5 Ways the Joe Saunders to the Orioles Trade Impacts the AL Playoff Race
Late on Saturday night, the Baltimore Orioles announced that they had acquired veteran left-hander Joe Saunders from the Arizona Diamondbacks for reliever Matt Lindstrom and a player to be named later.
The deal certainly represents the fact that the Orioles believe they have a legitimate shot to make the postseason this year for the first time since 1997.
Saunders didn't figure into the future plans for the Diamondbacks, so the deal did not come as much of a surprise to him.
“As soon as we went to a six-man rotation, I pretty much figured I had a few more days here,” Saunders said. “It’s definitely easier going home to put on a new jersey. It doesn’t come from left field. Just was the way it worked out.”
The Orioles enter play on Monday tied with the Oakland A's for the second Wild Card slot in the American League, just 4.5 games behind the slumping New York Yankees in the AL East.
So, how does the addition of Saunders impact the playoff race in the American League?
Let's take a look.
Veteran Arm for Rotation Loaded with Youngsters
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The Baltimore Orioles recently have been going with a starting rotation with absolutely zero playoff experience and very little experience even at the major league level.
The rotation has featured rookies Steve Johnson, Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen along with Chris Tillman and Zach Britton, both just 24 years of age.
The addition of Joe Saunders adds a veteran arm to that mix, and also a player who has been in the trenches in terms of pennant races down the stretch.
Adding a Player with Invaluable Postseason Experience
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The Baltimore Orioles pitching staff is very young, as shown in the previous slide. None of the current starters have any postseason experience whatsoever.
Joe Saunders has pitched in the postseason for both the Los Angeles Angels and Arizona Diamondbacks, experience that is indeed invaluable.
While his postseason record itself isn't altogether impressive (0-1, 6.00 ERA in four starts), Saunders knows what it takes to pitch in the playoffs. Knowledge is power, and imparting that knowledge to his fellow teammates is definitely a plus.
Slotting Saunders in Rotation Gives Orioles Impressive Right-to-Left Rotation
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In less than two weeks, the Baltimore Orioles expect to have right-hander Jason Hammel back in the rotation.
Hammel, out since mid-July after having arthroscopic surgery performed on his right knee, could be back as early as Sept. 6 when the O's face the New York Yankees.
When Hammel returns, the O's could feature a rotation of Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Joe Saunders and Chris Tillman—a solid righty-lefty combination for the final few weeks of the season.
Steve Johnson and Zach Britton could be valuable pieces in the bullpen down the stretch for manager Buck Showalter, adding depth to a 'pen that is already ranked third in the AL with a 3.05 ERA.
Addition of Joe Saunders Gives Orioles Additional Weapon in Battle Against A's
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Based on current Wild Card standings, the Baltimore Orioles are looking up at the Tampa Bay Rays and sideways at the Oakland Athletics.
The surprising A's are currently dead-even with the O's in the race for the final Wild Card slot, and the recent suspension of starter Bartolo Colon certainly doesn't help Oakland.
For the Orioles, adding Saunders gives them an additional weapon to use in that fight for the Wild Card. The Rays already own a deep pitching staff, and the A's feature a staff similar to Baltimore—young with no postseason experience to speak of.
Orioles GM Dan Duquette Sending Message That His Team Is Prepared for Battle
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All season long we've been hearing about how the Baltimore Orioles are an unlikely candidate for the postseason. They are 12 games over .500 despite the fact that they've been outscored by a 578-532 margin.
To be sure, their Pythagorean W-L record as described by Baseball-Reference.com suggests that the O's should in fact be 10 games under .500.
However, here they are, right in the thick of the chase.
O's vice-president of baseball operations Dan Duquette clearly sent a message with the acquisition of Joe Saunders that he believes his team to be ready and up for the challenge that is presented over the final five weeks of the regular season.
Fans of the Orioles have waited a long time to savor any kind of success, 15 years in fact. Duquette has done and continues to do all he can to present a team that can give its fans that sweet taste once again.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.