Yesterday, FanRag’s Jon Heyman wrote that the Orioles have “no intention” of shopping Manny Machado with just a year on his contract before free agency and a potential record-setting deal, and today MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reports that Baltimore is aiming to add two starting pitchers from outside the organization. (Morosi, like Heyman, hears that shopping Machado is not in the cards for the O’s this winter.)
Starting pitching was always likely to be a need for the Orioles, though depending on the caliber of arms that is targeted, adding two starters from outside the organization would be the Orioles’ most aggressive pursuit of starting pitching in recent history.
Despite the longstanding need, the Orioles’ rotation additions last offseason consisted of depth pickups Gabriel Ynoa, Alec Asher, Logan Verrett, Richard Bleier and Vidal Nuno (many of whom have wound up working in relief this year). One winter prior, the O’s additions via both trade and free agency included Yovani Gallardo and Odrisamer Despaigne. A year prior, Eddie Gamboa was the most notable rotation possibility added, and Ubaldo Jimenez was the most noteworthy add in the 2013-14 offseason. The O’s did also add multiple years of Wade Miley at the 2016 trade deadline, though that swap hasn’t paid dividends.
Orioles GM Dan Duquette and his staff will have no shortage of options on the free-agent market this winter. While a pursuit of the market’s top-tier arms may not be likely, the second tier of free agency will feature names like Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Tyler Chatwood, Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas and Jaime Garcia.
Starting pitching is an acute need for the Orioles, to say the least, as the team’s 5.60 ERA, 5.18 FIP and total of just 811 2/3 innings from its rotation all rank among the bottom three in Major League Baseball. While a struggling rotation isn’t exactly new for Baltimore, the Orioles have been more in the bottom third of the league in each of those categories over the past few years than the bottom tenth as they are in 2017.
Chris Tillman has endured a stunningly precipitous decline this year, while Ubaldo Jimenez is having the worst season of his ill-fated four-year deal. Miley, too, is having a career-worst year, and Jeremy Hellickson has a 7.29 ERA with peripherals to match through nine starts since being traded. Most puzzling of all, righty Kevin Gausman was one of baseball’s least-effective starters in the first half.
The Orioles will no doubt show continued faith in Gausman, given his much-improved second half and relative youth (27 in January). Right-hander Dylan Bundy, too, figures to factor prominently into the Baltimore starting five next year. However, beyond that duo, there’s little in the way of certainty. It’s possible that the O’s could look to bring back either Tillman or Miley at a reduced rate, and aforementioned depth options like Ynoa, Asher and Bleier are all still on the 40-man roster. The Orioles are typically active in the Rule 5 Draft and could certainly look to add another option there as well.