The Baltimore Orioles have acquired reliever Francisco Rodriguez from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for minor league third baseman Nick Delmonico. Rodriguez has ten saves for Milwaukee this season along with a 1.09 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings.
Baltimore has seen their bullpen's ERA jump by more than half a run this season up to 3.68 after an unreal 2012 that saw their pen finish with a 3.00 ERA, good for third in the American League. 2012 standouts Troy Patton and Jim Johnson have seen their ERAs jump by a run in 2013, while Pedro Strop's ERA nearly tripled before he was dealt to the Cubs in the Scott Feldman trade. The 31-year old Rodriguez was signed to a minor league deal by the Brewers in April before being brought up by the club in mid-May. His fastball isn't as dominant as it once was, with a whiff rate under 10% each of the last two years, but he's been picking up velocity as the season as gone on.
However, the price that the Orioles paid was a high one. Delmonico came into the year ranked as Baltimore's fourth-best prospect by Baseball America (behind elite pitching prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, as well as Jonathan Schoop, who has dealt with injuries this year). For High-A Frederick this season, the 21-year old is hitting .244/.351/.471 with 13 homers. The sixth round pick in 2011 was described by BA as having a ceiling of a first-division corner infielder. Players with that sort of upside are exactly what the Brewers should be looking to acquire.
With the Ryan Braun suspension now underway for the Brewers, it looks like the dismantling of parts of the team will begin. It wouldn't be shocking to see players like Norichika Aoki, Yovani Gallardo, John Axford, and Michael Gonzalez start to follow K-Rod out of town over the next week.
The Brewers did well to get a player the caliber of Delmonico for an impending free agent like Rodriguez. The Orioles also did well to pick up an arm like Rodriguez, even if he's not the dominant player of old, without giving up a player on their major league roster or one who would be helping them in the next couple of seasons.
Orioles GM Dan Duquette realizes that his team made the playoffs on the strength of their bullpen last year, and that corps has taken a step back this year. Solidifying the group with Rodriguez makes the Orioles a legitimate threat to win the AL East, especially with how well their offense has performed this season in comparison to 2012. With the starting pitching also turning things around after the acquisition of Scott Feldman, it's going to be an exciting race in the AL East over the last two months of the season.