Orioles Focused On Starters, Unlikely To Sign A Closer

Though the Orioles were clearly interested in signing a closer at one point this offseason — they did reach a two-year agreement with Grant Balfour that ultimately fell through — the team will likely go with an in-house candidate in the ninth inning this season, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. According to Connolly, the Orioles "have seemingly walked away" from the idea of adding a high-priced ninth-inning option like Balfour or Fernando Rodney. The team is now focused on starting pitching and adding one more backup catcher to the mix, despite already having four catchers on its 40-man roster.

Connolly's piece makes Bronson Arroyo out to be the likeliest candidate from the group of him, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. The reasons, not surprisingly, are Arroyo's cheaper price tag and the fact that he is not tied to draft pick compensation. Connolly notes that if the demands of Garza, Jimenez or Santana drop below four years following resolution of the Masahiro Tanaka situation, the O's could be a factor there as well.

Baltimore already has Johnny Monell, Steve Clevenger and Michael Ohlman on its 40-man roster, but executive vice president Dan Duquette would still like a more experienced option to consider for Matt Wieters' backup. He lists John Buck, Miguel Olivo and Michael McKenry as potential options on the free agent market, noting that McKenry is the most intriguing of the bunch.


72 Responses to Orioles Focused On Starters, Unlikely To Sign A Closer Leave a Reply

  1. danburrito 2 years ago

    I think that the Orioles may finally be coming to their senses. As much as I like Balfour, he was not a fit with that salary for the O’s. Their biggest area of need is certainly SP, and they are in a pretty bad position if they don’t sign/trade for one or two solid guys.

    • I Want My Bird 2 years ago

      The contract was fair market value for Balfour. He’s the consensus best closer available on the market. Hunter is questionable and O’Day as well in the closer role. I don’t understand the O’s self-imposed budgetary restrictions. They have no albatross monster contracts on their books weighing them down. They have some extensions coming up to think about, big whup to do. There’s no flame-throwing RP coming up from the farm I’ve heard about to give the closer job to. Thanks for playing a couple years ago O’s.

      • danburrito 2 years ago

        I’m not saying that that contract wasn’t fair market value for Balfour, I’m saying that he doesn’t fit in with the O’s on that contract. I see another team signing him for similar.

        • I Want My Bird 2 years ago

          Why can’t they afford him? You play with the big dogs in the street, or get out of the road.

          • danburrito 2 years ago

            They can’t afford him because they have an owner who refuses to give them the proper funds. Duquette has to work with what he has, and Balfour is not something that they can afford with the budget they are given. I do think that they need to be given more money to spend but I don’t think it’s happening anytime this offseason.

        • EmDash 2 years ago

          Considering the team is getting two markets’ worth of TV money and they pay a relative pittance to the Nationals, why is their budget so consistently low relative to other teams? They should be in a pretty financially advantageous position.

          I understand your point is that the team has shown no recent willingness to spend, I just don’t understand why this aspect of the situation isn’t brought up more.

          • Jim Low 2 years ago

            Nobody knows the true answer.. right now the excuse is the upcoming contracts of Davis Hardy and Wieters

          • mstrchef13 2 years ago

            “I just don’t understand why this aspect of the situation isn’t brought up more.”
            Horse = Dead

      • 22deputydo33 2 years ago

        the problem with the orioles self impsed budget is “peter angelos”. the needed balfour as the closer. i am not a tommy hunter fan. what is the point of signing a starter when the supposed to be closer is going to blow the game.

        • mstrchef13 2 years ago

          No offense but the team did not “need” Balfour as closer. And to your argument, if we had kept Johnson at his $10MM+ salary to blow another nine saves, there would be no point is signing any starters.
          And, FWIW, I’ve noticed that no one rushed out to sign Balfour after the O’s backed out, and that there are no rumors about interest by other teams in him. Perhaps, despite all his bluster and the ridiculously biased comments by non-O’s team doctors, the O’s were right about him.

      • Revery 2 years ago

        I think they do. Sign a starter and put Guasman in the closers job for a year. O’s then can reassess in 12 months. Why is the Bud Norris in the ninth idea not being bantered about still? He’d be filthy one inning at a time.

        • EmDash 2 years ago

          The Orioles don’t have so many acceptable starting pitchers that they can cut one’s innings down to < 75 and come out okay.

          • mstrchef13 2 years ago

            Norris can’t get past the 6th anyway. Never in his career has he had an IP/Start > 6.

          • Revery 2 years ago

            Agreed. Add the fact he really only has two pitches (and they are power pitches), he seems like a solid option.

