The question of who in the world is going to pitch in the Orioles starting rotation in 2018 has not been answered yet. With each passing signing elsewhere, the list of possibilities can be narrowed down. Ken Rosenthal reported on Thursday about one name who's off the board: Former Oriole Miguel Gonzalez, who is heading back to the White Sox.
The one-year contract signed by Gonzalez is a modest one, just one year and $4.75 million guaranteed, according to SB Nation's Chris Cotillo. The Orioles may eventually notice that they desperately need three starting pitchers. If one of them had ended up being Gonzalez, that might have been fine, depending on who the other two happened to be.
A bit more than a month ago, the Orioles were reported to have been interested in Gonzalez. That level of interest was reported to be checking in on Gonzalez's medical information. The Baltimore Sun's Eduardo Encina tweeted that the Orioles never got any farther than that, inquiring but never making an offer for their former pitcher.
The O's decision to part ways with Gonzalez at the end of spring training in 2016 in order to save a few million bucks rather than send him to the minors is one that cost them as they fielded a bad rotation in 2016 and a worse one in 2017.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez, who they deemed expendable, has pitched to a 4.21 ERA across 51 games for the White Sox and Rangers in those two seasons. Gonzalez's $4.75 million 2018 salary is even less than the $5.9 million he made in 2017.
That's not to say that modest performance could have been equaled if he stayed in Baltimore. Gonzalez really didn't look great towards the end of his Orioles tenure, finishing the 2015 season with a 4.91 ERA over 26 starts. Though the decision to release him was short-sighted, there was at least some basis for why they chose to do that.
Maybe the White Sox were able to coax something out of Gonzalez in 2016 that the Orioles would not have been able to do. The O's track record with pitchers is not good. That's a different problem for the organization.
It's also possible that Gonzalez, who posted a 5.01 road ERA in 2017, may have just benefited from not starting a lot of his games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, with his division games against the weaker AL Central. Most pitchers will look better in those circumstances. Given that, along with the O's past treatment of Gonzalez, maybe he wouldn't have even really wanted to come back here.
The Orioles might well surprise us and sign a couple of pitchers whose ceiling for 2018 is higher than Gonzalez before March rolls around. But it's also not very hard to imagine the Orioles having thought about Gonzalez as one of their fallback options, a guy who would be available as a last resort. Instead, Gonzalez has signed on January 11 for not a lot of money and the Orioles still need three starting pitchers.