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The list of potential Orioles free agent starting pitchers is shrinking rapidly

At least one starting pitcher has to come to Baltimore on a free agent contract this offseason... right? Who’s even left out there?

Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

You’ve heard it before, and you’ll certainly hear it again: The 2018 Baltimore Orioles are in dire need of starting pitching. The 2017 club had the worst starting pitching by ERA (5.40) in all of Major League Baseball.

Thankfully, the bullpen was decent, but the Birds still surrendered 795 earned runs, the 4th highest in MLB. Good teams don’t surrender that many runs. The three teams that surrendered more runs in 2017 than the Orioles, the Tigers, the Reds, and the Mets, all lost at least 92 games. Run prevention, as it turns out, is important.

The 2018 O’s are actually in a unique position in that their two best starting pitchers from 2017, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, are coming back, while the terrible quartet of Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley, Jeremy Hellickson, and Chris Tillman are all gone thanks to free agency.

The Orioles have all-but held a press conference to announce that they will not be signing any front-line starting pitching in free agency, much to the chagrin of many fans. Maybe they’ll swing a trade (they’re asking for two young, controllable arms in return for Machado), maybe they won’t.

Meanwhile, the hot stove is heating up, and the Orioles have let nearly half a dozen potential lower-end starting pitching targets sign elsewhere. Every time one of them comes off the board, the sense of urgency in Birdland becomes more and more palpable.

The remaining options don’t inspire confidence in spades, but they’re not devoid of all hope, either. Here’s who the O’s have been connected to that are still looking for jobs in the new year:

Andrew Cashner, RHP

2017 stats (Rangers): 166.2 IP, 4.64 K/9, 3.46 BB/9, 1.32 WHIP, 3.40 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 1.9fWAR

Cashner is going to be 31 years old at the start of the season, and he’s already had a long, uneven career. Even in a 2017 season that looks largely luck-aided, his peripheral statistics would have been a major upgrade to have in the 2017 O’s starting rotation. Cashner feels like a bland option, but he likely has the highest ceiling of any pitcher on this list.

Miguel Gonzalez, RHP

2017 stats (White Sox/ Rangers): 156.0 IP, 5.77 K/9, 3.17 BB/9, 1.42 WHIP, 4.62 ERA, 4.88 FIP, 1.4fWAR

If this reunion feels inevitable, it’s probably because it may be. Miguel’s 4.62 ERA in 2017 would have been (believe it or not) great to have in the Orioles 2017 starting rotation. Yeah, they were that bad. Miguel has been up-and-down as far as results are concerned since making his MLB debut with the O’s in 2012. The O’s would, of course, be betting that he could bounce back in a season where he’ll turn 34.

Chris Tillman, RHP

2017 stats (Orioles): 93.0 IP, 6.10 K/9, 4.94 BB/9, 1.89 WHIP, 7.84 ERA, 6.93 FIP, -1.0fWAR

Before the mob descends upon this post to decry Tillman’s inclusion on this short list, remember, this is the Orioles we’re talking about. Bringing Tillman back on some sort of “make good” contract for 2018 could be one of the most Oriole things to ever happen. He was SO bad in 2017 that I was actually surprised to see his WHIP was below 2. Is the pitcher who averaged roughly +2fWAR from 2012-2016 gone forever? Maybe Duq & Co. really want to see what he can do in a year where he’ll turn 30.

Jason Vargas, LHP

2017 stats (Royals): 179.2 IP, 6.71 K/9, 2.91 BB/9, 1.33 WHIP, 4.16 ERA, 4.67 FIP, 1.6fWAR

Over the years, the Orioles have been linked to this soon-to-be 35-year old so many times, that you may be under the impression that he has pitched for the O’s before. He has not. He is, however, being linked to the ball club in Baltimore yet again. He checks the box of “lefty starter,” and his floor may be the highest out of the pitchers on this list—if the UCL tear that kept him largely off the mound in ‘15 and ‘16 is truly behind him.

This list is by no means exhaustive. These are just the four guys the Birds have actually been known to have real interest in, who are still available. Maybe the Orioles will sign a great starting pitcher out-of-the-blue... but that doesn’t really sound much like the Orioles, does it?

What do you think?

Poll

Which of these FA starters are the O’s most likely to sign?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Andrew Cashner
    (139 votes)
  • 15%
    Miguel Gonzalez
    (211 votes)
  • 40%
    Chris Tillman
    (549 votes)
  • 12%
    Jason Vargas
    (174 votes)
  • 1%
    Write-in vote (comment below)!
    (21 votes)
  • 19%
    The Orioles will not sign any FA starting pitcher
    (262 votes)
1356 votes total Vote Now