Only the Athletics, Rangers and Red Sox among American League teams have more wins than the Orioles this season. Yet while Baltimore ranks second in the AL with 4.94 runs scored per game, its rotation sports a 4.79 ERA that ranks 13th out of 15 teams, owing largely to a league-worst home run rate of 1.57 per nine innings.
That context explains why the Orioles struck first on the July trade market, acquiring one of the scarcest commodities: a dependable starting pitcher. Baltimore brings aboard righthander Scott Feldman and Triple-A catcher Steve Clevenger from the Cubs, sending righties Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to Chicago along with international signing bonus slots three and four.
This trade is the first in history to involve international bonus pool money, and the slot amounts heading to the Cubs add $388,100 to their budget. Each club receives four slots for the international signing period—in the Orioles’ case, think of them as third- and fourth-round draft picks—the value of which are determined by MLB.
Teams can begin signing 16-year-old international prospects today, July 2, the first day of the signing period.
Jake Arrieta, rhp
Career Transactions: Selected by Orioles in fifth round of 2007 draft; signed Aug. 15, 2007.
Arrieta’s career could travel in one of several directions. He draws consistently high marks for the quality of his stuff—in the big leagues this year his fastball averaged 94 mph and his slider 89—though his results for Baltimore were quite poor. In 69 career appearances and 358 innings dating back to 2010, Arrieta logged a 5.46 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and sub-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His performance in the early part of this season got him banished to Triple-A Norfolk. If Arrieta can find some semblance of control, however, he could have a career as a key bullpen arm. If he can find even fringe command, he could make it as a starter, because he’s still young enough to forge a career.
Pedro Strop, rhp
Remaining Commitment: Under club control for four more seasons, 2014-17 ($502,500 salary in 2013).
All contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
Strop might have peaked during the first half of the 2012 season (1.67 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 1.6 K-BB), but he has the type of arm strength (95.6 mph average fastball) to stand in as closer. He’s been too hittable this season (9.3 H/9, 1.6 HR/9) to be of much utility in any role, but perhaps a change to the NL will benefit him. Strop cannot be sent to the minors without first clearing waivers because he has no options remaining.
Steve Clevenger, c
Age: 27. Bats: L.
Career Transactions: Selected by Cubs in seventh round of 2006 draft; signed June 14, 2006.
The Baltimore native (Mount St. Joseph’s High) was drafted as a middle infielder, though he converted to catcher in 2007, his second pro season. After spending parts of four seasons at Double-A, he’s earned looks in the big leagues in each of the past three seasons, though that has resulted in just 229 plate appearances and a .199/.262/.275 batting line. Clevenger could add value to a team as a backup catcher because he has a contact-oriented lefty bat, strong receiving skills and a solid arm.
Scott Feldman, rhp
Remaining Commitment: Prorated portion of one-year, $6 million deal.
The Cubs signed Feldman last offseason with an eye toward trading him during the 2013 season. The plan worked to perfection. Feldman pitched as well as he ever had and then fetched a couple of live-armed righties and some international bonus money in July. He’s a good fit for the Orioles in that he can provide effective innings and keep the ball in the park. His strikeout rate (6.6 SO/9) will fit right in on a staff where Chris Tillman (7.3) and Miguel Gonzalez (6.9) lead the way.