The falling temperatures are a cool reminder that hot stove season is upon us and it’s fun to see which free agents MLB teams might be eyeing. Former Orioles’ Vice President for Baseball Operations Jim Duquette took a shot at predicting where his top 25 free agents will land for the 2018 season. The other Duquette tabs one as coming to Baltimore.
He writes the Orioles have interest in five players – and big surprise! – they are all starting pitchers … Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, Jason Vargas and C.C. Sabathia. Had Andrew Cashner made this list, Duquette may have included him as well, given that MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports the Birds have “definite interest” in both Cashner and Vargas.
Both names make sense given that neither will require super-long contracts or cost top dollar. The team has generally not given out deals longer than three years to starting pitchers with the exception of the four-year contract they gave Ubaldo Jimenez. Given how that turned out, the Orioles may be shy from doing the same thing any time soon.
Duquette projects Arrieta, 32, Lynn, 31, and Cobb, 30, will each receive five-year offers or more. That likely ends any pursuit the Orioles would have, leaving the two older options as viable targets.
Vargas, 35, and the 37-year-old Sabathia would likely sign two-year deals, which is more fitting with the Orioles’ history. The fact they are both southpaws works in their favor as well, and Duquette predicts Vargas will sign a two-year, $24 million deal with the Orioles.
Vargas’ second-half collapse in 2017 has to cause concern for the Duquette that matters now – Jim’s cousin, Dan, the Orioles current executive vice president for baseball operations responsible for putting the 2018 team together. After sporting a first-half 2.62 ERA and making the All-Star team for the Royals, Vargas saw his ERA spike to 6.38 after the break.
He also allowed nearly two homers per nine innings and suffered a 1.595 WHIP during that span.
Vargas did prove that he was healthy, coming back from left elbow surgery that put him on the DL for almost 300 days of the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He delivered 179.2 IP in 32 starts last season and finished the year with numbers that would have been good enough to lead the Orioles rotation – 18 wins and a 4.16 ERA.
A stretch of games in the season’s final month may go a long way to convince the Orioles brain trust that Vargas recovered from his poor second-half. He pitched great in four consecutive starts before he threw a clunker on the season’s final day. From September 10 through September 26, he went 4-0 with a 2.01 ERA and gave up just one home run.
While Sabathia and Vargas both have warts, if signing one of them keeps the team from thinking of bringing back lefty Wade Miley, please do it.