Let’s face it: The Orioles can make any trade they want.
With a 101-win roster, the top prospect in baseball and the game’s best farm system, Baltimore has the bargaining chips to acquire just about any player across the major leagues. Its willingness to make a deal, however, is another story.
General manager and Executive Vice President Mike Elias has been hesitant to thin the O’s talent pool through win-now moves. The trade deadline acquisition of starter Jack Flaherty, accompanied by the departures of prospects César Prieto, Drew Rom and Zack Showalter, represented the largest short-term gamble Elias has made since he took over in November 2018.
But that could change this winter. The Orioles are in need of pitching and seem to have reached a saturation point with their position-player prospects. If they’re priced out of the free agent market, a trade could be the best way to acquire a top starting pitcher.
Here are eight starters who could be on the block, and the likelihood that the O’s get a deal done.
Bieber has been floated as a potential trade candidate several offseasons in a row, which is more an indictment of the Guardians’ frugality than of Bieber’s value to his team. Entering his final year under contract, the righty may have played his final game for the franchise.
Bieber has seen his strikeout numbers decrease dramatically since his Cy Young season in 2020, dropping to 7.5 Ks per nine innings in 2023. Although the 28-year-old has never thrown particularly hard, his four-seam fastball dipped to a career-low 91.3 mph on average last season, another potential area of concern. Still, he produced a 3.80 ERA while battling right elbow inflammation. As one of the bigger names on the market, Bieber should fetch Cleveland a hefty return.
Likelihood: 8%. Bieber’s declining statistics and impending free agency will likely give Elias pause.
Last January’s trade for left-hander Cole Irvin seemingly came out of nowhere, surprising observers who expected the Orioles to acquire a more impactful starter. After Irvin’s mediocre season in Baltimore, would the O’s entertain another trade for a middling A’s starter?
Blackburn registered similar numbers to Irvin’s in 2023, posting a 4.43 ERA in 21 appearances for Oakland, and like Irvin he pitches to soft contact. With two years of team control left, Blackburn could be the latest casualty of the A’s never-ending fire sale. Perhaps the righty could fight for a starting spot in spring training, but he doesn’t profile as an upgrade over the back-end starters Baltimore has in house.
Likelihood: 5%. Elias should be on the lookout for a higher-upside player.
With three All-Star appearances and a Cy Young Award, Burnes could be the prize of the trade market. The 29-year-old is entering his final year under team control, and the Brewers appear poised to move on despite Burnes’ stretch of dominance in Milwaukee.
The righty’s numbers have slipped ever so slightly each of the last two seasons, but he still pitched to a 3.39 ERA and led the National League in walks and hits per inning pitched. Would the Orioles be comfortable surrendering several top prospects for a pitcher who could leave in free agency after just one season?
Likelihood: 9%. Elias won’t want to meet Milwaukee’s asking price for only one year of an ace.
The Marlins and the Orioles are logical trade partners given their inverted roster strengths. Elias surely covets Miami’s deep collection of young pitchers, while the Marlins are in need of an everyday shortstop, and the O’s have a few players – Jorge Mateo, Joey Ortiz, Jordan Westburg – who could fit that bill.
Cabrera, a 25-year-old righty with impressive strikeout numbers, is not the type of player teams usually trade. But his 15.2% walk rate in 2023, which ranked in the first percentile among all pitchers according to Statcast, could be too much for Miami to stomach. Cabrera is not scheduled to become a free agent until after the 2028 season, so it would likely take a significant package of prospects to acquire him, but the juice could be worth the squeeze if the Orioles can maximize his five-pitch mix.
Likelihood: 4%. New Marlins President of Baseball Operations Peter Bendix won’t want to start his tenure by dealing one of his team’s highest-upside pitchers.
The White Sox probably missed their window to cash in on Cease – the righty was the runner-up for the American League Cy Young Award in 2022 before stumbling to a 4.58 ERA in 2023. But Cease still pumps a 96-mph fastball and registers high strikeout numbers, so he holds significant value.
The former sixth-round pick, who turns 28 at the end of the month, has made almost 100 starts over the last three seasons, so durability is not a concern. And, with two more years of team control, Cease could slide nicely into the Orioles’ rotation while the team waits to see what it has in prospects Chayce McDermott, Cade Povich and Seth Johnson. But the White Sox might ask for a pitcher in return, meaning one of those three could be sent back to Chicago in a deal for Cease.
Likelihood: 23%. Cease fits in the Orioles’ sweet spot: not quite an ace but a solid 2-3 starter. And that extra year of control is a major selling point.
There’s been significant buzz around Glasnow this winter, and the market for the righty appears to be feverish as teams prepare for the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee. The Rays have him under team control for just one more year, making him a likely trade piece.
Talent is not the issue for Glasnow. Health is. The righty reached 120 innings for the first time in his career in 2023, and he’s started just 37 games over his last three seasons. But Glasnow’s tantalizing three-pitch repertoire and 33.4% strikeout rate will entice teams to bet on his upside. Intradivision trades are rare, so the Orioles might have to pay a premium, but Glasnow is a star when healthy.
Likelihood: 3%. The risk is too great, and the Rays won’t want to face him multiple times in 2024.
The only left-hander on this list, Gonzales was held to just 10 starts in 2023 and underwent surgery for a nerve issue in his forearm in August. He’s expected to have a normal offseason, though, and he has proven to be durable, racking up over 850 innings since his trade to Seattle in 2017.
Gonzales’ fastball hasn’t averaged 90 mph or more since 2018, and he doesn’t produce strikeouts at a high rate – only 6.1 Ks per nine in 2023. But he keeps the ball in the ballpark, and Statcast places his chase rate in the 81st percentile. With a bevy of young pitchers at their disposal, the Mariners may not have use for Gonzales in 2024. Acquiring Gonzales and his $15 million team option for 2025 could make sense for the Orioles if the price is reasonable.
Likelihood: 18%. John Means projects to be the O’s only left-handed starter in 2024, and his injury concerns could force Elias to scour the market for another southpaw.
Keller’s climb to his first career All-Star Game in 2023 wasn’t exactly linear. The former second-round pick posted an ugly 6.17 ERA in 2021 before bouncing back with a 3.91 the following year, thanks in part to a new, highly effective sweeper. The righty put up a 4.21 ERA in a career-high 32 starts this past season in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates still have Keller under team control through 2025, and, at just 27, he appears to be an ascending player, pitching close to 200 innings in 2023. He’s not the ace Bieber or Burnes is, but he’d raise the floor of the Orioles’ rotation and give manager Brandon Hyde added depth.
Likelihood: 11%. Pittsburgh took a small step forward in 2023 and could be eager to have Keller anchor its young rotation.