The fireworks came a little earlier than expected this week as the Orioles made their biggest trade since acquiring Curt Schilling and Brady Anderson. Well... maybe not. But the O's did add a valuable (and much needed) piece to their pitching staff today. Baltimore traded Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop along with their 3rd and 4th international signing bonus slots to the Cubs for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger. I think this trade is a nice "real baseball" move for the Orioles, but what does it mean for the fantasy value of the players involved?
There are only two players in this deal who have any potential to make a fantasy impact. Steve Clevenger was a throw-in and will likely serve as the primary backup for Matt Wieters since Taylor Teagarden has twelve hits in the last two years. Pedro Strop is a right-handed reliever whose struggled most of his career and is once again posting an ERA over 7.00 after a couple years of outperforming his metrics. I don't know much about the international pool money and they may have some importance at some point, but not any time soon. That leaves Jake Arrieta and Scott Feldman.
Jake Arrieta is a one-time prospect who hasn't been able to put it all together yet. He showed a lot of strike out potential in the lower levels of the minor leagues but failed to translate it to the big leagues at the same rate. Couple that with the fact that he can't command his pitches and it's a recipe for underachievement. Arrieta has a heavy fastball that averages around 94 mph and has shown a plus slider at times. He also throws a sinker, curveball and changeup. The problem isn't the arsenal. Arrieta struggles with his control as well as his command, walking 10% of batters he's faced in the big leagues. For these reasons, people have been worried that Arrieta may end up in the bullpen and it looked as though he was headed that way with the Orioles. The Cubs will likely give Arrieta a chance to start again and he has the ability to become a middle of the rotation starter with decent strikeout totals. If he continues to struggle, though, he will likely end up as an effective late inning reliever.
Scott Feldman is the prize of this deal and he is also the most interesting fantasy player. Although he's not a frontline starter and probably not a play in shallow leagues, he is a decent pitcher who should be owned in leagues larger than twelve teams. Feldman works primarily with a cutter, sinker and curveball and is able to induce groundballs at a well above average rate. This ability helped him to have success in Texas and should help him translate to Baltimore. He does give up a few too many home runs and a move to the AL East isn't exactly a haven for pitchers. Although the teams in the AL East struggle to hit for high averages against right handers, they all rank in the top 11 in home runs.
His 18% strikeout rate is average at best but his walk rate is slightly above average at 7%. With a lack swinging strikes and trouble at times getting ahead of hitters, it doesn't seem likely that he will ever post numbers that are much better than average. He will most definitely benefit from the Orioles' defense - one that ranks fifth in Defensive Runs Saved and sports possibly the best left side of the infield in the league. If Feldman can continue to limit line drives, it should prevent the fluctuations in BABIP that have plagued him the fast few years and he should be able to keep his ERA below 4.00. Despite these fluctuations, Feldman has posted and xFIP under 4.00 each of the past three seasons and I believe he will continue posting similar expected ERA numbers in Baltimore.
Feldman doesn't put up numbers that make fantasy players drool but he has value in deep mixed and all AL-Only leagues. He should make fifteen or so more starts and I think he has the ability to pitch another 100+ innings. An ERA in the upper 3.00s with an above average WHIP over that amount of innings will have value in most fantasy leagues. He won't bring back many strikeouts but should help teams who are already strong in that category. I think Feldman can finish the year as a top 75 starting pitcher.