Earlier today, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan reported that the Rockies had reached out to the Orioles regarding pitchers Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. That deal is one of several that could appeal to both teams as the trade deadline nears.
With the Orioles looking to sell, they have players that could be available, including Gausman and Bundy, at several positions the Rockies are known to be looking to upgrade including the bullpen, catcher and corner outfield. The Rockies also have pitching depth the Orioles could use.
Most of the talk surrounding the Rockies at the deadline has centered around the bullpen, and while Zach Britton is likely too rich for their blood — Baltimore would probably ask for Brendan Rodgers or Riley Pint as a centerpiece — there are other options that would be attractive, including Brad Brach, Darren O’Day and Mychal Givens.
O’Day would likely be the cheapest of the three in terms of prospects, as he is owed another $18 million for 2018 and 2019, plus the remaining balance of his $7 million salary this season. He has a 4.22 ERA and 3.42 FIP this season and has struck out 39 in 32 innings of work, making this the third straight season he has struck out 11 per nine innings.
After a strong 2016 season, Brach was called on by the Orioles to close games when Britton missed time with an injury this year. He has a 2.68 ERA this season, somewhat fueled by a .207 BABIP against him, though he has not allowed a BABIP higher than .267 since 2013, so limiting it seems to be an actual skill for him. He is also under team control through the 2018 season, so he would not be a rental.
While Baltimore has been up front about their willingness to move O’Day and Brach, as well as Britton, they have not publicly discussed trading setup man Mychal Givens. Givens would likely be significantly more expensive than Brach or O’Day in terms of prospects, but he is under team control through 2021 and has a 2.09 ERA and 0.97 WHIP this season, striking out more than a batter per inning.
The Rockies could try to trade for a package of one of those relievers and a catcher, either Wellington Castillo or Caleb Joseph, both of whom would represent upgrades behind the plate.
Castillo is the better-known of the two, especially to Rockies fans as he spent part of 2015 and all of 2016 with the Diamondbacks, but he could be a rental as his contract includes a player option for 2018. He has been solid offensively for the Orioles this season, hitting .265/.306/.431 with nine home runs in 53 games. Defensively, he has been about average so far this season, according to Baseball Prospectus.
Joseph is the superior of Baltimore’s two catching options in a trade. He has two more years of arbitration before he can hit free agency and is in the midst of his best offensive season, hitting .293/.325/.453 with four home runs, though some of his offense has been fueled by a .377 BABIP.
Where Joseph really shines is behind the plate. Baseball Prospectus ranks him as the fourth-best defensive catcher in baseball, scoring 10.3 runs above average. He has also been scored as the best in the league at blocking pitches, which could come in handy with sliders from the likes of Jon Gray, Greg Holland and Adam Ottavino.
Another Oriole the Rockies could be interested is even more familiar to fans than Castillo, former Rockie Seth Smith. Smith has been Baltimore’s primary leadoff hitter this season, hitting .260/.328/.448 with 10 home runs in 67 games. Two major drawbacks to Smith are that he is a rental and that he is a left-handed hitter, one that has almost exclusively faced right-handed pitchers this season in a platoon with Joey Rickard.
As for Gausman and Bundy, there are certainly qualities that would appeal to the Rockies, but it’s hard to see a fit for either of them on the 2017 roster, unless you put them in the bullpen, in which case it’s probably better to go after one of the relievers the Orioles are already making available.
That said, it’s not much of a secret that the Rockies have been after Gausman for years, and he certainly fits the profile of a Jeff Bridich pitcher, so it makes sense they would try to buy low on him now. Also, while his track record of success in the big leagues is limited, Bundy was a top prospect for years and is still just 24, so it makes sense for the Rockies to check in on him.
The appeal of all of this to Baltimore is that the Rockies have what they need. To say the Orioles’ starters have struggled this year would be an understatement. As a staff, their starting pitchers have posted a 5.96 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP in 2017. While I don’t expect the Rockies to trade any of the young starters on their big league roster, barring a deal for Britton, Givens or a Manny Machado blockbuster out of nowhere, they do have some arms in the upper minors, Sam Howard, Parker French and Harrison Musgrave to name three, that could help Baltimore’s rotation sooner rather than later. They could also dangle higher-tier arms like Ryan Castellani or Yency Almonte or young infielders Colton Welker or Garrett Hampson, if they are after a bigger return.
After Arizona grabbed J.D. Martinez for the stretch run, it is now the Rockies’ move as the trade deadline looms less than two weeks away, a call to Charm City should be high on Jeff Bridich’s priority list.