Sunday, July 03, 2005

Opinion: Burnett to Orioles trade rumors

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that the Marlins approached the Orioles about a trade that would send A.J. Burnett and outfielder Juan Encarnacion to the O's for Jorge Julio, Larry Bigbie, and either Daniel Cabrera or Hayden Penn. The Sun-Sentinel also reported, though, that talks have been put on hold as the O's focus on Giants pitcher Jason Schmidt.

Burnett is 5-5 with a 3.18 ERA, which is good, but not at all worth the price that the Marlins are asking. I was reading Camden Chat, which basically said that the deal is pretty even because Cabrera and Penn don't project as aces and Bigbie is as good as he is going to get. I can't say I agree. I think Bigbie will improve. He may never be an All-Star, but he could definitely be a .300, 20 HR guy. Cabrera, I think, has the potential to be a star. Ray Miller has been working on him with his windup and it really looked like it came together on Saturday. He was throwing BBs, hitting 97 to 99 on the radar gun consistently with his fastball. As for Penn, it's hard to give up on a 20-year-old pitcher who has shown signs that he could be a solid Major Leaguer.

As far as I can see, this deal creates too much of a dilemma for the Orioles. If you trade Cabrera, he could become a monster pitcher somewhere else. He showed last year that he has the mental coolness and the quality stuff to become an amazing pitcher. If you trade Penn, someone has to go from the rotation, because you've got Burnett, Bedard, Lopez, Ponson, Cabrera and Chen.

If the deal has to happen, I hope it happens with Julio, Bigbie and Penn, even though I like Bigbie and think Penn could be good. Losing Cabrera AND Bigbie is just too much.

In general, I think the price is too high for Burnett, and I'm glad the Orioles are looking at Schmidt instead. He struggled early in the season, so he won't command as much in trade, and he's been solid in his last three starts (all wins). That being said, he's only worth it if we can get him pretty cheap, because there is a bigger risk that he flops. Maybe Julio and a minor leaguer or Penn and another prospect in the deal, but nothing more.

Either way, there is still a question of what to do with our six-man rotation. Erik Bedard and Bruce Chen have been the Orioles' best and most consistent pitchers, and Rodrigo Lopez is clearly in the middle, with Ponson and Cabrera at the bottom. There is an off chance that Mazzilli sends Lopez to the 'pen (he's been there a few times in his Orioles career), but I feel like he's earned his way out of the bullpen too many times already. I expect it's either Cabrera or Ponson, which is almost a toss-up.

I think Cabrera would probably get sent to the bullpen for a couple of reasons. First, Cabrera is younger, so Ponson might get the spot in the rotation just because of seniority. Second, Ponson had a good second half last year while Cabrera faltered.

That would make the Orioles rotation:
A.J. Burnett/Jason Schmidt
Erik Bedard
Bruce Chen
Rodrigo Lopez
Sidney Ponson

That's an exciting rotation if everyone plays close to their potential, but we know that's a pretty big "if."

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