          • not_brooks 2 years ago

            I had to look it up.

            Norris threw 91 pitches in seven innings in his first MLB start.

            He made it into the 7th eight times in 2010, 12 times in 2011, nine times in 2012, 10 times in 2013.

          • mstrchef13 2 years ago

            Fine, but you’re looking at specific examples. I’m looking at season long averages. He averaged 6.0 IP per start in 2008 and in the part of his 2013 that was in Houston. He was in the 5.x bucket for all other seasons, per Baseball Reference.

          • Bargab 2 years ago

            That is a very interesting and telling stat. Perhaps he should be the Os long man in the bullpen. I don’t think he has a closer mentality.

    • Curt 2 years ago

      I don’t think so . Maybe one more would be a big help , but it’s time to find out if these kids can pitch . I really think a few will, out of what we already have .

  2. Bargab 2 years ago

    A contending, let alone a championship, team needs a locked down closer. The can be no doubt about it. It requires a pitcher with command of his high heater and at least two finesse pitches to throw off the hitters. For the Orioles, that guy was Jim Johnson, who is had by a team with a much lower payroll than them. To me, this is the dumbest move by The Duke. Now there is no proven closer on this team as I pointed out when there was talk of this trade. Billy Beane most likely out played Dan Duquette, who was also his rival in Moneyball. It will be interesting to see who wins on this “trade”.

    • Bleed_Orange 2 years ago

      Being a salary dumb I don’t think there will be any real “winner” here. The O’s were desperate to get Johnson’s contract off the books so they took what they could get. Potentially having Weeks for 6 yrs > DFA Johnson and getting nothing. In a perfect world I would love to see Angelo’s use some of the money he is steeling from the Nats put into the team and not into his pocket but hey that the life of an O’s fan.

    • I Want My Bird 2 years ago

      I’d take Balfour anyday over Johnson, who had 9 blown saves, with a higher AAV in arbitration than Balfour’s agreed-to contract with the O’s. I actually don’t understand what has transpired from the A’s perspective.

    • mstrchef13 2 years ago

      Did you watch Johnson pitch last season? Johnson and command should not be in the same paragraph.

      • Bargab 2 years ago

        Ah, um, what do you call 50 saves? Again, he saved 50 games over the last season. Which closer on baseball did that? No one. He stands alone. He had enough command to win those games. Those would have been lost would have been and will be lost without a guy like him on the Os team. Too many fans underestimate that statistic. Billy Beane hasn’t, which is why he picked him up, with a much lower payroll than the Os, I might add. That tells you something, doesn’t?

        • mstrchef13 2 years ago

          It tells me that you and I don’t watch the same game, apparently. Over the last ten seasons (2004 – 2013), Billy Beane’s A’s have had two seasons where they had a closer save 30 or more games. Two out of ten (20%). How does that show valuing the save statistic?

          I call 50 saves irrelevant to my point, and that is that Johnson lacked command for most of the season.

    • Shawn Baublitz 2 years ago

      How many closers did the Red Sox have last year?

      • How many Jon Lesters do the O’s have?

        • Shawn Baublitz 2 years ago

          Orioles have a Tillman. His ERA and WHIP was slightly better then Lester.

          But I was saying the Red Sox won the WS without a big money closer. They had a few guys.

          • The Red Sox have a lot of parts the Orioles don’t though. I agree with you that a high-priced closer isn’t a necessity, but Duquette is letting all of the other gaps in the lineup, staff build up.

  3. Wooooooo 2 years ago

    Same story different day. As an O’s fan we need more than ‘interested.’

  4. The Orioles have gaping holes at 2B, DH, and LF. The do need another starter, but they need to address the offense as well. They’re essentially wasting Wieters and Hardy. They could compete in that timeframe, but they’ve chosen to stand pat with a roster that has a few really good players but a lot of problems.

    • BradyAnderson 2 years ago

      We had one of the best offenses in baseball last year with one of the most inconsistent starting rotations. I think they are focusing in the right place. We can deal with some offensive holes for now and still be in a decent spot.

      • I Want My Bird 2 years ago

        Ok so then if they had a change of direction regarding allocation of resources, they should have told Balfour and his people that, instead of slandering him with an ‘allegedly’ bogus medical concern. In which case I hope he does have a case against them.

