Koji Uehara is the second most likely Oriole to be dealt by this Sunday’s MLB trade deadline. Koji is one of the best relievers in all of baseball this year and has drawn a whole lot of interest. Unlike Guthrie, if Koji isn’t dealt the O’s wont really lose him. Koji has a $4 million option for next season. That is where the debate lies. We all know that Orioles have a pretty bad bullpen. Koji and Jim Johnson have been the lone bright spots and a loss of their caliber could leave the already bad bullpen in pretty bad shape the rest of the year. It would be a very long summer without Koji. But with his 1.80 ERA his value is at an all time high, and that’s when you need to sell high and capitalize. Plus there is always the possibility that Koji resigns with the team next year anyways. At this moment Koji can bring you a big return. The Orioles are reportedly looking for an impact player in this deal as well. There are a ton of suitors so lets take a look at the teams who are seeking relief help. The list is in order from the most likely to least likely team that will acquire Koji.
Pittsburgh Pirates- The Pirates have been tied to Koji for weeks and have plenty that they can give up for him. The most likely deal would involve Brad Lincoln who already has major league experience. The 26 year old was the Pirates first round pick in 2006. His major league numbers will scare you, but you have to remember that he pitched for the bad Pirates last year. He certainly has upside being a 1st rounder and he has had a few nice games at the big league level. Another young arm would certainly help. Ross Ohlendorf is also a possibility since he no longer fits into the rotation. He has battled injuries all year but he has a lot of major league experience. He has always been a victim of tough luck with no run support and he strikes out a lot of batters. Daniel Moskos was the #4 overall pick in the 2007 draft, one spot in front of Wieters. He was a pick that Pittsburgh now regrets as he isn’t seen as anything more than a relief pitcher. He was in the Pirates bullpen for most of this season but is now back in the minors. I think Pittsburgh would trade a future bullpen arm for a bullpen arm that will help them win now. 7 of their 10 Baseball America organizational prospects are pitchers. Jameson Taillon is the only one who is untouchable. That means that minor leaguers Stetson Allie, Luis Heredia, Bryan Morris, Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke, and Zack Von Rosenberg could all be available. With a crowded outfield they could also deal their #4 overall prospect Starling Marte. Owens may be the one who is most tradable because he is in AAA. He is 35-24 with a 3.31 ERA in the minors. I really think Brad Lincoln would be the guy traded in this deal though.
Minnesota Twins- More than likely Kevin Slowey is the guy the O’s would get in this deal. He already has 5 years in the majors and it appears that the Twins no longer have room for him. A change of scenery could really help the 27 year old. He has a nice 39-21 major league record with a 4.43 ERA. Last year he won 13 games. This year he didn’t crack the rotation and has been in the bullpen. He just returned from the DL and was optioned to the minors. So it definitely appears as if the Twins will use him as trade bait. At least he could be a stable rotation arm for the Orioles and would eat a nice number of innings for us. Anthony Swarzak who has pitched out of the pen this year and has been very solid during all of his spot starts, could be the other guy available. Although it may not be a good idea for the Twins to lose a bullpen arm when they are trying to trade to improve it. Minnesota also has plenty of organizational outfield depth that the Orioles are reportedly interested in. Denard Span has been in trade talks as of late with the Nationals, but could be a guy the O’s are interested in too. The speedy leadoff hitter could fill out the outfield with Jones and Markakis. He is only 27 years old, is from Washington DC, and has nice major league numbers. .289 AVG and steals 25+ bases a year. I could also see the Twins parting with Delmon Young. He is a bit of a head case and has never really fit into their style. Young has a huge ceiling since he is a former #1 pick overall and a former Baseball America #1 ranked player in all of baseball. In the minors they have outfielders Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson, and Oswaldo Arcia. Hicks was their first round pick in 2008 and has been ranked as high as #19 in all of baseball by Baseball America. He is only 21 years old and is only in high A ball. The other two are just prospects and would take awhile to make it to the majors. They have mediocre upside.
