Dan Duquette does not hoard players.
It might not always seem that way. After all, this is the man that in the past two seasons has given looks to Jamie Moyer, Miguel Tejada, Joel Pinero, Freddy Garcia, Randy Wolf, Lew Ford, and far too many others to list. These are players who many organizations saw very little – if any – value in at the time but Duquette felt they were worth a look.
Some worked out, some didn’t. Once it was clear that a player in the latter group had little value to offer, he was let go of. That second part is not the actions of a hoarder.
Duquette always makes sure that the organization is prepared – that they have enough players with the necessary skill sets to get by at any given time – but this does not extend to keeping a player whose potential value to the organization is nearly nonexistent. Any general manager can acquire depth. Only the good ones are able to recognize when some of that “depth” has lost its value and when there are better options available to use that roster space on. One and a half seasons into his Orioles tenure, Duquette has been rather astute at making those [sometimes difficult] decisions.
Today’s trade that sent Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Chicago Cubs for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger appears to be another example of that.
In Jake Arrieta, the Orioles had a player who had been afforded opportunities to deliver on his potential but thus far had not. He almost certainly would not be provided many opportunities the rest of the 2013 season, not with the Birds in a playoff race. Jake would have entered this offseason out of options and the O’s would have had to decide to either transform him into a relief pitcher or give him yet another crack at the rotation despite not succeeding in that role to date. He clearly had little value to the Orioles this year and very little in the future as well.
Strop’s case was similar, but a little different. He was more likely to provide value to the O’s this season. In the present, however, the team had clearly become weary of using Pedro in any high-leverage situations. It would be unfair to say he was a burden or simply taking up roster space. He might not have become a liability, but it is would also be wrong to state that he has been an asset for the past two months of this season. Besides which, Strop’s lack of minor league options further decreased his immediate value to the team.
By no means had Arrieta and Strop become useless or liabilities to the organization, but they had become expendable. Duquette saw the chance to possibly upgrade the team by clearing space and he took advantage of it.
Ultimately, it matters little what Scott Feldman does for the Orioles.* Feldman’s potential value – a solid #4 starter that solidifies the back-end of the rotation – is enough to move guys like Strop and Arrieta, whose near-term and long-term futures with and value to the organization with uncertain at best.
* Having said that, I like Feldman and eyed him all along as a good starting pitching target. Baltimore obtained him without moving any prospects and that is always a big plus. He is a groundball pitcher and while his strikeout rate (17.8%) is below league average, it will be the third best rate in the O’s rotation. Feldman can be successful over the second half of the season throwing like he has his season-to-date and throughout his career. Given the Orioles high-run producing offense, the team needs starters that can keep them in games and give the offense (and the bullpen) a fighting chance. Feldman should – along with Chen, Gonzalez, and Tillman – help keep the Orioles in more games than not.
I am not naïve enough to believe that if one or both of Strop or Arrieta eventually turn into valuable players for the Cubs or another team while Feldman proves to be a non-factor this season, that the trade will not be deemed a failure in most circles. That concern cannot and should not keep an organization from making a move, however. Duquette got rid of two players not being used in order to hopefully acquire a player that is useful. There is nothing wrong with that, regardless of what paths the players involved ultimately take.
Duquette does not hold onto players who either no longer have value to the organization and/or are taking up space that can be put to better use. That is the case here with Strop/Arrieta and Feldman. Regardless of where these three players end up in their careers, it was a smart move to out players who did not have immediate or future value in Baltimore for a player who might.