        • BradyAnderson 2 years ago

          I was talking about the need of starting pitching over offense, but since you bring up closer, I don’t believe one is necessary as long as a manager knows how to use this bullpen, which buck is exceptional at. I do think the way the Orioles treated Balfour was wrong and downright embarrassing

          • I Want My Bird 2 years ago

            I understood your original point, it’s fairly obvious they had a change of heart over “paying” for an established closer, and decided to try and put that money towards starting pitcher or elsewhere. But my point above remains.

        • Bleed_Orange 2 years ago

          I really don’t think having a change of heart about signing a closer is the reason the Balfour deal fell through. Even sense the Albert Belle contract Angelos hasn’t wanted to take chances on big money players and injured players. Medicals didn’t look good enough and deal didn’t happen. At the end of the day he’s a 37 year old “closer” with a few good years, a few bad years, and 2 shoulder surgeries .

        • Damon Bowman 2 years ago

          Who slandered Balfour? Absolutely nothing was released directly or indirectly about why the deal fell through beyond having “concerns” about something. Nobody with the O’s was specific in any way whatsoever as to why they pulled back from Balfour. What you should be questioning is why hasn’t anybody brought Balfour on board for their team. The Rays doctor talked him up, but they didn’t sign him. Balfour and his agent were directly quoted as saying they have at least one standing offer and three other teams in talks over signing him. That was a month ago. It is possible that the O’s happened to be the first to spot something that other teams have not gotten wise to. Not saying it’s a certainty, but it is a growing possibility the longer Balfour remains unsigned.

      • EmDash 2 years ago

        They did have a great offense, but part of that was a near-unprecedented run of good health from their best players – 6 starting players played in at least 148 games. And Davis isn’t likely to put up a 1.004 OPS again. So they do need to make offensive improvements as well.

        • Brian 2 years ago

          Probably. But I thought he would regress from his 2012 numbers too…

    • Bleed_Orange 2 years ago

      In the minds of the O’s front office I think they only see a hole at DH. They have Reimold and (new guy from KC can’t remember his name) in LF and they will have Weeks and Flarhity at second.

      • Cereal 2 years ago

        Schoop at second as well

        • Bleed_Orange 2 years ago

          Yep forgot about him. I don’t think he has a chance out of spring training though with the mediocre season he had last year.

          • Damon Bowman 2 years ago

            I wouldn’t call it mediocre. I would say it was greatly affected by the back injury. Once that happened, his season of growth was all but over regardless of his recovering in time to play later in the year.

        • mstrchef13 2 years ago

          Schoop not this year. Also, Urrutia at DH, so they may not see a hole their either.

    • Damon Bowman 2 years ago

      I guess finishing 6th in MLB in runs scored means we weren’t as good as we thought? The offense needs to be tweaked to find one or two higher OBP guys to slot in there regularly, but they will score runs. The rotation is THE biggest concern going into spring training next month.

    • johnsilver 2 years ago

      The “gaping holes” signed a 2yr deal at under 11m (mcLouth) was under a .300 OBP guy (Flaherty), or played in a handful of games and signed elsewhere (Roberts), or is a position where Duquette should be able to fill in before the season starts (DH).

      I agree as well with the other posters that the rotation is 1st and foremost where he needs to do his work and not try to find yet more bats to go along with Jones, Davis, Hardy, Machado (when returns) etc.. The offense should be fine, a bit too impatient at the plate overall, but fine. Baltimore’s only problem (to me) is pitching.

    • Brian 2 years ago

      IMO, the O’s have two holes on the team: an OBP table-setter and a #2 SP.
      To me, it doesn’t matter if the OBP guy plays 2B, LF, or DH. I don’t care if he has speed or not. We just need a leadoff hitter to get on base ahead of the thumpers. I think they are hoping Lough is this years McClouth with a higher OBP.
      Tilly is an emerging ace. Then we have have 3 other solid #3 type pitchers (Chen, Gonzo, Norris). But no other ‘go to’ guy. I think DD isn’t willing to pay for an arm because he’s hoping Gausman is that guy. So we’ll see a retread until Gausman steps up. We’ll tread water this year until one of the young guns takes us to the next level.
      Lots of hoping and praying… not much paying.

  5. robbyb 2 years ago

    Which basically means they will sign a closer and stay in house for the fifth rotation spot (Zach Britton)

  6. Curt 2 years ago

    Question ????? Can any of these catchers hit more then 200 ?

  7. GoFish 2 years ago

    Kevin Gausman for O’s next closer. High-90s fastball should bring some success in the 9th inning.

    • Bleed_Orange 2 years ago

      I would be alright with that if it was a year as the closer then he is moved to the rotation the following year. I don’t want to see a Feliz or Chapman issue here.

