Should the Orioles trade for Papelbon?

Posted on July 30, 2014 by Danny Majerowicz

As the trade deadline rapidly approaches, fans have been clamoring for the Orioles to make a big move for a starting pitcher, second baseman, or combination of the three.  Of course the names being thrown out there right now would cost the Orioles at least two top prospects (Price, Hamels) or would not substantially improve the team (Kennedy, Burnett).  It is well known that Orioles do not want to part with Gausman, Bundy or Harvey and they would be wise to keep them.  So what is out there on the market that could seriously help this team win now while also not mortgaging our future?  The answer lies in our bullpen.  His name is Jonathan Papelbon.   

Before I discuss why I think Papelbon is a good move for the Orioles, let us look at how the bullpen has fared this season.  As a team the Orioles rank 7th in the AL in ERA at 3.50, logged the 5th most innings with 321.0 and are 6th in LOB% at 75.1%.  Not horrible (thanks O’Day) but definitely room for improvement.  And where they could improve the most is with a dominant lefty.

 I am not going to go to in depth about McFarland- his role is long man/mop up- but lefties are hitting .316 off him and have an OPS of .830. Matusz is the guy we need to be stellar against lefties.  We have all seen what he can do to Ortiz and Hamilton.  But this year he hasn’t been nearly as lights out as was in the past.  While lefties are still only .215 against him, they are getting on base at a .271 clip.  That is way up from his .225 OBP last year. This is saying this Matusz is walking to many batters.  Maybe this is something he can fix but the Orioles to not have the time to play wait and see.   

Now the Orioles could look for someone outside of the origination to help and use Matusz in less pressure situations or… they could use Zach Britton.  Now before you go all crazy and tell me Britton is too good to be a lefty specialist think of this- being able to use your best pitcher (Britton) at any point of the game.  If the bases are loaded in the 8th and the Orioles are clinging to a lead who do you want to bring in to pitch?  I want Zach.  What about in the 7th or what about in an elimination game and he could pitch multiple innings if needed?  These are all options the Orioles could never use if they limit their best pitcher to just one inning.  It may be the hardest inning to pitch but not only could Britton solve the lefty issue, he could be anything the Orioles needed him to be out of the bullpen.  And that could be invaluable. 

Zach Britton

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Now all of this brings us back to Mr. Papelbon.  Out of all the the players on the Phillies roster he would be the one thier most willing to part with (that is not saying much).  Take a look at these numbers: ERA is sub 2, HR/9inn is 0.21, and his WHIP is 0.87.  Those are ridiculously small numbers.  Here's is the potential pitfall...  Papelbon is owed 13MM this and next year which is a lot for a closer, and we already proved that we do not want to pay that position when we traded Jim Johnson.  But if the Phillies are willing to eat some of that, then the Orioles should consider making a play for him.  It also shouldn’t cost us Bundy or Harvey and definitely not both. Huston Street was expensive but Johnson was traded for cheap.  What the Orioles have to give up depends on how much salary they are willing to pay.  But this is why it makes sense to get Papelbon now... he has World Series experience.  Plenty of our guys have seen the playoffs but nobody has seen October.  Papelbon has won in October.

But this is why I really want to see Papelbon on the Orioles and Britton out of the closer role- I want to see Zach Britton in next year’s starting rotation.  We all are dreaming of a Gausman/Bundy 1-2 combo. Now throw Britton into that mix.  He does not even have to be as dominant as he is right now to be a  good 3rd starter.  If we trade for Papelbon now, not only can we use Britton multiple ways this year for the home stretch, and have a closer with World Series saves, we would still have Papelbon for next year leaving it open for a possible rotaion of Gausman/Bundy/Britton/Tillman/Norris. (sorry Ubbaldo)  Makes your mouth water a bit doesn't it?



next up:

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