The Baltimore Orioles were a surprise playoff contender during the 2022 season. The Orioles lengthy rebuild finally began to see results last season, and while they ultimately were unable to find their way into the playoffs, it was a wildly encouraging season for Baltimore. As a result, they need to put together a strong offseason of work if they intend on becoming a legit playoff contender in 2023.
Baltimore's success last season was due to their strong lineup, and while that will carry over to the 2023 season, it's clear their pitching staff needs a lot of work this offseason. The Orioles have already worked on making some upgrades, as they signed Kyle Gibson in free agency, and have been lurking around Carlos Rodon, but what they are able to accomplish this offseason will likely show in their record in 2023.
While the Orioles are wise to make some big moves in free agency, there are also options for them on the trade market that could help them improve their squad. Let's take a look at one sneaky good trade Baltimore could pull off this offseason to help their ailing pitching staff and get them back in the playoffs next season.
Orioles perfect offseason trade
Acquire Kenta Maeda from the Minnesota Twins
In order for the Orioles to get a true ace this offseason, it's going to cost them a pretty penny. They have a need for solid starters at every spot in their rotation at this point, though, so they can't really get picky with who they target. And that's what makes Kenta Maeda an under the radar target who could end up panning out for Baltimore in a big way.
Maeda is a veteran starter for the Minnesota Twins who is likely going to get boxed out of their starting rotation in 2023. Maeda missed the entire 2022 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in September of 2021, and watched Minnesota fill out their rotation without him. The final nail in the coffin was likely when Minnesota swung a trade with the Cincinnati Reds at the trade deadline for Tyler Mahle.
At this point, the Twins don't really have room for Maeda in their rotation, or the leeway to try to work him back into the fold either. Minnesota's rotation is solid as is, and they could benefit from moving Maeda and trying to strengthen another area of their roster in the process.
The Orioles on the other hand could take all the help they can get. They don't really have a top end starter in their rotation, and while Maeda isn't exactly ace material, he has the potential to be better than any starter they currently have in their starting rotation, which would instantly make this a beneficial move for Baltimore.
Last time we saw Maeda on the hill, he was struggling, likely due to his need for surgery. Maeda's numbers from 2021 (6-5, 4.66 ERA, 113 K, 1.30 WHIP) aren't great, but you only need to look to his 2020 season (6-1, 2.70 ERA, 80 K, 0.75 WHIP) to see the potential Maeda has. Remember, that was the shortened 2020 season, and Maeda finished second in the American League Cy Young race.
Nobody is expecting Maeda to return and immediately pitch like that again, and there's a decent chance he will never hit those heights again. But Maeda should be better than he was in the 2021 season, and he could lead their rotation if they are able to add some more depth pieces behind him too.
The hope in trading for Maeda would be that he could return and make around 25 starts while posting an ERA around 3.50. Coming back from Tommy John surgery is no easy thing, and Maeda is also going to be 35 years shortly after the 2023 season starts. Banking on him for production is admittedly a bit risky, but it's a risk the Orioles can afford to take.
Given their need for starting pitching, the O's are really in no spot to turn down any pitching help they can get. Considering how the Twins likely won't be too upset to part ways with Maeda since he doesn't really factor into their future plans, they could probably acquire him for a lower-level prospect or two here.
Maeda isn't the greatest pitcher to take the hill, but he's exactly what the Orioles need. He figures to be a consistent starter who can go out and keep their offense in the game each time he takes the hill, and who knows, maybe he will find the form he had prior to his injury. The O's could desperately use some help in their starting rotation, which makes this a perfect trade that they should look to pull off this offseason.