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Two More Pitching Targets for the Orioles

The Orioles need more starting pitching, and these two realistic options are likely available at the deadline.

The Baltimore Orioles were off to a slow start in June, but they have picked up the pace. After dropping a series to the Milwaukee Brewers and sweeping the Kansas City Royals, the Birds find themselves treaading water behind the league-leading Tampa Bay Rays. The O’s are still in the thick of the playoff race, but they need reinforcements to get through the season. In a clear buying position for the first time, GM Mike Elias and his front office are in the process of scouting trade targets and evaluating their own minor league talent.

While the organization might be dreaming on some high-end targets, they must also focus on players who will more likely be on the trading block next month.  In a market thin on pitching and every team looking for arms, there aren’t that many obvious trade candidates. Here are two starting pitchers who will probably–but not definitely–change uniforms this summer.

Send a Care (Bear) Package to the Cubs

The Chicago Cubs sure seem like they are trying to compete. During the offseason, they signed big-name free agents in SS Dansby Swanson, SP Jameson Taillon, and OF Cody Bellinger. The problem is most of their recent moves have not worked. The Cubs find themselves in fourth place in the subpar NL Central, looking up at teams on the rise. Chicago can still pull together and make a run at the division, but they are on the path to selling at this point.

More and more teams, including the Orioles, aim to spread out risk and acquire many players in a trade, hoping at least one becomes a contributor. The Cubs have bucked that trend in recent deadlines by focusing on one player they really want. This was the case in their infamous 2021 fire sale, and they almost did something similar last year. The Cubs had a deal in place to acquire SP Jose Urquidy for C Willson Contreras, but Houston Astros owner Jim Crane blocked the move. Chicago has some interesting pitchers and outfielders in their farm system, but luckily for the O’s, they are thin on infielders.

Marcus Stroman

SP Marcus Stroman is potentially entering free agency and in the midst of his best season. His 2.42 ERA would be a career best over a full season, and his 3.48 FIP would be second best. Stroman leads the NL with a 1.039 WHIP and is averaging over six innings per start. He is benefiting from a low BABIP but also sports a low home run rate. His Statcast sliders are underwhelming other than avoiding barrels at an elite rate. Stroman would lengthen Baltimore’s rotation and feel comfortable in roomy Camden Yards.

The wrinkle here is that Stroman has openly expressed a desire to sign an extension with the Cubs. As a team close to contending, they should jump at the chance to keep a great player who wants to stick around. But the Cubs apparently have not responded to Stroman’s attempts to discuss an extension. It seems to me like they plan on trading him this summer when his value is highest, and they don’t want to get Stroman’s hopes up. He has a player option that he will likely decline, which would make him a rental in a trade. The Orioles could still resign him, but that would not factor into trade talks. Here is my offer:

Orioles receive: Marcus Stroman

Cubs receive: SS Jordan Westburg, SP Justin Armbruester, 3B Max Wagner

Putting on White Sox

The Chicago White Sox have been one of the most disappointing teams this season.  They looked utterly terrible in April but have at least shown signs of life lately. They might still try to compete in the embarrassingly weak AL Central, but at this point the South Siders look like sellers. As an underperforming team, the White Sox have a number of talented players that contenders would be interested in. Getting SP Dylan Cease would be a perfect scenario for the Orioles, but with over two years left before free agency, trading him would signal a large-scale tear down, and I don’t think GM Rick Hahn will do that.

The main reason the Pale Hose has failed to meet expectations for three years is a lack of depth. Unlike model franchises, the White Sox have not churned out a healthy number of role players to supplement the stars. Baltimore, of course, is doing that under the Elias regime and can help out both Chicago teams.

Lucas Giolito

If the White Sox do indeed sell, SP Lucas Giolito will be at the top of the trade market. A quality starter for years, Giolito will reach free agency this winter. Like most of his teammates, he has struggled somewhat this season but has looked better in recent weeks. His 3.54 ERA is right around his three-year peak from 2019-2021, and that is after taking an ERA over 4.00 into June. Giolito has given up just one run in 13 innings this month.

Despite his mediocre first two months, there is no reason to worry about Giolito. His FIP is slightly up from the last two years, but his Statcast percentiles have actually improved from last season. He is locating his three main pitches well, and his vertical movement has improved. Giolito would not be an ace addition like Stroman, but he would raise the floor of the Orioles rotation. He also would not give up as many homers at Camden Yards. The competition will be fierce, but the Birds can outbid anyone in a rental trade. I would make this deal:

Orioles receive: Lucas Giolito

White Sox receive: OF Kyle Stowers, OF Shayne Fontana

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