Dan Duquette has said multiple times during Spring Training, that the Orioles still aren’t done building their roster, and that they still want pitching depth for the rotation.
Duquette wanted to get a left handed starter this offseason to replace Wei-Yin Chen but watched Scott Kazmir – the ideal candidate – sign with his idol Sandy Koufax’s team, the Dodgers, so that left the Orioles dealing with a trade if they wanted to get that starter.
I’ve mentioned Alex Wood from the Dodgers before, who Kazmir would have bumped out of the rotation, but with injuries to several Dodgers pitchers, including Wood himself, that seems out of the question now.
However, sticking in the NL West, there is one team that has multiple left handers that would each meet the Orioles needs for rotation depth in varying degrees, and that’s the Colorado Rockies.
The Veteran: Jorge de la Rosa
At 34 years old, de la Rosa has pitched most of his career with the Rockies, and has put up textbook middle of the rotation starter numbers while serving as the Rockies’ ace the past few seasons. He has a career FIP of 4.34, K/9 of 7.54 and groundball to flyball ratio of 1.44 to go with a 93-75 record.
Innings wise, de la Rosa isn’t going to be a workhorse. When healthy he’ll pitch around 185 innings and give you 32 starts (5.78 IP/G). The key is “when healthy” though as he’s missed a lot of time with various ailments throughout his career. On a bad year, you could expect to only get 20-25 starts out of him, but that might be all the Orioles need.
The Rockies are clearly rebuilding, even though they don’t want to say they are, and de la Rosa is only signed for this season, so it makes sense they would deal him for the right return. His contract is for $12.5 million. so it isn’t hard to swallow for the Orioles who have shown that money is not a problem this offseason. If he pitches well enough, the Orioles might even get a draft pick back for him by offering him a qualifying offer.
The Out of Options Guy: Chris Rusin
Rusin doesn’t look like he has great numbers, but when you are out of options and left handed, you don’t have to have great numbers to be a somewhat attractive candidate to acquire.
He’s certainly not a strikeout pitcher with a career 5.65 K/9 but he does generate a lot of groundballs – a must to pitch in Coors Field, but also useful to pitch at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the other parks of the AL East. Rusin’s 1.92 GB/FB would have led the Orioles’ starting rotation in 2015.
The best thing about Rusin is that he should be fairly cheap to acquire as he is out of options, 29 and not a part of the Rockies’ future.
The worst thing about Rusin is that when he did give up fly balls, over 15% of the time, they left the ballpark.
It’s a tradeoff, but Rusin may be the most affordable and low-risk option for a left-handed starter that the Orioles can get at this point.
The Wild Card: Tyler Matzek
Dan Duquette loves acquiring former first round draft picks, and Matzek is another one of players he could add to the roster.
Matzek is talented, there’s no doubt about that, but he’s also suffering from performance anxiety (just look at his walks – yikes!) and has bounced back and forth between the majors and minors to get his head right.
Orioles fans are quite familiar with this sight as we’ve seen numerous pitchers flame out like Daniel Cabrera and Hayden Penn, but Matzek is still young at only 25 years old, and has shown flashes of brilliance, especially in 2014 when he pitched a complete game shutout and was worth 1.7 fWAR in only 20 starts.
The Rockies don’t want to give up on him, and he does have one option left. Still they have to weigh the risk of his value tanking if he can’t get his act together.
Dave Wallace had a lot of success with the Orioles pitchers in 2014 and with the Braves and Red Sox before that, and might be able to help Matzek achieve his potential if he can get his head right, and a fresh start in a new organization could do just that. The minor league option could give Matzek more time to work on things in Norfolk, and Harbor Park is just about the coziest minor league park any pitcher could want to play in.
Because of his potential though, Matzek could prove more costly in terms of talent to acquire out of all the Rockies’ options, but in term of reward, he certainly has the highest potential.
As I’ve mentioned before, even though the Orioles’ farm system has a low ranking, they still have useful pieces to offer. Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson. Parker Bridwell, Christian Walker and Trey Mancini are all possible trade chips that should be expendable.
Jorge de La Rosa should cost only one of those players and Chris Rusin probably wouldn’t even take one of those players. Tyler Matzek on the other hand might take a couple or perhaps somebody like Miguel Gonzalez or maybe even Dylan Bundy.
Regardless of which deal they would make, there is no doubt the Rockies are currently the best match for what the Orioles are looking for. Now the Orioles need to decide who they want and what price they are willing to pay to get them.