During his tenure with the Baltimore Orioles, vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has had a knack for making under-the-radar moves that tend to pay off. The list of players he has picked up is impressive: Nate McLouth, Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, Steve Pearce, Joe Saunders, Alejandro De Aza, Delmon Young and Hyun Soo Kim to name a few. Sure, it hasn’t always worked out (David Lough, Travis Snider, Mike Morse), but nobody bats 1.000.
Recently, Duquette has changed course and gone the more expensive route when it comes to the team’s starting pitchers. This has gotten them into their current unenviable predicament. The under-performing trio of Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jimenez and Yovani Gallardo will cost $35.5 million in 2017, following a season in which they had a combined WAR of 0.1, according to Baseball Reference. Maybe it’s time to go “under-the-radar” for starters as well
This would be the perfect offseason in which to take these sort of chances. The free agent market is thin and, if we are honest, the Orioles don’t absolutely NEED pitchers. One would think that the three mentioned above can’t help but improve on awful 2016 performances. And the “good trio” of Kevin Gausman, Chris Tillman and Dylan Bundy should be able to do enough to mask the problems. So, why not take a chance or two?
To me, there are three pitchers that stand out as possible low-risk, high-reward options. Not all of them would be able to contribute in 2017, but could be available shortly thereafter. Let me know what you think in the comments. Am I crazy, or is this just crazy enough to work?
1.) Henderson Alvarez
The once promising righty did not pitch in the Bigs last season as he had repeated problems with his shoulder. Most recently, Alvarez went under the knife again on September 20.
A's say Henderson Alvarez had bicep tenodesis procedure on his right shoulder as well as an excision of a boney exostosis in his shoulder.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) September 21, 2016
That sounds complicated and the shoulder is pretty important in baseball. But Alvarez is still young as he doesn’t even turn 27 until April. Prior to his arm trouble, he was an All-Star and Cy Young contender in 2014. If he could just get healthy (you could say that for all of these guys), he would be a steal.
During that 2014 season, Alvarez did not simply rely on his four-seamer to get hitters out. He is a sinkerballer-type of guy that mixes in fastballs, changeups and a few sliders. His velocity will likely sit in the low-90s now, but with four good pitches, he can still be effective. He even has an eephus:
There doesn’t seem to be any word on when Alvarez is expected to return to the field. Last season, the A’s gave him a $4.25 million major league contract. Despite his injuries, there could still be competition for his signature. If possible, offer a one-year deal with a second-year option that vests if he makes 20 starts. I can’t think the salary would eclipse what he made in 2016 as nothing more than a warm body.
2) Brett Anderson
He is left-handed and can pitch against more than one batter. For that reason alone, the Orioles should be interested.
However, Anderson must have an open tab with his surgeon based on how often the guy gets worked on. While in the majors, the 28-year-old has already had Tommy John surgery and two back operations in addition to suffering a mild concussion back in his minor league days. Jeesh.
In 2015, he tossed 180.1 innings, had a 3.69 ERA, 100 ERA+ and a 3.94 FIP to earn a qualifying offer. But he had his second back surgery last March and missed most of the 2016 season before disappointing with an 11.91 ERA over just 11.1 innings last year.
The positive thing about him is that right now he is healthy and in the midst of a full offseason he can use to be ready for Spring Training. His best use, at the moment, may be as a long reliever/spot starter. It would keep his innings down while giving the Orioles a more proven alternative to the likes of Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright or Vance Worley (if he sticks around). If he proves capable, move him into the rotation more often.
On the flip side, the 180.1 innings he threw in 2015 where by far his most innings since 2009, his rookie year, when he threw 175.1. In every other year from 2011 through 2016, he failed to crack 84 innings.
It is clear the guy has durability issues, but he he also has talent (a career 105 ERA+). He could certainly be worth a one-year “show me” deal that allows him to rebuild his reputation throughout the league.
Plus, his Twitter feed is priceless:
Kyle Hendricks looks like he'd celebrate a World Series win with a glass of 2% milk, Oreos, and a book.— Brett Anderson (@BrettAnderson35) November 3, 2016
3) Nathan Eovaldi
This is the guy that will most likely not help during the 2017 season. Back in August, it was announced that he would undergo surgery for a a torn flexor tendon and UCL in his elbow. Predictably, the Yankees released him to save themselves from paying his arbitration salary.
Eovaldi has had an up and down career, which feels like he has been around forever. Back in 2011, he made his MLB debut for the Dodgers at the age of 21. Now, as a 26-year-old, he is free to sign anywhere he pleases after a few mediocre seasons with New York.
The results for Eovaldi have been tepid. His career 4.21 ERA, 94 ERA+ and 3.85 FIP are all sort of blah. But what is special about him is his fastball, which he rachets up near triple digits. Brooks Baseball has him averaging a 97.99 mph four-seamer throughout the 2016 season.
So, you’re telling me he struggles as a starter, but has a wicked hard fastball? Sounds like a useful bullpen piece to me. This is an elbow injury he will be recovering from. While far from ideal, it is usually the shoulder problems that sap velocity. He could be back and throwing fireballs in no time.
The nature of his injury makes this a hard one to gauge. He likely cannot help a team this coming season, but it may be worth it to sign him to a two-year deal with an eye towards the future. That is, of course, if Eovaldi has realistic expectations when it comes to salary. More likely, he rehabs on his own and looks for a team sometime in July or August when he is nearing a return. In my mind, the O’s should be interested.