The 2017 offseason is underway. The GM Meetings held this year in Boca Raton, FL serve as a nice aperitif to the Winter Meetings in about a month. The groundwork for some deals will be laid now, probably nothing significant will happen until a little later in the offseason.
The operating procedure of the Orioles in the Dan Duquette era has been to be slow, and calculating, playing at the edges of the free agent market to try and find value. With the little amount of news trickling out these days about the Orioles and free agents we should expect much of the same going forward in the 2017 offseason.
The Orioles were linked with right handed pitcher Peter Moylan by MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Moylan has had an odd career path as he signed on with the Braves as a minor-league player/coach back in 2015. He had a horrendous 2013 for the Dodgers and did not reach the majors in 2014, but was able to cobble back together a career and has posted sub 3.50 ERAs in the major leagues since returning in 2015.
Last season, with the Royals, Moyaln pitched in a league leading 79 games, but only for 59.1 innings. Moylan posted a 3.49 ERA, good for a 129 ERA+, and struck out seven batters per nine innings. The issue for Moylan is that he struggles against left handed hitters. For his career he has a .849 OPS against versus left handed hitting. It is all the way down at .566 for right handed hitters.
Moylan would be a decent fit in the Orioles bullpen as a middle reliever, but he does not do much to solve their current problems. He makes a lot more sense if the rumors about a Zach Britton trade become true.
The Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli wrote an article yesterday outlining some veteran international free agents the Orioles may look into, highlighting players from both Japan and South Korea’s professional baseball leagues.
The Orioles have been down this road before with varying degrees of success. On the one hand with Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen and the on the other with Tsuyoshi Wada and Suk-min Yoon. Somewhere in the middle is Hyun Soo Kim.
It may be hard for the Orioles to attract some players based on that track record, especially if there is really a belief among Korean players that the Orioles have been unfair, but money talks and many of the players that Meoli outlines are probably going to be on the bottom end of the free agent market.
The first is right-handed starting pitcher Miles Mikolas. Mikolas was drafted by the Padres in the 7th round back in 2009. He has appeared in 37 games in the major leagues posting a 5.32 ERA.
However, Mikolas has spent the last three years in the NPB and has a 2.90 ERA over 62 games, all starts. This past season he started 27 games, pitched 188.0 innings, and posted an ERA of 2.25. That included a 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings while only walking 1.1 batters per nine innings.
Mikolas, 29, is unlikely to command big bucks and has at least in Japan shown an ability to eat up some innings as a starter. While not the classic international professional free agent, Mikolas makes a lot of sense for an Orioles team that needs starters with at least a little upside.
Another pitcher that Meoli highlights is the Korean left hander Hyeon-jong Yang. Yang will turn 30 before the 2018 season begins and is again an atypical international target. But, the Orioles love to work with the atypical.
Yang has a 3.88 ERA across 11 seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). Some of his best seasons have been his last three posting ERAs of 2.44, 3.68, and 3.44 respectively. Last season he started 31 games, threw 193.1 innings, and again posted a 3.44 ERA. Yang also struck out 7.4 batters per nine innings while only walking 2.1.
Being a lefty Yang makes a lot of sense for an Orioles rotation that has none especially considering their near constant obsession—at least in the media--about acquiring a left handed starter. Yang will not command a large annual salary or a long contract. But, unlike Mikolas he is not actually a free agent and would have to be posted by his team the Kia Tigers. They posted him back in 2014, but the winning bid was too low for the team’s liking. If he is posted, I would expect the Orioles to take a bite.
The Orioles will probably used as bargaining leverage in many rumors this offseason by player agents, but most of their action will again likely be at the margins and most likely late in the off season as well. We should not expect much else from a regime that has shown what their operating procedure is for the past couple of offseasons. It isn’t exciting, but it is what they do all the same.