The Orioles have continued their previously reported interest in free-agent starter Michael Wacha, per Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. There is no indication that talks between the two parties have been particularly serious. Wacha would give the Orioles a second free-agent veteran arm signing, with the club having already added Kyle Gibson on a one-year, $10MM deal in early December.
Wacha, 31, threw 127 1/3 innings with a 3.32 ERA during the 2022 season. His 20.2% strikeout rate and 41.2% ground ball rate were both below the league average for starters, but he coupled that with a strong 6.0% walk rate. Nevertheless, advanced fielding-independent metrics were not as bullish on his baseline ERA work, with Wacha finishing the season posting a 4.14 FIP and a 4.07 SIERA. Likely contributing to these higher metrics was the 80.3% strand rate that set a career-high by nearly 7% and some luck with balls in play (.260 BABIP).
Notably, 2022 was Wacha’s first season since 2015 in which he threw over 100 innings with a sub-4 ERA. Additionally, 2022 marked the righty’s fourth consecutive season where he was limited to less than 130 innings, excluding the COVID-19 2020 season. Wacha required two separate stints on the injured list during the 2022 season, missing a couple of weeks with left intercostal irritation in May and missing the bulk of July dealing with right shoulder inflammation.
The Birds are projected to start 2023 with a rotation comprised of Gibson, Dean Kremer, Austin Voth, Tyler Wells, and Kyle Bradish. Additionally, Mike Baumann and DL Hall, who made their MLB debuts during the 2022 season, figure to have roles with the big league club during the 2023 season, while top prospect Grayson Rodriguez will likely earn a call-up as well. Veteran John Means is also projected to return to Baltimore during the 2023 season, having undergone Tommy John surgery in April.
Wacha is the last unsigned starting pitcher on MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agent List and would aid the Orioles in their quest to return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 AL Wild Card game. MLBTR predicted that Wacha would sign a two-year, $16MM deal at the start of the offseason.
Some more notes from around the league…
- Cubs’ starter Kyle Hendricks expects to be throwing off a mound around March 1, per Meghan Montemurro of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter Link). Hendricks ended the 2022 season on the injured list after dealing with a capsular tear in his right shoulder that limited him to 16 starts. The 33-year-old’s rehab has reportedly been behind schedule, but the righty has told reporters, including Montemurro, that his shoulder feels “amazing” and that the Cubs want him to “take advantage of this ramp up of the long toss program,” which will likely delay his 2023 debut. The 2023 season is Hendricks’ last year with a guaranteed contract, with the Cubs holding a $16MM club option for the 2024 season.
- The Rockies are not one of the teams interested in Jurickson Profar, reports Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. The switch-hitting outfielder finished the 2022 season with a .243/.331/.391 slash line, popping 15 home runs and 36 doubles. Additionally, Profar is ranked by MLBTR as the top remaining free agent and is the lone unsigned position player from the list. MLBTR’s own Anthony Franco recently wrote an article detailing which teams make the most sense for the 29-year-old veteran, with the Rangers, Marlins, and Braves standing out as potential suitors. The Astros had reportedly expressed interest in Profar before re-signing Michael Brantley.