MLB Trade Rumors: Orioles at the deadline -- Cliff Lee - Phillies SP

Justin Smoak. Blake Beavan. Matt Lawson. Josh Lueke.

Those are the four players that the Rangers shipped to Seattle to acquire Cliff Lee on July 9, 2010.

In his next 15 starts, Lee would pitch to 3.98 ERA and march Texas to the postseason for the first time since 1999. The 31-year-old veteran would post a 2.78 ERA in five postseason games, leading his team to victory in games one and five of the ALDS against the Rays and game three of the ALCS against the Yankees. Of course, Texas would eventually fall 4-1 in the World Series to the San Francisco Giants, but without Lee, they probably never would have been in the Fall Classic in the first place.

Let’s go back to those four names for a second.

At the time, Smoak had yet to live up to his star potential, but was a first round pick who ranked 13th in Baseball America’s Top 100 prospect list after the 2009 season. BA compared the switch hitter to Mark Teixeira. Since 2010, Smoak has slashed .227/.308/.386 over 485 games with the Mariners. On Monday, Seattle optioned the 27-year-old to Triple-A Tacoma.

Beavan has pitched to a 4.61 ERA in 54 games (44 starts) with the M’s. He too is a former first round pick who ranked as high as number eight in the Rangers deep farm system after the 2007 season. Beavan is currently on the 60-day disabled list rehabbing shoulder tendinitis. He made one start for Seattle this season and just two for them in 2013.

In 2011, the Mariners traded Lawson to the Cleveland Indians for relief pitcher Aaron Laffey. Lawson split time between Double-A and Triple-A last season where he hit .239/.342/.324. He was drafted by the Rangers in the 14th round of the 2007 MLB Draft. He has since retired from baseball.

Leuke appeared in 25 games for the Mariners in 2011, where he posted a 6.06 ERA over 32.2 innings pitched. He was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for John Jaso on November 27, 2011. He’s been up and down with the Rays and was designated for assignment on June 7.

Sometimes these rentals help the selling team rebuild the franchise. Other times the minor league talent doesn’t pan out. For the Rangers, the risk was worth the reward in 2010 and in hindsight, Jon Daniels brought Lee in for next to nothing.

Kevin Gausman - Baltimore Orioles SP

On Monday’s episode of the Effectively Wild podcast, two of my favorite baseball minds, Ben Lindberg and Sam Miller, assessed each contending team and gave them a ranking according to their willingness to make a major move at the deadline. Both guys agreed that the O’s should add to their roster, but said that they wouldn’t want to see Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy or Hunter Harvey involved in a deal.

“They could easily have a three aces situation,” Miller proclaimed. “It doesn’t really take that much imagination to get them to a three aces situation for the next four years or something.”

All three of the above arms are former first round picks. Gausman ranked number 20 in Baseball America’s Top 100 prospect list after the 2013 season, Bundy was number two after the 2012 season and the highly touted Harvey ranked as the Orioles fourth best prospect after the 2013 season. It’s easy to understand Sam’s point.

“Of course, maybe it’s hard to imagine if you’re an Orioles fan,” Lindberg added. “You haven’t seen them develop a good starting pitcher in a while, but maybe that makes you even more likely to dream about that scenario.”

Another valid observation and one that I’ve been pondering for the past few seasons. Who was the last ace the Orioles the developed? Was it Mike Mussina who was drafted when George H.W. Bush was in office?

Let’s run through some of the pitchers the O’s have selected and list their highest BA Top 100 ranking:

2002: 1st round – LHP Adam Loewen (13th after 2003 season)
2006: 1st round – RHP Pedro Beato (99th after 2006 season)
2007: 5th round – RHP Jake Arrieta (67th after 2008 season)
2008: 1st round – LHP Brian Matusz (5th after 2009 season)
2011: 1st round – RHP Dylan Bundy (2nd after 2012 season)
2012: 1st round – RHP Kevin Gausman (20th after 2013 season)

If history is any indication, the Orioles would be incredibly grateful is one of those three arms turned into an ace. Three would be hitting the lottery.

I bring all of this up because the O’s find themselves in a unique situation. Their playoff odds are over 60 percent and their chances to win the AL East are over 50. When is the next time the East will be this open for the taking? Assuming the Orioles avoiding collapsing and make the postseason in 2014, do they really have the pitching talent to compete against the Athletics or Tigers? I don’t think so. Not right now at least.


With the uncertainty of the next two offseasons (Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz and J.J. Hardy due to hit free agency this winter, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters next winter), wouldn’t it make sense for the Orioles to add an ace now? What future are the building for at this point? Isn’t this what the franchise has been waiting for?

You certainly don’t want to make a move that damages the future of the franchise, but if ever there was a time for Baltimore to make a big splash it definitely feels like this year. I would love to see Gausman, Bundy and Harvey man the Orioles rotation for years to come, but a parade this fall would be even sweeter.