Since Dan Duquette took over as Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations on Nov. 8, 2011, we have seen the team make several trades involving minor league prospects.
There was a time when the Orioles were on the other end, trading established big league talent for prospects. The Erik Bedard deal is an example of this, but now the contending Orioles have a different approach.
Looking to make any and every move to improve the team, they’ve made several of these deals where they have acquired help now for a player or players with little or no big league experience.
Here are some of these deals since Duquette joined the Orioles:
* July 23, 2013: Infielder Nick Delmonico to Milwaukee for pitcher Francisco Rodriguez.
* July 31, 2013: Outfielder L.J. Hoes, pitcher Josh Hader and a competitive balance draft pick to Houston for pitcher Bud Norris and international signing bonus slot No. 91.
* Aug. 30, 2013: Outfielder Xavier Avery to Seattle for outfielder Mike Morse.
* Nov. 25, 2013: Pitcher Devin Jones to San Diego for pitcher Brad Brach.
* July 31, 2014: Pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to Boston for pitcher Andrew Miller.
* Aug. 30, 2014: Pitchers Miguel Chalas and Mark Blackmar to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Alejandro De Aza.
* Jan. 27, 2015: Pitchers Stephen Tarpley and Steven Brault to Pittsburgh for outfielder Travis Snider.
“I’ve always said the farm system can help you in two ways,” Duquette said this week from spring training in Sarasota, Fla. “You can bring players to help your major league team like we’ve done with (Matt) Wieters, Manny Machado and Kevin Gausman. Or you can utilize the system to trade prospects that are not ready to help in the big leagues for players that can help you.
“Fortunately we have some depth to our farm system which allows us to maintain a competitive big league club. That is a good reflection on our player development operation and that is good for our fans and the players on the current team.”
Sometimes these deals involve acquiring players like Miller or Francisco Rodriguez that may only be with your team for the rest of that one season. They turn into so-called rentals. Yet, the Orioles gave up a prospect that could help the team that added them years later.
“That is always a tough call, but the fans and the team, they would like to pursue the pennant. And sometimes you have to trade young players to help your major league team,” Duquette said.
Since he joined the Orioles, Duquette has traded four players that were ranked among the club’s top 10 prospects at the time of the deal. Eduardo Rodriguez was No. 3, Delmonico No. 4, Hoes No. 6 and Avery No. 7 when they were dealt.
Delmonico was the Orioles’ sixth-round pick in 2011 and was signed to an overslot bonus of $1.525 million. He was considered one of the club’s top minor league batting prospects. But he was dealt for a reliever to try and help the Orioles make the playoffs for the second year in a row in 2013.
As it turns out, Delmonico was recently released by Milwaukee. The 22-year-old batted just .262/.300/.404 over 37 games at the high Single-A level in 2014 before being suspended 50 games for testing positive for an amphetamine. He was recently signed by the White Sox.
“We were looking for some help in our bullpen and K-Rod has over 300 saves,” Duquette said of that deal. “Rodriguez didn’t pitch as well for us as he did in some other places, but his experience did help us win a couple of games. Would have been nice to get closer to 90 wins in ‘13, but we didn’t. But again, the farm system can help keep your major league team competitive.”
Duquette feels that trade and some of these other deals provides proof that the Orioles have a solid process in place to make such trades.
“The process is that our scouts identify young talent,” he said. “We sign them to an appropriate contract and then help the player develop their skills. It is a team effort. Good scouting, good negotiation and good player development. It is also good player evaluation to know which players are ready to help you and where you may have a surplus and you can trade.”
Eduardo Rodriguez was the highest-ranked O’s minor league player that Duquette traded. He was No. 65 on Baseball America’s top 100 list at the time of the deal and was also in the publication’s latest top 100 released last week. Now a Red Sox prospect, Rodriguez was ranked No. 59.
“We didn’t want to do that, but it was required to acquire that pitcher,” Duquette said. “And Andrew Miller helped the Orioles get to the playoffs. I could argue he was the difference in the first playoff series with the Tigers. What if he was on the other side of the field in the Detroit dugout? What if we didn’t have him to get key outs in that series?
“There is a case of yes, we gave up a really good prospect, but it was required for us to take a shot at the pennant. At that point of the season, I think you have to roll the dice and see if you can help your team advance.”
Duquette addressed the risk teams take in trading prospects, like the risk that a player dealt away will turn into an All-Star caliber player or better down the road.
“That is always the risk that you take,” he said. “But again, if you are going to try for a pennant you have to do what you have to do. You have to take the shot.
“You have to swallow hard to trade young prospects. But if you are in a pennant race, it is incumbent on the team to make those trades to keep that going during the season.
“You never know what can happen. Look at Kansas City. They got in on the second wild card, barely won an extra-inning game and ended up winning the pennant. That second wild card makes it more interesting. Once you get in the playoffs it’s a bit of a crapshoot. Anything can happen.”
Duquette believes the addition of the second wild card has put more teams in contention by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline each season. The competition to get established talent for a final playoff push is tougher than ever, making the price of prospects needed to complete some deals higher than ever.
“The wild card allows more teams to be competitive late in the season and it’s a more competitive forum,” Duquette said. “Consequently teams trying to acquire these players are competing against the other clubs’ prospect inventory. It’s more competitive now and teams that are trading players have more leverage with the extra wild card.
“But make no mistake. That is the real job of the farm system, to help the major league club.”