes. Maybe I am. I honestly can’t find a real downside to this trade.
Seth Smith brings veteran leadership, experience and an accomplished bat to the Orioles. We look forward to him contributing to the 2017 club.
Meanwhile, Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto, who rejected the GM job that Duquette now holds, said that Gallardo “has a track record of durability and success as a starting pitcher.” As Orioles fans are uncomfortably aware, Gallardo gave no sign of being capable of performing to his career track record in 2016. I would not want to be the person betting on his doing so in 2017.
Earlier today, I wrote that I didn’t want to see the Orioles acquire Smith because I’d rather them not trade one of their tradeable assets. But I’m excited about this trade because Gallardo wasn’t an asset - he was a liability. His presence created more problems than his absence will create.
It all seems too good to be real, as if this was all perpetrated by an impersonator Twitter account like Ken Rosenthai, or like the other shoe will drop later and it turns out the Orioles have included an actual player you like in the trade. Somebody pinch me. I must be dreaming.