      • mstrchef13 2 years ago

        If he closes, then it’s at least two years to stretch him back out to being a reliable starter. Not worth it.

      • Damon Bowman 2 years ago

        I don’t even want to entertain the thought. He needs to be stretched out for the long haul. Burning off a year of growth with a top-tier pick isn’t good for us — especially since his ML service time clock has already started. Dabble in moving Norris to the pen before you consider Gausman. Provided he shows up healthy to spring training and doesn’t look awful Gausman needs to slot into the rotation and be allowed to work through things — either Baltimore or Norfolk. He learned some things last year as a reliever and now he needs to apply that to working the starting role.

    • John Donovan 2 years ago

      Shouldn’t you wait for him to prove he can pitch in the big leagues AT ALL before anointing him the closer?

      • Revery 2 years ago

        Adam Wainwright says hello.

        • John Donovan 2 years ago

          Adam Wainwright was never made the closer in St. Louis, he was a middle reliever. And even if he was he never had a horrible season like Gausman had before. Right now there is no evidence that Gausman can even pitch successfully in the majors.

          • Revery 2 years ago

            Wrong.

          • John Donovan 2 years ago

            Thank you for constructive criticism of my answer. Since you seem to be all-knowing, how about you tell me why I am “wrong.”

          • Revery 2 years ago

            Well, while Wainwright was a middle reliever in 2006, he was named the closer in the last week of the season. He then proceeded to close in the Playoffs and WS. Remember Carlos Beltran getting schooled in NLCS Game 7? Never speak in absolutes. From what I have read, Wainwright was given the position due to a late-season progression in k/bb ratio. This is a trait shared with Guasman, who walked four and fanned 21 in 13 1/3 September innings. Guasman as a reliever saw an improvement in k/bb, BA, OBP, SLG, and OPS Against. And by wide margins, demonstrating the ability to pitch in the Bigs. Combine with a rumored innings limit in 2014, there is no reason Guasman cannot develop in the pen or stretch out for the second half.

          • John Donovan 2 years ago

            Okay you are technically correct because I left out a phrase in my response. I should have had “before the season started” in my response, but I thought that was obvious since the current season hasn’t started yet. It is still not a good comparison because Wainwright spent the entire 2006 season as a middle reliever proving he could pitch successfully in the majors. If Gausman spends the entire 2014 season as a middle reliever THEN becomes the closer in late September then I agree, The OP was saying Gausman should be made the closer NOW and as of NOW he is an unproven commodity.

  8. mstrchef13 2 years ago

    I like Arroyo. He’s consistent, he’s durable, he’s got experience pitching in a hitters park, and he’s not an extreme flyball pitcher.

    • I Want My Bird 2 years ago

      He allowed the most extreme flyballs (home runs) in the NL in 2013.

      • mstrchef13 2 years ago

        Point taken, but not the one I was making. Again, though, product of the ballpark? That means he’s got experience limiting damage and all that happy stuff.

      • Damon Bowman 2 years ago

        Take this for what it’s worth.
        Arroyo has given up 164 HR in the last 5 seasons (162 starts).
        He’s given up multiple HR in 41 of those 162 starts (25.3%).
        Of those 164 HR, only 57 had were with runners on base (34.8%).
        The HR numbers aren’t that bad. However, Arroyo’s combined ERA+ over the last 5 seasons: exactly 100. He might look good, but I think when we look deeper, he’s not the answer.

        • Bonzi77 2 years ago

          He’s not THE answer but he’s an answer. There’s a lot of value in a guy being able to throw 200 average innings.

          Jack Morris did that for a bunch of years and people wanted to put him in the Hall of Fame.

  9. Rabbitov 2 years ago

    If the O’s entire off-season is Lough and Arroyo it’ll be a long depressing season. Good moves but not enough.

  10. Bonzi77 2 years ago

    This is one of the things that is maddening about being an Orioles fan in the off-season. The Orioles by their own admission and actions have limited money to spend. The Orioles, according to this, feel like they don’t need a closer and are good with their current options. So if you assume both of those things are true, why the hell were they trying to spend money on Grant Balfour?

  11. not_brooks 2 years ago

    There’s no way the demands of the remaining FA starting pitchers drop after Tanaka signs.

    If anything, they’ll increase.

    • Bonzi77 2 years ago

      The Orioles live in fervent hope that one day a really good player with a perfect bill of health will somehow get left without a team when the off-season game of musical chairs is over and will have to sign with them for close to nothing.

      • Bargab 2 years ago

        That’s exactly what they are hoping for and it is called being cheap.

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