Anyone who watched the 2015 Orioles could see that the team had a big need for improvement in the starting rotation. With the one good starter, Wei-Yin Chen, out on the free agent market seeking a $100 million contract, the O's need will be even greater for next year. It's encouraging to hear the team has a bunch of different irons in the fire to address this, although how much of a fix any of the rumored names might be is an open question.
MASN's Roch Kubatko wrote this morning that the Orioles are "making an aggressive play" for free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. Can it really be that aggressive if they haven't signed Gallardo yet? Kubatko also referenced the O's willingness to offer Scott Kazmir a three year contract, although he did not reference the fact that Kazmir is seeking a four year contract.
The Orioles are also interested in free agent starter Mat Latos, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. Well, Crasnick actually said the Orioles have "checked in" on Latos, along with the Pirates, Royals, Brewers, and Rays. Maybe they talked to Latos agent and didn't like what they heard.
Latos has the advantage over the other two gentlemen that he will probably only require a one year contract to sign. He has the disadvantage that he mostly blew in 2015, which is why he's looking at a one year contract. You can talk yourself into Latos if you want. While his 4.95 ERA across three teams was bad, peripheral numbers weren't as bad. His strikeout and walk rates were in line with his career norms, with a loss of one mile per hour on his average fastball velocity.
Maybe it was just a BABIP problem? In his career, Latos has had batters hitting .281 on balls in play against him. This past season, that number was a .307. The rate at which he gave up home runs increased, a problem in trying to imagine the 6'6" righty translating to Camden Yards. But he could be a good buy-low player. Of course, even so, he's expected to get a $10-12 million contract for one year, so while he'll be a bargain in total contract value, it won't be a bargain for the 2016 Orioles payroll.
Kazmir has the advantage over Gallardo in that he won't cost a draft pick to sign. He was traded mid-season and thus ineligible for a qualifying offer. Kazmir is the lone lefty in this bunch, which the O's, as presently constituted, do not have in their rotation for next year.
The Orioles are reportedly one of six teams among the "finalists" for Kazmir, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale. If there are still six teams, are they really finalists? I was once involved in a contest where there were like 25 semifinalists and 20 finalists, which may strike you as about as silly as proclaiming six finalists in a free agent chase. That's not very final.
Kazmir was pretty good in the 2015 season, compiling a total of a 3.10 ERA between two teams. Do you want to read anything bad into the fact that he had a 2.38 ERA in the Oakland part of the season and a 4.17 ERA in the Houston part of the season?
The thing is, there are reasons to talk yourself out of any one of these guys. Gallardo's strikeout rate has declined steadily over the past seven seasons. At his peak, he struck out just more than a quarter of batters he faced. The 2015 season saw Gallardo post a career-low 15.3% strikeout rate. Gallardo's walk rate, while not horrible, isn't great either. He walks about 9% of batters he faces. He's lost a bit more than two miles per hour off his fastball since his peak. That's bad, right?
On the other hand, Gallardo just posted a career best ERA in the first season he ever spent in the American League. He still reliably gets ground balls about 50% of the time, and whatever flaws the O's team may be anticipated at this moment to have, infield defense is not one of them. It could work out, but are you sure enough that it will work out that you'd be willing to pony up for a four year contract to a soon-to-be 30-year-old starter and surrender the #14 overall pick in the process?
An even bigger reason why it's hard to imagine the Orioles pouncing on any one of these guys tomorrow or soon is because signing one of them probably precludes bringing back Chris Davis. That would be a big expenditure, maybe too big to still have room to retain Davis.
Perhaps the O's will be looking to see if there's a bargain for a player desperate to sign as spring training approaches. It's how they landed Ubaldo Jimenez two offseasons ago, although given that we're all hoping to see the O's rotation improve, maybe bringing him up is not the best thing to do.