How the Francisco Rodriguez to Orioles Trade Impacts AL East Race

Josh Schoch@JoshSchochAnalyst IIIJuly 23, 2013

The Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers have agreed to a deal that will send Francisco Rodriguez to Baltimore in exchange for infielder Nick Delmonico.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports first reported the trade that will ship arguably the best closer on the trading block to the AL East contender.

Big move by #Orioles: Acquire K-Rod from #Brewers for IF Nick Delmonico.

— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 24, 2013

The best division in baseball just got even better after this trade, as the Orioles picked up a top-shelf reliever in K-Rod who has been spectacular this season. Rodriguez has an ERA of 1.09 and a WHIP of 1.05 in 25 appearances this season. He's also 10-for-10 in save opportunities.

K-Rod is the type of reliever who has the potential to completely change a playoff race, and the O's are hoping he will do just that.

Baltimore sits in third place in the AL East, 2.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox. The division is incredibly close, as four teams are above .500.

Here's how the standings in the AL East look through Monday's games:

1Boston Red Sox6041.594-
2Tampa Bay Rays5941.590.5
3Baltimore Orioles5743.5702.5
4New York Yankees5247.5257
5Toronto Blue Jays4553.45913.5

With so many teams bunched up and the Orioles having 29 games left against divisional rivals (including the final 20 games of the season), acquiring K-Rod could prove to be the difference in the AL East.

By adding Rodriguez, the Orioles add a talented arm in the bullpen, and he will be used primarily as a setup man for closer Jim Johnson.

However, if Johnson struggles, K-Rod can also be plugged in as the closer, as he has a ton of experience in that role.

Orioles acquire Francisco Rodriguez from Brewers for minor leaguer Nick Delmonico. K-Rod's 304 saves are 3rd among active players.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 24, 2013

Johnson hasn't had an easy 2013. After not allowing an earned run in his first 11 appearances, he posted an ERA of 9.75 in the month of May, blowing four saves and converting only seven.

While Johnson has picked it up as of late, he has also blown two saves in his last 10 appearances and is up to six blown saves on the year.

The team is going to stick with Johnson for now, however, but if he struggles anymore, he could be replaced.

Having a guy who can maintain a lead through the eighth inning effectively is a huge help. The Orioles now have seven guys with an ERA below 4.00 in the bullpen. That kind of depth will take pressure off of the struggling starting rotation.

The team's starters haven't been as good as expected this season, with the team's best pitcher being Wei-Yin Chen, who has made just 10 starts all year.

While Miguel Gonzalez has also been solid with an ERA of 3.34, guys like Chris Tillman, Jason Hammel and the rest of the starters have been subpar, which is why the team ranks 28th in the MLB in ERA at 4.30.

With two legitimate closers on the team, opponents will have to beat the O's in the first seven innings of games, as K-Rod and Johnson will shut the door after that.

The biggest weakness Baltimore has had all season has been pitching, which is why the team sits in third place in its own division despite ranking third in baseball in runs scored. While the team wasn't able to improve its biggest need (starting pitching) because of a scarce market, the team did the next best thing by adding to its bullpen.

nice move by #orioles to get k-rod. easier to improve pen than rotation.

— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 24, 2013

We know that this move makes the Orioles much better, but the question remains as to whether or not this will be enough to shake things up in the AL East.

The O's have been unable to capitalize on the offense Chris Davis and Manny Machado have been providing because of their pitching.

With K-Rod in the pen, that will change because he can help shut the door against opponents earlier.

Baltimore ranks 27th in MLB in runs allowed in the seventh inning of games because of its starters. Now the starters will only be asked to go six innings before the team's many bullpen arms take over. As a result, Baltimore can expect to win more games.

This little boost is all the team needs to hop over the Rays and contend with the Red Sox for first place in the AL East.

If these two teams continue to play at this high level and are not ailed by the injury bug, the division will likely come down to the final series of the season, in which Baltimore will host Boston.

If the division does come down to the final three games, the Orioles have the edge, as they are 29-20 at home and are 5-2 versus the Red Sox this season.


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