If you're just now waking up from a coma brought on by excessive turkey consumption and Black Friday shopping, you might not have seen the late Wednesday rumor about the Orioles. They've checked in with the agent of free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, according to Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun. There's nothing exciting about the prospect of signing him, but as pitchers go, he's probably about as exciting of a signing as O's fans might hope to get.
The potential benefit of bringing in Gallardo is not hard to see. He's predicted by MLB Trade Rumors to get a contract of four years and $52 million, so you're basically talking about Ubaldo Jimenez money for a player who has been a much more consistent starter than Jimenez. Over a nine year big league career, Gallardo has posted a 3.66 ERA - not ace material, but not dreck either. He's only ended up with an ERA over 4 one time.
One point in his favor is that Gallardo migrated to the American League this past season, pitching to a 3.42 ERA for Texas. He has had some success against AL lineups in the hitter-friendly home park of the Rangers. Gallardo surely benefits from being a ground ball-heavy pitcher, posting ground ball rates at or near 50% in each of the past three seasons. If you want to imagine him in an Orioles uniform, hitting grounders to a vacuum cleaner O's infield, well, there are worse things to picture.
There are also plenty of reasons that you could talk yourself out of the idea of the O's signing Gallardo as a good thing, however. His average fastball velocity, according to Fangraphs, has declined over two miles per hour since his peak in 2011. Accompanying that decline in velocity has been a decilne in his strikeout rate. Earlier in his career, Gallardo struck out a quarter of the batters he faced. He's seen that rate go down every year since, with his 2015 season seeing a career-low 15.3% for strikeouts.
It's a good bet that if the O's did sign Gallardo, he'd be billed as some kind of innings-eating veteran. He's got the veteran part down. Not so much the innings eating. Gallardo has started at least 30 games in each of the past seven seasons, so there's no doubt he has Dan Duquette's favorite dependable label, but he also hasn't topped 200 innings over the last three seasons. He makes his starts and on average doesn't get blasted out of a game early but doesn't noticeably chew up innings either.
Oh, and let's not forget about the walks. There will be a lot of them. Maybe not quite 2014 Jimenez-level, but still. Gallardo in the 2015 season walked about 9.9% of the batters he faced, which brought him to a 3.3 BB/9 - the same rate as Jimenez for 2015, coincidentally.
Is he due for regression? We'd hear a lot about that too. He was "lucky" this year in the sense that his Fielding Independent Pitching (that is, the results he "should" have gotten based on his strikeout and walk rates) was 4.00, a number that as an ERA is not exciting for a pitcher who's about to command an eight figure salary annually. It would be rather like the Orioles to sign a guy for four years and have him post the four worst years of his career.
There's always risk with any potential deal, though. If all the Orioles do is look for reasons why they shouldn't sign anyone, they'll find plenty of those reasons and they won't sign anyone. We've seen this move from them before. They do need to be careful. Along with whatever salary he'll command, Gallardo, as a qualifying offer-attached free agent, would cost the Orioles their top draft pick, #15 overall. If he performs decently, it won't matter; if he doesn't, that'll be one more thing to sting about having him.
The Orioles are kind of in dire need of a new starting pitcher. There's no chance they're going to get a pitcher like David Price or Zack Greinke. When it comes to bang for the buck, Gallardo looks to be right up the O's alley. He won't be exciting, but he has a good chance to get the job done without costing too much money. The O's could add him and still address other offseason priorities. Sounds fine enough to me.