Justin Duchscherer: Baltimore Oriole

Duchscherer still has to pass a physical (which I would imagine isn't the sure thing it usually is given his history), but he will in all likelihood be a Baltimore Oriole in 2011. It's been a busy off-season for Andy MacPhail and the Orioles and it's possible this will be their last move before Spring Training (your guess is as good as mine on Vladimir Guerrero).

The Orioles have been saying for the entire off-season that they wanted to add a starting pitcher, and the injury prone Duchscherer fills that so-called need. This move makes sense to me for a number of reasons. I was opposed to getting another starting pitcher, and I still don't think it was entirely necessary, but a guy like Duchscherer is different from a veteran such as Kevin Millwood.

Duchscherer has had just one full season as a starting pitcher after four full seasons as a reliever for the Oakland Athletics. That season was 2008, and it was a very good season for him. Sure he was aided by a low BABIP (.235) and a high LOB% (77.8%, which is actually also about his career average), but he still pitched well with a FIP of 3.69 to go along with his absurdly low ERA of 2.54. Of course, after that one good season he missed all of 2009 and most of 2010 with injury, but that's actually part of the appeal.

 

If the Orioles had signed Kevin Millwood (or someone like him), they would be obligated to give that him a spot in the lineup. Chris Tillman (or whoever drew the short straw) would be back at AAA, blocked by an old guy who won't contribute to the O's future. Duchscherer, if he can stay healthy, has the potential to much better than a Kevin Millwood would be, and the beautiful thing is that if he's not, the Orioles can cut him loose. If he's struggling while Chris Tillman or Jake Arrieta or Zach Britton are dominating at AAA, he'll be much easier to replace.

You might say that it shouldn't be hard to replace an old struggling guy with a young guy dominating at AAA, it's a sunk cost and yadda yadda, but that's not how the world works and we all know it, so you can argue the way things should be or you can make do with the way things are, and this is how it is. An established veteran is harder to dump than a young(ish, I know he's not that young) injury prone guy who isn't being paid much but who has talent upside. Anyway.

No team is going to make it through the season with five starters, even as I argued against signing another starting pitcher I acknowledged that, but by going this route you foster some competition for the rotation, you add depth with a player that has had success, but you don't block any young guys should they play their way out of AAA.

With the addition of Duchscherer to the team, the Orioles now have a pool of starters that includes Duchscherer, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, Rick VandenHurk (who I decided at FanFest is adorable with his accent), Zach Britton, and the newly signed Mark Hendrickson. Vandy probably can't and Hendo definitely can't stick in the rotation for a long time, but they can fill in from time to time at the very least.

Consider me pleased with this acquisition.

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