Domenic Vadala: Do the Orioles need to trade for a top starting pitcher?

Orioles pitching has been the elephant in the room all season long, and to a certain degree, it came to a bit of a head last week and this weekend. First off, while starters going deep into games has been an issue all season, I’m also a firm believer in not letting one bad start get you down. While Jason Hammel has struggled through his last few starts, he never struggled as much as he did Friday night against Tampa Bay. However, he can’t allow that to seep into his mind, otherwise he won’t find his way back to where he was last year.

The same goes for everyone who follows the ballclub as well; let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that Hammel (or any of the staters) is never going to throw another strike, record another out, etc. But it’s obvious that the pitching staff contains a few holes, not all of which are related to in-game effectiveness. While Miguel Gonzalez is coming off the DL this week, the loss of Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen has definitely taken its toll. But what are the Orioles to do? Obviously, we’ll continue to see Jair Jurrjens with the O’s, and I suspect we’ll probably before long see the likes of Zach Britton, and/or Steve Johnson back, as well.

If you believe, the Orioles are in the hunt for a top-of-the-rotation starter via trade. This isn’t major breaking news, as they’ve been searching for quite some time. However, as has been stated several times, teams seem to want to squeeze the Orioles. Unless Dylan Bundy and/or Kevin Gausman are included, there’s no deal. Before we get into that, who exactly might the Orioles be able to get? Here’s an interesting proposition: Might the likes of perhaps Ricky Nolasco potentially be available? If Miami sputters through the All-Star break, might the Marlins be looking to get some younger players into their system?

The question is whether the Orioles have the guns to pull off a trade like that. Nolasco is a guy that could be a potential trade target because he’s a veteran and his contract is up after the season. So one might argue that his trade value won’t be higher than this summer in that sense. But again, what would it take to get a guy like Nolasco or perhaps another pitcher that a team might look to move?

I think the bigger question is whether or not Dan Duquette could do a sell job on his own players to obtain a pitcher of that caliber. Granted, I’m no scout or coach, but if the Orioles had the option of sending the likes of Jake Arrieta, Britton and maybe even someone such as Pedro Strop or Brian Matusz, I would suggest they take that trade. Again, only Duquette and Buck Showalter know what their long-term vision is for the organization, so for all I know none of that meets what they have in mind. Then again, I don’t know if using 10 different starting pitchers at this point in the season was what they had in mind either.

There are other names that have been thrown around, including R.A. Dickey and even former Tampa Bay Ray Matt Garza (even though he’s been injured). It’s really a matter of which teams are looking to part with pitching, and which are willing to take what the Orioles would try to send them in return. Quite frankly there are a number of underachieving teams with whom the Orioles might be able to partner.

As I said above, it really just boils down to how good of a salesman Duquette can be. We know that the Birds won’t give up Bundy or Gausman, and justifiably so. But it’s not going to be as simple as saying, “Take Britton, Arrieta, and Strop and we’ll take Nolasco/Garza/Dickey.” Trade partners are going to say, “But we want Bundy/Gausman.”

In my opinion, I think the Orioles would be better served by trading for a starting pitcher. If that means giving up a couple of guys here and there, I think it’s worth the risk. The American League East appears that it’s going to be much tighter this year, and they may need a top-of-the-line starter to remain in contention. If sports are about who makes the best adjustments, then the Orioles need to be sure they make the right ones during the season.

Domenic Vadala blogs about the Orioles at Birds Watcher, and his opinions appear here as part of’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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