The Orioles want a starting pitcher. Who’s left on the trade market as the deadline nears?

Published 8/1/2023 8:05 a.m. EDT, Updated 8/1/2023 4:33 p.m. EDT

TORONTO — The clock ticks ever onward, and so does Baltimore’s search for a starting pitcher ahead of Tuesday’s 6 p.m. trade deadline.

The Orioles continue to work the market, a source with knowledge of their decision-making said, and if there’s an exchange that fits, Baltimore will pounce. But general manager and Executive Vice President Mike Elias emphasized Friday that in his search for an additional rotation piece, he wouldn’t “set the minor league system on fire just because we are in first place. It’s our job to balance all that.”

That balance brings them into Tuesday morning having watched as several starting pitchers around the league have been dealt to fellow contenders.

The Los Angeles Angels added right-hander Lucas Giolito from the Chicago White Sox; the Texas Rangers added Max Scherzer from the New York Mets in a deal that included money to cover part of the hurler’s hefty contract; the Rangers also got right-hander Jordan Montgomery from the St. Louis Cardinals; and the Cleveland Guardians traded Aaron Civale to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Each deal required high-ranking prospects in return. And while Baltimore, with the No. 1 farm system in baseball, has the surplus to pull off such a deal, a willingness to do so remains to be seen.

After all, Elias said, “unless we have information that the world is ending in November, a big part of my job is worrying about the overall health of the team over the next several years.”

With that philosophy in mind — and no doomsday foretold for November yet — these are the starting pitchers who remain on the market. Some will take heavier prospect hauls than others to acquire, but they all will test Elias’ willingness to part ways with players who could be part of Baltimore’s future.

Eduardo Rodriguez

Once in Baltimore’s minor league system, the 30-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez could make a return to the Orioles as part of a trade with the Tigers. They are sellers, and the left-handed Rodriguez is about as intriguing of an option as there is on the market anymore.

Rodriguez has only thrown 88 1/3 innings this year because of a finger injury that kept him out for a little over a month. But now that is behind him, and he holds a 2.95 ERA with a 1.030 WHIP this season. He’ll command a high price, though, because Rodriguez is under team control through 2026 as part of a five-year, $77 million contract.

In a way, that control could work in Baltimore’s favor. Elias is building a team that has a window open for much longer than just 2023.

Michael Lorenzen

Rodriguez isn’t the lone Tigers starting pitcher who’s available at the deadline. His teammate, right-hander Michael Lorenzen, is an impending free agent in the midst of his first All-Star campaign.

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Lorenzen has a 3.58 ERA in 105 2/3 innings with a 1.098 WHIP. He uses a high-spin four-seam fastball regularly and also mixes in a slider, change-up, sinker and sweeper. Because Lorenzen is in the final year of his contract, the prospect haul would likely be less than what Detroit would seek for Rodriguez.

Jack Flaherty

The St. Louis Cardinals have already traded away several key pieces, such as right-hander Jordan Hicks to the Toronto Blue Jays and Montgomery to Texas. Jack Flaherty, another right-handed pitcher, could be another player departing ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.

The former first-round pick will hit free agency this winter after going through his third season of arbitration. Before then, though, he might be able to provide the innings the Orioles — or another contender — requires.

Flaherty has pitched to a 4.43 ERA with a 1.55 WHIP in his 109 2/3 innings, and he has completed at least five innings in 16 of his 20 starts. The Cardinals, sitting in last place in the National League Central, have benefited from their rare selloff by adding several top-15 prospects to their ranks. For the Orioles to complete a deal with Flaherty, the price will be much the same — not the top-end prospects, but a high-potential player anyway.

Dylan Cease

By trading Giolito, the White Sox set the groundwork for a full-blown selloff at the deadline. Right-hander Dylan Cease is the crown jewel of what’s left in Chicago’s rotation, and even with an ERA nearly twice as high as it was last season (4.15 vs. 2.20), Cease will command a large return.

That could mean including controllable, major-league-ready players, such as Joey Ortiz or Kyle Stowers. Cease has thrown 119 1/3 innings this year, although he hasn’t been as dominant as in recent seasons. His ERA+ is a slightly above average 105. His hard-hit percentage and average exit velocity are both in the bottom-20 percentile rankings.

Still, Cease has the pedigree of a front-line starter. And that’s something the Orioles don’t have.

Logan Gilbert

Before the Rays landed Civale, USA TODAY reported that Tampa Bay expressed interest in right-hander Logan Gilbert. Just about every club in baseball would be interested in Gilbert, after all, but it’s uncertain whether the Seattle Mariners would trade their young ace.

The former first-round pick is still 26 and has pitched more than 100 innings each of the last three seasons. So far in 2023, Gilbert holds a 3.83 ERA in 124 2/3 frames.

Dealing Gilbert would signal a massive rebuild for Seattle. While the Mariners have traded position players as the deadline approaches, Gilbert hasn’t reached arbitration yet; he won’t become a free agent until 2028. That gives little incentive to Seattle to lose a young arm.

Unless the return was that stunning.

The Orioles have the capabilities to pull off something like this, but Elias hasn’t indicated a willingness to shell out top prospects.

Justin Verlander

There would be a nice symmetry should Justin Verlander join a young Orioles team on the verge of breaking through in the postseason. He’s done it before, after all, and he did it previously for a team in which Elias was part.

In 2017, the Tigers traded Verlander to the Houston Astros, where Elias served as the club’s scouting director. Verlander’s presence in Houston helped the Astros reach the World Series. At 40, Verlander still has a 3.15 ERA this year for the Mets. Making a trade of this magnitude would be the clearest sign yet that the Orioles are going for postseason glory, but Verlander’s two-year, $86.67-million contract is far more than any member of the Orioles currently makes.

Still, the Mets could help pay that contract down, limiting the financial burden on Baltimore if the prospects in return were worth it.

It’s a big ask, but it’s technically possible.