When trying to project which pitchers will join Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman to complete the Orioles’ starting rotation next season, it’s smart to include at least one left-hander in the mix.
And with no worthy candidates currently in the organization, a lefty is likely to be acquired through trade or free agency.
There’s been a lot of buzz about the Birds’ interest in Jason Vargas, but there are two other southpaws on mlbtraderumors.com’s list of the top 50 free agent players that may be worth a look as well – C.C. Sabathia and Jaime Garcia.
Like Vargas, each comes with concerns, but that should be expected since all three are middle-of-the-rotation types. The Orioles have never forked over the big bucks for proven number one or two starters and won’t start in 2018, especially when the only two pitchers secured of rotation spots are viewed by the organization as having ace potential.
So forget about Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta coming to Baltimore. But if the O’s sign Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb in addition to a lefty, then the rotation would be formidable and the team would have a legitimate chance to contend.
For now, let’s take a closer look at Sabathia. MLB Trade Rumor ranks him number 20 on the free agent list (adjusted for Masahiro Tanaka’s decision to not opt out of his Yankees’ contract) and projects he’ll sign a two-year/$24 million deal.
Sabathia pitched consistently well over his 27 starts in 2017, earning a 14-5 record with a 3.69 ERA and a 1.271 WHIP. Despite his advancing age and belt length, Sabathia has turned in two effective seasons in a row posting ERAs below 4.00 and WARs of 2.6 and 1.9.
It looked like the 2007 Cy Young Award winner was nearing the end of his career after three straight disappointing years from 2013-15, when he pitched to a 4.81 ERA and 1.402 WHIP. He turned 35 during the 2015 season and was still dealing with a right knee injury that put him on the DL for 141 days the year before.
But in the last two years, C.C. has proven to be healthy enough to log 328.1 innings in 57 starts. His aches and pains limit him defensively to the point of angering him when batters bunt on him, but he has toughed it out to produce a two-year 3.81 ERA. That would have led the Orioles’ starters during that timeframe.
And while Sabathia is showing some decline in skills as he ages – resulting in slightly higher BB/9 and lower K/9 rates than his recent past – he clearly has learned to get the most of what he has by out-smarting hitters.
That extra something was on display during the 2017 post-season when he pitched to a 2.37 ERA in four starts.
If the Orioles do choose to pursue Sabathia, their greatest obstacle would be his stated desire to stay in New York. But we all know money talks.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports has reported that the Yankees are interested in re-signing Sabathia to a one-year, $8 – 10 million deal. If that turns out to be close to the maximum they’d offer, it seems he would consider two-year offers from other clubs – including the Orioles.