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Orioles expected to shop Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta

The Orioles have young pitching to spare and they could look to deal Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta soon.

Jim Rogash

The Baltimore Orioles have a surplus of talented young pitchers at the moment and at least one rival executive expects them to start shopping lefty Zach Britton and righty Jake Arrieta at some point this spring, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

The Orioles were 2012’s Cinderella story, defying the odds and their own run differential to win 93 games and chasing the Yankees for the AL East title all season. They have made few headline grabbing moves this off-season despite obvious needs at first base, designated hitter and in the outfield, but their surplus of young pitching talent could help them swing a big trade before the season starts.

Zach Britton has struggled as a major leaguer, but it was not that long ago that he was one of the most highly regarded pitching prospects in the game. The lefty was the 28th prospect in the country heading into the 2011 season according to Baseball America. He was not great that year, pitching 154 innings with a 4.61 ERA, but his 52.8% ground ball rate was quite promising. He battled injuries in 2012 and posted a 5.07 ERA but in 11 starts and 60 innings of work he did show an improved strikeout rate and an incredible 60% ground ball rate. He is under team control until 2018 and could certainly help net a strong return in trade.

Jake Arrieta is similar in many respects. Like Britton, he was a highly regarded prospect, ranking 67th in Baseball America’s estimation prior to 2009 and 99th prior to 2010, but he has had great trouble adapting to the big leagues. He has a career 5.33 ERA in 334 innings and he has also struggled with injuries. Last season was a strange one for the 26 year old. He had a horrible ERA (6.20) and he struggled badly with the long ball, giving up home runs on 14.5 of fly balls, but he had very good strike out and walk rates, leading to a 3.1 K/BB ratio. He also has a great deal of team control left and would be an intriguing fit for a team that plays in a less offensively charged environment.

The Orioles have Dylan Bundy competing for a rotation spot this Spring and the number two prospect in baseball would almost certainly be an upgrade over either Britton or Arrieta. 29 year old Jason Hammel was the oldest pitcher on the 2012 team to top 100 innings, and the team’s bullpen, which was third in the American league in ERA last year, has little room left as well. As a result, the Orioles can afford to deal two young cost-controlled players and that is rare advantage in the trade market. They could be a match for the pitching starved Rockies or for the Angels, who still have a number of movable position players.

Orioles GM Dan Duquette has been surprisingly quiet this off-season, especially given his reputation as an aggressive dealmaker. He may simply be waiting for the right time to play this unique trump card.