Here we are, just 37 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to the Ed Smith Stadium Complex in Sarasota, Florida. In just over seven weeks, the thoughts of daily baseball routines, fresh cut grass and warmer weather all return. Of course, there’s no guarantee that warmer weather will be here in under seven weeks – it’s been below freezing consistently since Christmas Day – but there is a guarantee that baseball will be back.
There’s no doubt that the Orioles still want to be competitive in 2018, but there’s a huge doubt cast over the pitching rotation and who will break camp with the club behind Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. We all know how the story goes – in order to be competitive the Orioles are going to need to pitch better. What we don’t know though is what Executive Vice President Dan Duquette is planning on doing to improve the 2018 starting rotation.
The Orioles had a top-10 team ERA in 2014, posting a 3.44 mark on their way to the American League Championship Series. Since that time, the Orioles have posted team ERA’s of 4.05, 4.22 and 4.97, good for 17th, 19th and 27th in the majors, respectively.
Digging a little deeper into the meat and potatoes of those numbers, in 2014, the Orioles starting pitchers tallied a total ERA of 3.61, followed by ERA’s of 4.53, 4.72 and 5.70.
Even with Dan Duquette outlining the team’s plan in 2018 to compete, and going on record to say, “We still have a pretty good core group, and I’ve got to tell you, that rebuilding, that’s not very much fun,” there’s no chance to compete without adding starting pitching.
It’s been bone-chilling cold, but not cold enough to freeze the Free Agent market like Elsa froze the Fjord.
There’s plenty of guys still out there. Big name starters such as Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb and Yu Darvish, middle of the pack guys like Anibal Sanchez, Matt Garza and Clay Buchholz and former Orioles Chris Tillman, Jeremy Hellickson and Ubaldo Jimenez.
While I don’t think the Orioles are going to be the team that signs two top-tier Starting Pitchers this offseason, I do believe they could land at least one middle of the pack guy, helping to bolster a rotation that’s struggled heavily over the past three seasons. I also think a reunion with someone who’s been with the club prior is bound to happen.
The O’s aren’t privy to handing out major contracts for Starting Pitchers, but if they want to improve the rotation, barring a trade, they’re going to have to.
Per Spotrac, the AAV (Average Annual Value) for the top-tier starters I listed above, go as follows:
Jake Arrieta – $26.6MM
Lance Lynn – $17MM
Alex Cobb – $18.3MM
Yu Darvish – $22.7MM
Signing even a middle of the rotation starter is going to cost the team at least $12MM, for multiple years. Roster Resource lists Gabriel Ynoa, Mike Wright and Miguel Castro as third, fourth and fifth starters, respectively, behind Bundy and Gausman. Surely, the Orioles are going to acquire one or two more starting pitchers, via trade or free agency.
Whether it be tomorrow, next Friday or four weeks from now, the front office must act to sign starters. The Red Sox are improving their team and the Yankees have improved theirs.
If the Orioles don’t add to their depleted rotation, I’ve said it twice already, there’s no chance they compete without adding starting pitching.