By Brad Fauber
Another Major League Baseball trade deadline has come and gone, and Orioles fans got to witness something that hasn't been the norm in Baltimore for quite a while.
The Orioles were very active in the month leading up to Wednesday's deadline, and while none of the three major deals that Baltimore struck can be considered blockbusters, it was certainly refreshing and a little exciting to see the Orioles making some moves to strengthen their playoff potential instead of dumping players to rebuild for the future.
Baltimore began the quest to stabilize its starting rotation with the acquisition of Scott Feldman from the Cubs in a deal that sent starting pitcher Jake Arrieta and reliever Pedro Strop to Chicago early in July. At the time I was somewhat sad to see Arrieta go, because I wanted to see him perform well at the major-league level for the Orioles -- but he just could never seem to find consistency in the majors despite multiple opportunities to do so.
Feldman is certainly no ace by any stretch -- the righty is currently 2-2 with a 5.12 ERA in five starts for Baltimore -- but at this point he is a step up from Arrieta, Zach Britton, Freddy Garcia or the handful of other fringe starters that the Orioles were using to fill up that fifth spot in the rotation prior to Feldman's acquisition.
Then just last week, Baltimore once again turned to the cellar of the National League Central for pitching help, grabbing reliever Francisco Rodriguez from Milwaukee in exchange for minor league prospect Nick Delmonico.
Honestly, I had no idea that K-Rod was still in the big leagues until I saw that the Orioles had acquired him, and my last memory of the longtime closer was when he was arrested a few years ago after allegedly assaulting the father of his girlfriend while Rodriguez was playing for the New York Mets.
Apparently Rodriguez was pitching pretty well in a late-innings role with the Brewers this season before Baltimore snatched him up, as he had a 1.09 ERA in 25 appearances and was a perfect 10-for-10 in save opportunities for Milwaukee. Rodriguez currently has a 6.00 ERA with Baltimore, but he has only appeared in three games, so that number will likely drop as he sees more time out of the bullpen.
Rodriguez probably isn't the same pitcher who saved an MLB-record 62 games for the Angels in 2008, but the 31-year-old is definitely a step up from the struggling Strop, whom Rodriguez essentially replaced in the back end of Baltimore's bullpen. The fact that the Orioles got Rodriguez in exchange for a guy who was batting just .244 with 13 home runs in high-A ball this season makes the deal that much better.
I figured the Orioles were done with major mid-season trading after the Rodriguez deal, but then they went and grabbed starting pitcher Bud Norris from Houston on Wednesday before the 4 p.m. deadline.
Much like Feldman, Norris isn't a household name and he doesn't come into Baltimore's rotation figuring to be the ace of the staff, but there are some things to like about this deal.
For starters, this trade was not made with only the final two months of the regular season in mind. The right-handed Norris will be under team control through the 2015 season, meaning the Orioles didn't give away two of its top-20 prospects for a rental with a career record of 34-46 and a 4.33 ERA.
The other positive to come from the deal with Houston was the price. The Orioles gave up outfielder L.J. Hoes and left-hander Josh Hader in the deal, and although both were considered valuable prospects, they were apparently a much cheaper alternative to what Houston was asking for prior to Wednesday's trade deadline. Hoes was considered the Orioles' No. 6 prospect by Baseball America, but he was probably never going to be more than a backup outfielder at the big-league level in Baltimore. And Hader is not Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman, so it's hard to be too upset with how the Orioles made out in the Norris deal.
Like I said, Norris isn't the ace that the team is still severely lacking, but the Orioles did just about as well as they could with the talent available on the trading block without parting with key building blocks of the team's future.
Plus Orioles' Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette has done an excellent job in the trade market since taking over the position two years ago, so it's hard to not feel a little confidence in the latest deals that took place in Baltimore.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org