CHICAGO – The Orioles made the first chess move of the trade deadline season on Tuesday afternoon — simultaneously showing they are committed to building for a deep playoff run this year — acquiring right-hander Scott Feldman from the Chicago Cubs along with catcher Steve Clevenger for right-handed pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop.
Feldman, who was 7-6 with a 3.46 ERA in 15 starts with the Cubs, will bolster an Orioles starting rotation that owns a 4.79 ERA, ranked 27th of 30 major league teams.
“I think when you have a number of players who are having a good year like we are, you have to address the needs of the ballclub and put your focus on this year’s club,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. “And this year’s ballclub needs more stable starting pitching, and that’s what this trade is designed to address.”
A free agent at the season’s end, Feldman is 46-50 with a 4.66 ERA over nine seasons. He continues the Orioles’ trend of acquiring players with roots to the Texas Rangers, where Feldman pitched from 2005 through 2012. His best season was 2009, when he was 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA in 34 games (31 starts). He also played a key role for the Rangers in their 2011 run to the World Series, going 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA in nine postseason appearances.
The 30-year-old Feldman, who owns a 3-0 record and 2.49 ERA in seven career games at Camden Yards, has recorded nine quality starts (at least six innings and three or fewer earned runs allowed) in 15 outings this season and has gone at least six innings in 10 of his past 12 starts. He will make his first Orioles start Wednesday night in Chicago against the White Sox.
“He’s a proven veteran starting pitcher, and he’s pitched very well in this ballpark [Camden Yards],” Duquette said. “He’s pitched in the postseason, he won 17 games once and he is on his way to having a good year this season.”
The Orioles had interest in Feldman this past offseason before he signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Cubs. He pitched his first two seasons in the big leagues — 2005 and 2006 — for Orioles manager Buck Showalter when he was in Texas, mostly as a reliever.
“He’s a guy with some American League background,” Showalter said. “He’s a competitive guy. Haven’t seen him in a while. He’s had a couple things in his arsenal that are a little different than when I had him. He was more of a relief pitcher there, had a little different arm angle. There’s a lot of things that work in his favor. He’s been in the American League. [It] should be a pretty seamless transition to the locker room.”
Several Orioles players have connections to Feldman, including former Rangers Darren O’Day, Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter and Taylor Teagarden. In 2007, Feldman, O’Day, Davis and Teagarden played on the same Arizona Summer League team. At the time, Feldman was switching back to a more conventional delivery after throwing sidearm.
“He’s going to be great,” said O’Day, who was in Feldman’s wedding. “He’s a known quantity. Buck’s had experience with him before. He does his background work and he knows Feldman’s a good dude. He’s going to be great. He’s going to help us out a lot. Some days he will be brilliant, some days he will be average, but he’d going to go out there and give us quality inning. He’s going to grind through at bats and grind through games. He’ll help the rotation, help the bullpen.”
Clevenger, a Mount St. Joseph product, gives the organization much-needed catching depth. Clevenger has been sent to Triple-A Norfolk, but he likely would be the first call-up if something were to happen to Matt Wieters or Teagarden. The 27-year-old Clevenger has a .199/.262/.275 batting line in 79 career major league games. He has a .310/.372./.429 in eight minor league seasons.
Clevenger grew up in the Pigtown neighborhood of the city before he moved to Linthicum when he was 11 or so, and he went to Orioles games all the time.
“It’s like a dream come true, growing up less than five minutes from the stadium and watching Cal [Ripken Jr.] and Brady [Anderson] and Eddie [Murray] and all those guys,” Clevenger said when reached by phone. “It’s just a great feeling to get to go home and play. Not many people get to play in their home city.”
Clevenger’s high school coach, Dave Norton, called the former All-Metro selection a “Baltimore player,” referring to “hard-nosed types of kids who work hard to accomplish things.”
“If you want somebody who’s gonna go out there and battle and battle and battle and not give up, he’s the kind of kid that you want,” Norton said.
As part of the trade, the Orioles also sent their international bonus slots three and four to Chicago, which amounts to about $400,000 less that the Orioles will be able to spend on international free-agent signings. That comes out of the $1,959,400 the club is allotted for such signings, based in reverse order of last year's regular-season standings. The international signing period began Tuesday.
The deal also marks the end of Arrieta’s long and frustrating quest to become the front-line starter the Orioles had hoped he could be. Arrieta, 27, was the club’s Opening Day starter in 2012 and won a spot in the rotation this spring. He was 1-2 with a 7.23 ERA this season and has spent the year shuttling between the Orioles and Triple-A after struggling early on.
“Sometimes a change is indicated,” Duquette said. “This will be a fresh start for Jake, and I wish him a lot of luck.”
After struggling to solidify himself in the Orioles rotation, Arrieta embraced a change of scenery.
“I think that is really the best way to look at it,” said Arrieta, who was drafted by the Orioles in the fifth round in 2007. “This is something that is going to do me a lot of good. To go to the Cubs and just start over, really. I have lot of experiences and have pitched through different situations and have been part of a lot of different Orioles teams.
“I know what it takes to pitch at a high level now and what it takes to win in a highly competitive division,” Arrieta added. “I look forward to starting over, but also bringing my past experiences of everything I’ve done and the ways I have grown as a player and a person. And I plan on bringing that to Chicago in a positive way.”
Arrieta said his expectation was that he would report to the Cubs’ Triple-A club in Iowa, make a few starts there and be re-evaluated.
Strop, another talent who has been struggling, was an instrumental part of the Orioles’ playoff run in 2012 as the team’s setup man for most of the season. He recorded 24 holds and had a 1.20 ERA in mid-August before struggling at the end of the season.
This season, the 28-year-old Strop was 0-3 with a 7.25 ERA, allowing 10 runs in his past nine appearances.
“I guess trade season is starting, but it’s still kind of early and for [our front office] to jump on this early, it means a lot,” O’Day said. “It’s going to help us get more benefit from it the earlier you do it. There’s definitely a little bit of buzz in the clubhouse. We’re definitely going to miss those guys. … Sometimes a change is good. This is my fourth team, so I know how that goes. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. They’re both great dudes, and I’ll miss them.”
Baltimore Sun reporters Dan Connolly and Seth Boster contributed to this article.