The Orioles haven’t had a winning season since 1996 (the year I was born), and are looking to rebuild, hoping to regain the success and fan base that they had so long ago. After an Orioles team with pieces like Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Mark Reynolds, and Matt Wieters still didn’t get them even close to competing, they realized it’s because there was one thing missing: a pitching staff.
The Nationals might have the opposite problem. They may, in fact, have too much pitching, if there ever was such a thing, although most of it is in the minor leagues. The current projections for the 2012 rotation are as follows:
This is if the Nats don’t land one an ace via free agency or trade. Mark Buehrle is now in Miami and C.J. Wilson is heading to Los Angeles, so the chances of bringing an ace to D.C. have decreased. The only ace-caliber pitcher that could possibly go to Washington at this point would be Gio Gonzalez, but looking at Oakland’s price tag, that seems highly unlikely. In the event that the Nationals did land an ace-caliber pitcher, that would mean that yet another one of John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler, Tom Milone, and Brad Peacock are out of the rotation. Obviously the talented Jordan Zimmermann and 2009 #1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg are locks for next year, so they won’t move.
Anyways, the reason that some of these players won’t be taking the ball every fifth day isn’t because they are not talented; it’s simply because there is too much talent on their ballclub, so there is no room for them. It is safe to say Peacock and Milone are going to be the two oddballs out in the competition for the fourth and fifth starter jobs, as Wang and Detwiler are quality starters, and either one has more big league innings alone than Peacock and Milone combined. But, I fully expect that either one of them could handle the role, and will when the time comes.
The Nationals had a much-improved season in 2011, winning 80 out of their 161 games, improving their record by 11.5 games from 2010 when they won 69 out of their 162. Despite a sub-par performance from expensive free agent signing Jayson Werth and pitching phenom Strasburg missing most of the season while recovering from Tommy John Surgery, the Nationals were still able to get by, posting their best record in Washington since their inaugural season in 2005 when they went 81-81. Their problem was, other than the lack of a true ace, a center fielder.
So, how do these teams fix their problems? Swap surpluses!
The Orioles currently have Matt Angle behind Adam Jones in center field on their depth chart. Although his numbers weren’t impressive (.177 average, 1 HR in 79 ABs), he did show glimpses of talent in an admittedly small sample size, stealing 11 bases and drawing 12 walks in those 79 at-bats. So, if the O’s think that Angle can build on that, it could give them comfort in potentially dealing incumbent center fielder Adam Jones. Jones, of course, would fetch a big haul in return, consisting of multiple solid pitching prospects.
Now let me stress, when I say that Angle makes Jones expendable it is based on the fact that that the addition of Angle combined with the haul received for Jones would be worth it. In no way am I stating that Angle and Jones are on the same level. Though, there’s no reason to believe that Angle couldn’t become a decent everyday player. Last year at AAA Norfolk, Angle hit .271 with 115 hits and 47 walks in 108 games. He also swiped 27 bags, showing that he can certainly be a threat on the base paths. This speed is likely to translate to the field, so the Orioles will not lose all of Jones’ defensive abilities either. To sum it all up, Angle’s minor league numbers suggest that he has the potential to become a solid MLB player, despite unfavorable numbers in his brief time in the big leagues.
The Nationals have multiple solid pitching prospects. As I mentioned, only one of Detwiler, Milone, and Peacock will make the rotation. So, that means the other two can move. Detwiler has one of the hardest fastballs in the game amongst lefty pitchers, so I opt to keep him. That means that Peacock and Milone are expendable.
They are both solid pitchers, and would certainly be welcome to a weak Orioles farm system. Also, adding someone like a Josh Smoker, would provide the Orioles even more depth. Let’s take a look at my proposed package for Jones:
The Gist of It
In this deal, the Orioles would receive two pitchers who figure to be solid big league starters. Peacock in particular is a can’t-miss prospect, but Milone, in my opinion, can offer almost as much.
Smoker is a former 1st Round pick by the Nationals (2007) and finished this past season with High-A Potomac, posting a 5-2 record and 56 strikeouts in 46 relief appearances. He has not quite lived up to his first round status in the four years since he was drafted, but he is a high-potential arm the Orioles could gamble on. Meanwhile, Rosenbaum is a 23 year old left-hander who pitched in Triple-A in 2011. He likely would profile as a lefty reliever, though he could have some back end starter potential.
Moore gives the Orioles some “bust protection”, in case their own top first base prospect, Joe Mahoney, doesn’t pan out. Both have hit well in the minors, and in the event that Mahoney does work out for Baltimore then Moore could simply become a valuable piece of future trade bait for the organization, or maybe even move to another position. But, Moore’s bat has been stellar in the Nationals’ system, where he hit 31 HR and 90 RBI while batting .270 this past season in Double-A.
How It Benefits Baltimore
A package of Peacock, Milone, Meyers, and Moore would be a decent return for Jones, and would certainly fit the needs that the Orioles farm system has. Then, the Nationals could give a decent throw-in like Rosenbaum to seal the deal. Obviously that’s a lot, but let’s face it, a Nationals team with Jones in center field would certainly win at least 86 or 87 games. Bryce Harper, Stephen Lombardozzi, Alex Meyers, Matt Purke, Brian Goodwin, etc. all remain, giving the Nationals plenty of other top prospects. The Nationals are also willing to flash their checkbook, so Jones could certainly get locked up long-term.
How It Benefits Washington
Obviously Jones adds a true center fielder to the Nationals roster. He brings both speed and power, a rare combination, and could fill the need at leadoff hitter. Though, if I were Davey Johnson, I would probably try Ian Desmond at leadoff and bat Jones second, so that there would be a little bit of pop behind the leadoff guy. Then if Desmond falters, move him down a bit, stick Jones at leadoff, and then move Danny Espinosa back into the two spot. With the bright future that Washington has, I don’t see why he wouldn’t want to sign long-term, so I don’t see his looming contract extension as an issue. Bottom line, he’d be simply fantastic to have in a Nationals uniform.