Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Breaking down the Feldman trade
By Keith Law
The Baltimore Orioles and Chicago Cubs kicked off the July trading season Tuesday with the Cubs sending right-hander Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger to the Orioles for righties Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop, as well as some money from their international spending pool.
The Orioles add a much-needed starting pitcher in Feldman, who has remade himself this year into a ground ball pitcher who rarely walks anyone, alleviating the problem of his modest strikeout rate. Playing in front of a strong defense in Baltimore, especially on the left side of the infield, should help him; his BABIP in Chicago of .255 was unsustainably low, but the regression shouldn't be so severe with J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado behind him.
Feldman gets good sink on his 89-91 mph fastball but also throws a ton of cutters at almost the same velocity, helping keep hitters from identifying either pitch too soon. His curveball is a clear third option, with most of his success coming on the fastball and cutter, and if there's a concern beyond the BABIP question, it's that he's a little vulnerable against right-handed power hitters, lacking a strong changeup to keep them off the fastball. The O's also get Clevenger, a capable backup catcher who probably ends up taking Taylor Teagarden's roster spot.
Arrieta has long underperformed his stuff thanks to below-average command and control, both of which deteriorated even further in his brief big league time this year. He'll sit 92-96 even as a starter, with a four-pitch mix featuring above-average breaking stuff but nothing that has ever played as a true out pitch for him, and there's some reason to think he might be better off in a late-game role where he can simplify the repertoire and just air out the fastball.
I expect the Cubs to try to work with him as a starter, to see if they can get similar improvements to the ones they've gotten from Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood over the past two years after small mechanical adjustments.
Strop is just a hard-throwing reliever from the Carlos Marmol school of relief pitching -- let it go and don't worry about where it ends up -- who could end up a trade chip for the Cubs in the next two months if he starts throwing strikes again. The Cubs also receive two international bonus slots from the Orioles, potentially helping them boost their farm system while also highlighting how incredibly ridiculous it is that MLB teams can't trade draft picks.