August 10, 2022

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Top pitchers the O's could land in a trade

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This story was excerpted from Zachary Silver’s Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The Luis Castillo blockbuster trade between the Reds and Mariners accomplished two things. The first is that it rebuffed a playoff contender, with a Seattle team currently in Wild Card position growing stronger. The second, it set the market for pitching at this Trade Deadline, the top available arm netting a huge haul of prospects, including three of the Mariners’ top five.

Both aspects concern the Orioles. The latter especially so.

If the Orioles do decide to become quasi buyers at this Trade Deadline, which is set for Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET, they are widely expected to do so for pitching. Who they target, who they are willing to give up and if they even decide to buy in the end is all to be determined in the next 48 hours.

The alternative is that the Orioles elect to sell, possibly for one final season before fully turning toward competitiveness. If so, Trey Mancini, Jordan Lyles, Jorge López, Anthony Santander and Dillon Tate are the most attractive names in rumors. (Or they could stand pat, riding out the good vibes of the season and readdressing needs in the winter.)

But if they do buy, and given the dearth of top pitching talent on the farm after Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, the O’s are expected to target younger, controllable arms. Castillo, 29, likely was not the best of fits, given that he has just one year left of control past this All-Star season.

So here are a few other candidates:

Possibly the top name floating in rumors with a prolonged contract, López is still somehow just 26 despite pitching in his fifth big league season. He’s gotten better with time, owning a 3.05 ERA across the past two seasons (40 starts) by striking out 233 batters in 218 2/3 innings. There’s a lot to like about López, especially that he’d be around for 2 1/2 years. It would likely take a haul, and possibly one at least on par with that of Castillo given the extra year under control. Frankie Montas has also been floating around, but given the expected competition for him and the Orioles’ trade history with Miami, López might be the most pristine fit.

LHP Tarik Skubal, Detroit
Under team control through 2026

It wasn’t quite the magnitude of Juan Soto, but Ken Rosenthal reporting that the Tigers are listening to trade offers across their roster did set off some fire alarms around the industry. If the Orioles did target Skubal, they’d get a 25-year-old left-hander who’s not yet arbitration-eligible and who carried a 2.33 ERA across his first 11 starts this year. Given his age and contract, Skubal likely would require a large return. It does help that Baltimore has the top-rated farm system in baseball for that very benefit.

Certainly not the flashiest name circling the market, but the Astros have reportedly been interested in upgrading their rotation, giving us these next two candidates. Urquidy would likely be one of the first men out of the picture; Houston already employs a six-man rotation and soon welcomes back one of their top arms from Tommy John, as my colleague Brian McTaggart reported. Urquidy, who’s pitched in two of the last three World Series, would be an experienced arm at still just 27 years old.

RHP Hunter Brown, Houston
Under team control through TBD (Minors)

Here’s one of a different fiber but similar to the Orioles’ operating past. Brown is the Astros’ top prospect, also ranked No. 81 in baseball. He’s yet to debut, but think of this one like the Dylan Bundy trade, when Baltimore acquired four Minor League pitchers, two at the doorstep of the Majors. One is Kyle Bradish, seen as a part of the O’s future and impressing off the injured list this week. Brown is performing well in his own right, with a 2.58 ERA across 18 games (12 starts) at 23 years old in Triple-A.

There appears to be a natural connection between Baltimore and Houston, primarily due to the need-based interests — Mancini and Santander might be of interest — but as well as the front-office connections. Might there be time for a deal?

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