Neal Shaffer: Potential, energy and a win-win trade

Dan Duquette’s successes as Orioles general manager (or whatever his title) have, for me, been a surprise from the jump. And, apparently, he’s nowhere near finished surprising.

In last week’s guest blog, I talked about how there was no need for the Orioles to swing a win-now move. The thinking was that the depth-plus-progress model that has so far been the mark of his tenure is working just fine. What I didn’t recognize (shame on me) was a strong middle option.

Find an off-the-radar guy who can help, give up players with more value to another team than they have here and preserve future options while increasing 2013 odds.

Hell of a formula, and not one that everybody would see and/or be able to execute.

Nobody can deny the talent possessed by both Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. We shouldn’t forget that Arrieta earned a spot as the team’s opening day starter in 2012 or that Strop played a huge role, via setup, in salting away last year’s playoff run. But anyone who watches the Orioles can see that neither pitcher was going to maximize his potential here. Those chances had come and gone.

I see this trade as not only a shrewd play on improving the team but also a kind of benevolent act. Benevolent to both the team and to the pitchers involved.

Potential is a tinderbox, useless in and of itself but loaded with tremendous amounts of dormant energy. That energy cuts both ways. A great talent who maximizes his potential is the dream player. A great talent who comes up short, over and over again, is expressing the same energy to opposite effect.

Trading Arrieta and Strop does three things:

First, it leverages their value in exchange for (in this case) a talented pitcher with whom Buck Showalter feels comfortable. A player who should, logically, help us win.

Second, it improves the team (on paper, anyway) without sacrificing core pieces.

Third, it frees the O’s, the fans and the players themselves from the go-round-round of hoping for a move past mere glimpses of potential into finally becoming Oriole cornerstones.

That last piece was never going to happen. Not here. But it might happen somewhere else. And if it does, then it’s a win-win.

If it doesn’t, this trade feels like, simply, a win. And a smart one at that.

Neal Shaffer regularly blogs about the Orioles at The Loss Column, and his work appears 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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