The time is now to win a championship in Baltimore. An organization that has been preparing for the future is now a stabilized foundation made of gold gloves, a high-powered offense, young phenoms mixed with veteran leadership, a strong bullpen, and a growing starting rotation. The pieces are falling in place for the Orioles to win their first division title since 1997, but there are still some missing links to complete the puzzle.
Last season, the Orioles looked to improve the problem that has plagued them for over a decade, starting pitching. The additions of experienced veterans Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen were upgrades from the likes of Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Jakubauskas, and Brad Bergesen. The O’s weren’t done from there. Their international scouting brought the O’s a gift-wrapped Miguel Gonzalez who was discovered in the Mexican League early last season. Let’s not forget the emergence of Chris Tillman who finally came into his own and produced a 9-3 record with a 2.93 ERA in the 2nd half of 2012.
The O’s still needed that 5th starter. Joe Saunders fit the bill for a late playoff push. He ate innings and was serviceable enough to save the bullpen. With a plethora of starting pitching depth in the organization it looked liked the O’s had TOO much help. The rotation looked to be in great shape to have a solidified starting staff, using possibilities for the 5th spot with Steve Johnson, Zach Britton, Jair Jurrjens, or even Jake Arrieta.
Yes, 27-year-old Jake Arrieta, who “has the best stuff” in baseball, but could never seem to put it together. He has shown flashes of success going 6-6 his rookie season and 10-8 in his encore year. Last season was rough, going 3-9 with a 6.20 ERA while getting sent back and forth from Norfolk. Fans seemed to have given up on the kid who looked to be the future ace of the rotation. Getting chance after chance, start after start, Jake racked up the walks, got behind on hitters, and struggled to get through 6 innings without allowed 5 runs.
After getting the nod for the home opener this season, his 3rd consecutive home opener, Arrieta failed to put together even a quality start in his 5 outings of work this year. It just felt like maybe a change of scenery would give Jake the success he deserves. The hard work, and motivation that he was given from his not-so-friendly Twitter buddies was enough to root for Jake to push through his struggles and prove everyone wrong. But today was the end of the road on his path with the Baltimore Orioles.
Jake was the trade piece in a move that sent him and struggling reliever Pedro Strop to the Chicago Cubs for starting pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger.
Some people say the Orioles are giving up on Arrieta who still hasn’t shown his full potential, but the move made by Vice President of Baseball Operations, Dan Duquette, is one that is proactive. The time is now to win a championship.
The Orioles are getting a key veteran pitcher in Scott Feldman who already has playoff experience and has some major league success for a winning team in the Texas Rangers. The Orioles cannot sit and wait around for one of their former draft picks to finally blossom in front of their eyes. It’s better to part ways now than down the line when it may be too late.
The move stabilizes the starting rotation, giving the Orioles a consistent 1 through 5 staff. For the first half of the year, even the last few years, the rotation has been a revolving door for spot starters and temporary replacements. The Orioles have used 12 different starting pitchers this season, which have caused inconsistent outings, too many earned runs, and more work for the bullpen.
It’s a low risk-high reward trade for Baltimore. The Orioles squeezed out every ounce of patience and hope they had for Arrieta, but it just wasn’t getting the job done. Let’s face it, they weren’t going to get a Cliff Lee type ace. The O’s young prospects are too valuable to package in a trade for a number 1 guy in the rotation. It’s an overall upgrade to the staff.
This season Scott Feldman is 7-6 with a 3.46 ERA in 15 starts. While the record seems mediocre, he did play for one of the worst offenses in baseball. Feldman spent 8 seasons with the Texas Rangers, playing under Buck Showalter for his first 2 major league seasons, and he has ties with current pitching coach Rick Adair from his days in the minors. He also has experience pitching out of both the pen and starting rotation, which he’s done his whole career. That gives the Orioles an added option if Feldman is ever needed for long relief, then he is capable of adjusting and helping out the team. Although I doubt that will happen because this trade now allows Kevin Gausman to work in the bullpen the rest of the season and improve for a starting job next year.
While this trade has plenty of positives and is an upgrade from what the O’s gave up, Feldman’s quality starts this season have come against weak offenses (MIA, NYM, SDP, WSH, CHW, LAA, MIL) with the exception of Texas, his former team. His career strikeout rate is fairly low at only 5.5 strikeouts per 9 innings. I’m surprised the Orioles would go for a low end of the rotation starter considering the upside of Zach Britton. I consider Zach Britton to be the next Chris Tillman, and I thought this would be the beginning for Britton to finally come into his own and make a name for himself just as Tillman did last season. This leaves Britton to be the odd man out as of right now.
As for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop…a change of scenery will do them well. Jake has a lot of talent and Pedro has a lot of heart. The Cubs are getting two great teammates that still haven’t reached their full potential. I wish them well in Chicago and hope they have success.
No matter which way you look at it though, the Orioles want to win now, and the only way they can is with a consistent rotation that will stabilize the staff, eat innings, and take pressure off the pen, which is the backbone of this team. That’s what Scott Feldman brings to the table. The offense will take care of the rest as they already average 5 runs per game. The pieces are nearly almost there, and the O’s could very well be on their way to winning a championship in the near future.