The Orioles made what could be considered a classic trade deadline move Tuesday, dealing promising prospect Nick Delmonico to the Milwaukee Brewers for right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez, a piece that could be critical to a postseason run.
It’s the type of trade contending teams make every year, and it has to be encouraging for Orioles fans to be on this side of these deals for the second straight season.
But there is some risk to these moves – like the risk the Texas Rangers took when they shipped Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter to the Orioles two summers ago to add a piece to their bullpen (Koji Uehara).
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This is not to suggest that Delmonico (.243 with 13 HRs and 30 RBIs at High-A Frederick this year) will become Chris Davis. But as we take a scan through what some outside media outlets are saying about the trade, there’s at least one national pundit who thinks the Orioles gave up too much.
** ESPN’s Keith Law, known for his vast knowledge of the minor leagues, writes that this trade makes some sense, “but the price they paid … for a rental reliever feels excessive, while the Milwaukee Brewers get more than they should have for two months of K-Rod's work.”
Law points out that Rodriguez has been a fly ball pitcher this year, and that even if he pitches well, his impact over the season’s final 61 games will be limited. (ESPN Insider account needed for full story.)
“The main reason I dislike the move for Baltimore is that giving up a prospect of some value for 20 innings of a middle reliever is poor asset management,” Law writes. “Delmonico isn't an elite prospect, but he has a little value because he can hit, has great makeup, and has been familiar in scouting circles since he was a sophomore in high school.
“The Orioles might have saved him to include in a trade for a more significant acquisition, and could have stretched Kevin Gausman out in a long relief role if they wished to take some pressure off their bullpen. For the Brewers, it doesn't justify all the money they've spent on K-Rod over the past two years, but it's a more than adequate return for a middle relief rental.”
** SI.com’s Jay Jaffe also sounded a bit lukewarm on K-Rod – pointing out some of his off-field transgressions in recent years – but he made the point that the Orioles’ late-inning success hasn’t been the same this season, in part because of the bullpen.
“Last year, the Orioles won 93 games and made the playoffs thanks in large part to their bullpen,” he writes. “The ‘pen helped them go an all-time best 29-9 in one-run games, not to mention 16-2 in extra-inning games. While the team is again positioned for a wild-card berth, the Orioles’ magic hasn’t been the same in close games. They’re 13-14 in one-run contests and 5-3 in extras.”
The Orioles actually fell to 13-15 in one-run games later Tuesday night. But that loss had nothing to do with the bullpen, and it serves as a reminder that those one-run stats can’t be pinned solely on the bullpen, regardless of which way they trend.
** K-Rod shared his thoughts on the trade with Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"I can't say that I wasn't expecting it," Rodriguez said. "But I'm sad, I'm not going to lie to you. I'm just really sad because I definitely didn't want to leave the organization. But at the same time, this is a business and it's part of the game. At the same time, it's a new opportunity for me and I'm looking forward to the challenge once again, and hopefully I can do my best and get the job done."
** With Rodriguez in the fold, there will sure to be fans grumbling for him to take over the closer’s role the next time Jim Johnson blows a lead (if not sooner). This blog post from ESPN.com’s AJ Mass isn’t directly related to the trade – it was written earlier Tuesday – but he took a look at closers’ first batter average (the combined batting averages of the first hitters a reliever has faced upon entering a game).
Johnson had one of the worst such averages (.277) among major league closers, meaning he’s started out many of his innings by getting into trouble. Mass also looked at potential replacements for these closers. Tommy Hunter’s first batter average is .167.
Francisco Rodriguez’s FBA, if you’re wondering, is .240.
** One final link to share. Our beat reporter Eduardo A. Encina joined Buster Olney’s podcast to discuss the K-Rod trade and the Orioles, so check that out. (Eduardo also shared some of his thoughts about the trade on the blog.)