The Orioles are getting very desperate. They realize that their rotation will not hold up in a very brutal American League Eastern Division. The Orioles owners and management spent a ton of money to revamp the team and they are prepared to go the extra mile to make a playoff run. Enter the Padres and their ace pitcher James Shields. He makes a great fit for the Orioles and management has given the approval to increase payroll.
James Shields is packaged with a low-level Padres prospect and traded to the Orioles for Christian Walker, Brian Matusz and Miguel Gonzalez. No cash is exchanged in the deal. Matusz and Gonzalez make a combined salary of nine million dollars for the 2016 season. The Orioles would be on the hook for $12 million more in 2016 with Shields on the roster and would also be responsible for his future contract.
To them it doesn’t matter. The franchise is all in. They need that ace-like pitcher and moving Matusz and Gonzalez only cleared room for Shields. We already know about Gonzalez, but Matusz is an intriguing option for the Padres. The former USD Torrero was the fourth overall pick in the 2008 MLB draft. He was a dominant starting pitcher and made a fast track to the major leagues. By 2009 he was in Baltimore and started eight games for the O’s that year. He was transitioned into a reliever in 2012 and has pitched out of the bullpen exclusively since then.
Matusz owns a career ERA of 4.76 and is 27-41 in his 272 games and 519 innings pitched. The 2015 year was a breakout year of sorts for the reliever as he went 1-4 out of the pen with a 2.95 ERA and struck out 56 batters in 49 innings. The lefty has a nice change-up and he could perform well for the Padres in the late innings. He is also in the last year of his contract and fits the Padres needs in that regard. He could be flipped in July if the team is out of it for prospects. A bonus for the Padres and A.J. Preller.
The third and lesser known player in this scenario is minor league slugging first baseman Christian Walker. The right handed hitter and thrower has some major league experience, but is completely blocked from playing on the O’s anytime soon. The Orioles have Chris Davis, Pedro Alvarez and Mark Trumbo all eligible to play first. Clearly Walker’s future is in another organization.
Walker is listed as the Orioles #13 prospect. He hit .257 last year in 534 at bats in Triple-A. He slugged 18 homers and drove in 74 runs and had a .324 on base percentage. Walker is described as a gap hitter who is just starting to develop power at the age of 25. Scouts say that he has an outstanding work ethic and that alone should earn him an opportunity to play at the highest level. The San Diego Padres need first baseman at the higher minor league levels. Walker would provide the team some organizational depth and also could earn a look or two in the near future.
Remember this deal is contingent that the Orioles just bite the bullet and go all in. They would be making a huge investment in Shields, but he could easily pay off for them. If he rounds back into form, the price they paid in terms of talent would be minimal. Gonzalez is of no use to the team, Matusz is useful but in his last year of a contract and Walker will probably not play for the O’s this season with all the new veteran talent on the team. This would be a huge financial commitment for the Orioles but when you make a run at it all, money means nothing.
Could A.J. Preller really move James Shields? There have been many reports indicating he is exploring his options. That does not necessarily mean he will get a deal done. In the end Preller will surely make a move only if it is beneficial for the team. The Padres still plan to compete this season and are in no way trying to pack it in. They have had plenty of opportunity to do that already. I don’t see that happening now. However if the team starts off slow, that is another story. We will cross that bridge when we get to it.