Texas Rangers- They have a surplus of young arms and the O’s want more young arms. Tommy Hunter and Scott Feldman were both in the rotation last year and could both be traded. Both had solid years and have pretty good major league numbers. Hunter could be a solid #3 arm long term behind Matusz and Britton. He may have more upside than Arrieta. Feldman just came up from the minors in an effort to show him off for the trade market. He is already 28 which is a downside, but the upside is that he won 17 games back in 2009. Robbie Erlin may be too much of an asking price, but he would be a great addition to the O’s system. In 3 minor league seasons he has a 14-7 record with a 2.70 ERA. He also strikes out over a batter per inning. He is currently in AA. This is the guy the Orioles should be asking for in a Koji trade. Michael Kirkman had a stint in the majors earlier this year out of the bullpen. He is back to starting in the minors. He has value similar to Arrieta’s.
Detroit Tigers- I talked yesterday about how they are the most likely to acquire Jeremy Guthrie. A combined trade for Guthrie and Uehara seems unlikely but a higher return could be brought in. Both of the guys I mentioned that could be available for Guthrie could be available in this deal. Guthrie and Koji have similar trade value. Andy Oliver would be a great addition. He is one that I hope for. Charlie Furbush is the other. For more information on them check out the Guthrie article.
Cincinnati Reds- They were also discussed about a potential Jeremy Guthrie deal. Walt Jocketty, the general manager of the Reds and Andy McPhail have a very good relationship so I really see them as a fit somewhere. The Reds are the sleeper team in any Oriole deal. This is a very rich organization that you would like prospects from. Edinson Volquez jumps out at me as a guy who could be acquired in a Guthrie/Uehara deal. Yesterday I mentioned Sam LeCure and Kyle Lotzkar who are also possibilities for this deal. The Orioles may also have interest in outfielder Chris Heisey. His price would probably be both Guthrie and Uehara since he has high upside. He could easily be a 25 homerun bat with good speed and great defense.
Those are the 5 teams who are serious about Koji. There are more teams that are looking for relief help but haven’t been officially linked to Koji yet. The following teams are long shots.
Atlanta Braves- Most of their trade pieces have too much value for a deal like this. The O’s would have to combine a few more players to get someone like Brandon Beachy who is available. Beachy would be a #2 starter long term for the Orioles. The Braves organization is so rich that most of their top prospects also have too much value. They have 4 other pitching prospects with more value than Beachy. It’s not fair is it? Brett Oberholtzer would be the best case scenario in a Koji deal. But even he may have too much value. He is a 22 year old AA pitcher with a 24-20 record and a 3.33 ERA in 4 minor league seasons. The Braves are probably the team I would most want to deal with because of their organizational depth.
New York Yankees- They only have one prospect, Jesus Montero. He isn’t for sale here. So I don’t see anyone else they can give besides mediocre prospects. It would probably take Ivan Nova or Andrew Brackman to get Uehara. Nova has plenty of experience and Brackman will probably be up soon if he isn’t traded. Baseball America ranked him the #78 prospect in all of baseball.
Philadelphia Phillies- As I said in the Jeremy Guthrie deals, Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick both make sense. In a combined Guthrie/Uehara deal Vance Worley could make sense. Worley is a young breakout star who has overachieved a little, but still has nice value.
Los Angeles Angels- Most of their prospects have already graduated, but they do have a couple young arms including Garrett Richards, Fabio Martinez, and Cam Bedrosian. Richards has been very impressive in the minors at 25-7 with a 3.21 ERA. He is currently at AA. Martinez is only at A ball but has a 18-8 record with a 3.37 ERA in 4 minor league seasons. Bedrosian is only a mid level prospect.
Arizona Diamondbacks- Mentioned yesterday how Wade Miley would make sense for the Orioles. Not sure if they have too many other prospects who would fit because their depth isn’t that great.
Boston Red Sox- I don’t think there is much of a chance that the O’s deal with Boston or New York. Kyle Weiland is the guy if they decide to do so.
Overall I’m still not convinced I want to deal Koji. His age and injury history does bother me though. I just don’t think its worth it in the deals that seem likely. Unless we get Denard Span, Tommy Hunter, Aaron Hicks, Andy Oliver, Charlie Furbush, or Edinson Volquez, I don’t like the possible deals. There are plenty of players I like in the longshot deals including anyone from Atlanta, Vance Worley, and Garrett Richards, but they are long shots.