We’ll all look back at last season’s trade deadline as an incredibly profitable one for the Orioles and GM Mike Elias. The O’s front office turned two assets with declining value—Jorge López and Trey Mancini—and turned them into important pieces of this franchise’s foundation. Yennier Cano, seemingly a throw-in in the López trade, turned into a 2023 All-Star and integral part of the O’s bridge to the best closer in baseball in Félix Bautista. The trio of Cade Povich, Seth Johnson and Chayce McDermott—the former the headliner of the López deal and the latter two the return for Mancini—now form the nucleus of the next wave of Orioles starting pitching prospects. At the time many analysts derided the moves Elias & Co. made, but looking back it was clearly an A+ deadline.
Fast forward a year and all of Birdland hopes that the front office can pull off similar magic on trade deadline day for MLB. So far all of the AL’s other World Series hopefuls have been busy wheeling and dealing. The Rangers have made the biggest splashes, acquiring future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer from the Mets, as well as starter Jordan Montgomery and reliever Chris Stratton from the Cardinals. Yesterday the Rays made their first foray into the trade market, acquiring starter Aaron Civale from the Guardians. The Astros bolstered their bullpen by trading for Kendall Graveman from the White Sox. The Angels made a SHOw of intent by deciding not to trade Shohei Ohtani and instead acquiring starter Lucas Giolito from the South Siders before adding to their lineup by picking up C.J. Cron and Randal Grichuk from the Rockies.
Meanwhile, the Orioles have mostly rested on their laurels, with their only move so far being the addition of reliever Shintaro Fujinami from the A’s. With time ticking for Mike Elias and his analytics-focused think tank to pull the trigger, we break down their most likely trade partners ahead of the deadline.
St. Louis Cardinals
One of the biggest rumors to come out of Monday was the Orioles reported interest in Cardinals outfielder Dyaln Carlson. The Cardinals always seemed like a partner who could address the Orioles needs, with multiple pitchers seemingly on the move as we headed deeper into July. Two of those potential targets are already off the board, with Montgomery headed to Arlington and flamethrowing reliever Jordan Hicks traded to Toronto. That leaves former top-5 Cy Young finisher Jack Flaherty—a free agent after this season—as the most likely pitcher the Orioles could extract from the Red Birds. However, with the interest in Carlson as well, perhaps there’s an even greater likelihood of Elias swooping into St. Louis for reinforcements.
The logic behind a Carlson trade is admittedly odd. After putting up a 115 OPS+ as a rookie while hitting 18 HRs and collecting 65 RBIs, Carlson has largely been a slightly above average major league outfielder since then. He’s a switch hitter—which is always a plus—plays passable defense in center field and would mean the Orioles could send Ryan McKenna back to the minors and likely DFA the slumping Aaron Hicks once he’s healthy. The Cardinals have plenty of outfield depth, meaning Carlson may be cheaper than your average 24-year-old outfielder with three more seasons of team control, but maybe only slightly.
The Cardinals desperately need to replenish their pitching depth, and while six of their top seven prospects are pitchers, most are fairly young and perhaps not ready to make the jump to the big league level. They could also stand to get younger in the infield, and you’d assume those two position groups are who they’d continue to target in trades. If the Orioles can swing a trade for Carlson AND Flaherty, that’d certainly be best case scenario—but also costly. You imagine that trade would see someone like Connor Norby, César Prieto or Max Wagner headline the trade, with perhaps an older pitcher and an MLB ready player like Terrin Vavra balancing things out.
After making it into the playoffs last year, the Mariners have stumbled in 2023 and look to be sellers at the deadline. They already shipped out pitcher Paul Sewald to the Diamondbacks, and followed that up by sending outfielder AJ Pollock to the Giants. Seattle has further said that they’re open for business when it comes to sluggers Ty France and Teoscar Hernández—not that those players are likely to interest the Orioles.
What might interest the Orioles are starting pitchers like George Kirby and Logan Gilbert. It’s been widely reported that some of Elias’ hesitancy to enter the starting pitcher market is due to the lack of options outside of short-term rentals like Giolito and Montgomery. Gilbert and Kirby are the type of starters Elias should covet—only 26 and 25 years old respectively, each under team control until at least 2028 and both having shown the ability to consistently get major league hitters out. Kirby would probably be the more expensive of the two, having been an All-Star in 2023 and boasting one of baseball’s best walk rates. Gilbert also has excellent control and has the upper 90s fastball and hard slider that the O’s pitching coaches would surely see as weapons that could be further developed.
The only problem with striking a deal for one of the Mariners’ young pitchers is what it would cost. While it’d be unlikely that the Orioles would have to give up multiple upper echelon prospects, the names Heston Kjerstad, Joey Ortiz and Coby Mayo would almost certainly come up in talks with the Mariners. Whether Elias—and Birdland—would be able to stomach giving up a top tier prospect and then some to acquire a good but not elite starting pitcher remains to be seen.
The Tigers have the type of veteran starting pitching that may be the most appealing to the Orioles in starters like Michael Lorenzen and former Orioles’ prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. There are pros to both players. Lorenzen was the Tigers’ All-Star representative and is the Anti-Tyler Wells in that he is very stingy when it comes to giving up the long ball. Besides the emotions that would come into play should Rodriguez make his return to Baltimore and finally don an Orioles uniform, he was also one of the best starters in baseball over the first two months of the season and is under contract through 2026.
However, there are cons for both players as well. Lorenzen is 31 years old, possesses only average stuff for an MLB starter and is a free agent after this season. That begs the question of whether the Orioles should cash in on some of their prospects to add a pitcher with limited upside who could leave in the winter. Rodriguez, since coming back from a left index finger injury that ended him on the IL, hasn’t been the same pitcher. In four starts in July he has a 5.66 ERA and 1.21 WHIP—though his 3.66 FIP is more encouraging.
Then there’s the matter of what it would cost to acquire either. As MLB Network’s Jon Morsosi stated yesterday, there’s a natural fit in that the Orioles’ minor league system is heavy on position players while the Tigers need young bats. However, would the Tigers be satisfied in a deal for Lorenzen taking on someone like Kyle Stowers and a lower tier prospect like John Rhodes or Jud Fabian? Would they push for a prospect like Norby or Dylan Beavers in a trade for Rodriguez? The Tigers don’t seem as compelled to sell as other teams, so they might drive a harder bargain knowing the Orioles have a significant need for a starting pitcher.
Now of course a trade partner could come completely out of left field as the Orioles pull off a deal for someone like Dylan Cease, Josh Hader, or even Justin Verlander. However, the Orioles seem like they plan to take a much more measured approach as we draw closer to today’s 6pm deadline. Is there a team or player I missed in this breakdown? Be sure to make them known down in the comments.
Which player would you be most excited about acquiring?
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