Monday, January 19, 2009

O's Acquire Pie from Cubs

The Baltimore Orioles have acquired former top outfield prospect Felix Pie from the Chicago Cubs for left-handed starter Garrett Olson and minor league right-hander Henry Williamson.

Olson has looked pretty bad in his first 33 Major League starts. He has posted a 6.87 ERA, going 10-13 with 111 strikeouts in 165 innings and a 1.82 WHIP for his career. This season, he was a hair better, going 9-10 with a 6.65 ERA with 83 Ks in 132.2 IP and a 1.73 WHIP in 26 starts. But, I guess the Cubs are reasoning that 25-year-old lefties don't grow on trees.

Williamson is not one of the top-10 prospects in the Baltimore organization, and none of his tools merited mention as top level in the 2008 report by Baseball America. He's essentially an organizational depth-minded throw-in. Olson will compete with Sean Marshall for the fifth starter job in Chicago. Ouch. Not a lot there...I wonder if they would prefer to have Jake Peavy?

Pie, who turns 24 in February, is definitely the most interesting piece in this trade. He is extremely athletic, a true center fielder, and paired with Nick Markakis and Adam Jones, the Orioles look to be very good in outfield run prevention (unless all of the balls land in the stands.)

Although Baltimore seems to have not taken my advice and traded Brian Roberts for Gavin Floyd, this deal is a smart move for them. Their pitching is very weak, and losing Olson doesn't help. Mark Hendrickson and Koji Uehara don't strike fear in my heart, especially at Camden Yards. They are not constructed to contend this season, and won't be a threat until some of their minor league starters (read uber-prospect Brian Matusz) have found their footing at the big league level to support Jeremy Guthrie and give the team a chance to win. They hope that at least one out of the group of Chris Waters, Matt Albers and Radhames Liz will emerge as a solid starter this season. Albers had a good season as a reliever last year, and Liz has good stuff. Then again, so did Daniel Cabrera.

Pie still has a chance to emerge as a solid Major Leaguer. He desperately needed a change of scenery, and the O's seem like a good fit. It's a young, smaller market non-contender with much less pressure, the perfect place for a young stud to develop his game through logging significant playing time. He strikes out too much, and doesn't hit for a high enough average right now, but he has double-digit home run and stolen base potential, even this season. His numbers in the minors have been consistently good. 

Luke Scott will likely move to designated hitter and Aubrey Huff to first base if Pie gets the starting center field gig coming out of spring training, which is likely because he is out of options and clearly needs a crack at the majors if he is going to approach or reach his high ceiling.

I like any move that makes the Orioles younger and more talented. They were able to accomplish that in this trade because the Cubs weren't willing to commit to Pie spending this season in the majors. Good move for now and for the future. A Markakis/Jones/Pie outfield has an extraordinarily high ceiling for years to come. Now to get cracking on that starting rotation...

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