The Orioles have agreed to a minor league contract with veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc, tweets ESPN’s Jeff Passan. He’ll be in Major League camp during Spring Training and would stand to earn an $800K base salary upon cracking the MLB roster.
Baltimore represents a prime location for a 35-year-old veteran on this type of contract to make a legitimate bid for a roster spot. The Orioles have already traded away Dylan Bundy this winter, leaving their rotation with a composition of John Means, Alex Cobb (health permitting) and journeyman Asher Wojciechowski. The Orioles’ only other rotation moves this winter have been to sign former Twins prospect Kohl Stewart to a big league deal and to select righty Brandon Bailey from GM Mike Elias’ former Astros organization in the Rule 5 Draft. Other internal candidates for starting gigs include right-hander David Hess, who struggled substantially in 2019, and left-hander Keegan Akin, who has yet to make his MLB debut.
It’s the sort of woeful rotation mix one would expect from an organization that is more intent on securing the first overall pick in the 2021 draft than on winning games in the upcoming season. And while that may not be good news for O’s fans, it does provide an avenue for a veteran like LeBlanc to seek out a bounceback opportunity.
LeBlanc was harmed as much as any starter in the game with last year’s juiced ball, as he yielded a staggering 2.1 homers per nine innings pitched and saw his ERA balloon by nearly two full runs over its 2018 levels (5.71 in ’19 versus 3.72 in ’18). In spite of the poor bottom-line run prevention (or lack thereof), the veteran southpaw still maintained similar K/BB tendencies to the ones he showed in a solid three-year stretch that preceded the 2019 season.
From 2016-18, LeBlanc tossed 292 innings (35 starts, 66 relief appearances) and pitched to a 3.91 ERA with 7.2 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 1.4 HR/9 between the Mariners and the Pirates. His soft-tossing arsenal will face a tough task in the American League East if he does land on the big league roster, as he’ll be moving from the spacious T-Mobile Park and a division that generally skews a bit more toward the pitcher-friendly side of things to the cozier Camden Yards and hitter-friendly AL East. The lack of competition for a starting spot in Baltimore, though, should give LeBlanc a legitimate chance to land a roster spot this spring.