Quick, name the fifth starter for the Baltimore Orioles. You can’t do it, can you? That’s because, for the better part of the past month, the O’s have been operating without a No. 5. Heck, you could argue they’ve been sin cinco for the entire season.
Oh, they’ve tried. In fact, manager Buck Showalter has auditioned so many people you’d swear he was Simon Cowell. From Mike Wright to Tyler Wilson to Ubaldo Jimenez to Vance Worley, it seems like the Birds have audited every arm in the organization in an effort to round out the rotation, only to come up empty. Until now.
On Sunday, the Orioles acquired Wade Miley from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for 27-year-old minor league hurler Ariel Miranda. That's not to say Miley slots in as Baltimore’s No. 5 guy. The truth is, in a lackluster rotation where it’s Chris Tillman and everybody else, the difference between Nos. 2 and 5 is virtually indistinguishable (and not in a good way). With Miley (and recently promoted Dylan Bundy) on board, the Orioles have five legit starters for the first time all season.
When it comes to game-changing deadline acquisitions, nobody is ever going to put Miley and his 4.07 career ERA in the same group as David Price or C.C. Sabathia (unless, of course, it’s a group called “former first round lefthanders who got traded in their late 20’s"). But in nabbing the 29-year-old vet, the Orioles get:
A certifiable innings eater. Since being inserted into the Diamondbacks’ rotation as a rookie in 2012 (when he won 16 games and finished second in the ROY voting), Miley hasn’t missed a start and has thrown the 14th most innings in the majors.
A lefthander. Baltimore's rotation has been missing a lefty since Wei-Yin Chen left as a free agent to Miami over the winter.
A hurler who’s trending up. Despite a 4.98 ERA on the season, in three starts since the All-Star break, Miley — who’s coming off seven innings of one-hit ball against the Chicago Cubs — sports a tidy 0.88 WHIP that ranks fifth in the American League.
Perhaps most importantly, GM Dan Duquette got good value in Miley. Leading up to Monday’s trade deadline, the concern among O’s fans was that Duquette might be willing to overpay and fork over one of the team’s few bright-ish prospects (i.e., catcher Chance Sisco) for a hurler of marginal impact. Instead, all the Orioles are giving up is Miranda, who’s closer to 30 than 20 and has pitched to an ERA near four in Triple-A this season. If the deal seems a little lopsided, that’s because the Mariners were probably looking to do a little salary dumping.
As for the Orioles, they’re happy to pay Miley’s relatively reasonable rate if it means giving the Birds’ bullpen a break. He’s due roughly $2 million more this season, plus another $8.9 million next year.
Baltimore’s relievers have been outstanding, leading the AL in bullpen ERA (3.06). But thanks to an underachieving group of starters, they’ve also been heavily taxed with the second most innings pitched in the AL. Plugging Miley into the rotation should go a long way toward not having the bullpen decimated by a staccato start every fifth day.
Now the question becomes, what happens to Ubaldo Jimenez? Owner of a 7.06 ERA that’s the worst among major league starters (min. 80 innings), Jimenez has been brutal this season. Although he showed signs of life in his most recent turn (5 IP, 1 ER, 8 K), it’s hard to imagine the Orioles keeping him in the rotation now that they have Miley. Then again, it’s hard to imagine Jimenez clogging up a valuable roster spot in the bullpen, which he’s spent the better part of July doing.
With one more day left until the trade deadline, maybe Duquette is not done dealing yet. Maybe he can leverage Jimenez’s last start and find a trade partner. Or maybe, in an effort to limit Bundy’s innings, they’ll move the rookie to the bullpen and just have him be the D.R.O.P.O.U.T. (Designated Reliever who Only Pitches On Ubaldo’s Turn). Or maybe the O’s will just release Jimenez. As unlikely as that seems given his contract, it’s a luxury the Orioles can seemingly afford — now that have they have five legitimate starters.