Thursday, December 22, 2005

O's Chasing Prior

The Cubs have been discussing possible trades for perturbed SS Miguel Tejada that would send 25-year-old starting pitcher Mark Prior to the O's. Of course, this wouldn't be a straight-up deal, as the Cubs are asking for SP Erik Bedard in addition to Tejada.

To counter this demand, the Orioles have suggested adding Cubs outfield prospect Felix Pie to the deal, but the Cubs have balked at that notion. It appears the problem here is Baltimore over valuing Mr. Bedard.

Okay, so he's only 26 and has shown tremendous potential, but he's never really shown it, save for a few flashes. Injury problems have limited his innings, and we all know that pitchers are succeptible to recurring injuries. Parting with Bedard may be a risk, but it would be a risk worth exploring for an arm like Prior.

Then again, Prior isn't exactly the healthiest guy, which may be what's stalling this deal. It therefore makes sense for the Cubs to include Pie in the deal, who will be 21 on Opening Day. His line from AA last year:

ABAvgOBPSlgIso-DIso-POPSAB/SO
240.304.349.554.045.250.9034.53


So it's apparent the Cubs aren't willing to deal a youngster who can absolutely mash the ball. True, his sample size isn't the best for an accurate assessment, but that kind of power is tough to categorize as a fluke. The Orioles can realistically forget about landing Pie, as the Cubs would be foolish to part with him.

But what about Prior for Miggy and a slightly lesser arm? I know they don't want to part with youngster Daniel Cabrera, but what about Bruce Chen? Would the Cubs bite on a Miggy and Chen for Prior move? I know that if I was Peter Angelos, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

The main concern of the Orioles, though, is that they'd be hindering their offense. But when pitching has been your team's weak spot over the past X number of years, parting ways with a bat to acquire an ace pitcher is a smart move.

The Orioles ranked seventh in the AL in batting average, eighth in OBP, fifth in slugging, and 10th in runs scored, so depleting the offense is a legitimate concern. But they have added Ramon Hernandez this off-season. Yes, he obviously won't put up Miggy-esque numbers, but he will provide some offense for the team, both by himself and because he sends Javy Lopez to the DH spot, where he may be able to mash the ball better since he won't have to squat for 3 hours a day.

Plus, the pitching will help make up for it. A rotation of Prior, Bedard, Cabrera, Lopez, and either Hayden Penn or John Maine obviously would be an upgrade over that same rotation, minus Prior plus Chen. Of course, that's considering the Cubs would take Miggy and Chen for Prior.

The Orioles should be working hard and long to figure out how to make this one work. They're stationed in a division where they won't be able to out-mash their opponents, so the logical approach would be to bolster the starting rotation, a goal that has eluded Baltimore for the past few seasons.