The Orioles trotted 18 different starting pitchers to the mound over the course of the 2019 season, en route to a 5.57 ERA as a rotation. There were multiple times last season when management stated that the team just didn’t have the necessary rotation depth to cope when someone had to miss a turn.
After cobbling together 162 starts last year, the Orioles head into the 2019 offseason with more questions about the starters. The two stalwarts penciled at the top of the rotation heading into next season are Dylan Bundy, who made 30 starts and put up a 4.79 ERA, and John Means, who made 27 starts and had a 3.60 ERA. The last three spots from there would seem to be up for grabs.
Asher Wojciechowski, who won’t be eligible for free agency until 2024 according to Spotrac, is a candidate for one of those open spots in the rotation. From July until the end of the season, Woj made 16 starts and registered a 4.92 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 8.7 SO/9. His best month came in July when he averaged 11.1 SO/9 and 4.63 SO/W while putting up a 3.60 ERA and 0.93 WHIP.
Let’s run through the other guys who managed to have double-digit starts in 2019 for Baltimore. David Hess bottomed out with a 7.09 ERA in 14 starts and 28 home runs allowed in 80 total innings. Andrew Cashner (17 starts) was traded to the Red Sox midseason and Gabriel Ynoa (13 starts) became a free agent on November 4. Then there’s Aaron Brooks, who had a 6.12 ERA in 12 starts with the Birds and is reportedly playing baseball in Korea next year.
Recently this offseason, Orioles GM Mike Elias made it known that he wants to improve the team’s pitching. For this team, that most certainly does not mean opening up the checkbook and handing out long-term contracts. So when it comes to the free agent starting pitcher pool, their options will be thin.
The top tier free agent starter pitching includes names like Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler, Jake Odorizzi, Gerrit Cole and Madison Bumgarner. These players have all been extended a qualifying offer and would thus cost the signing team a high draft pick. Yet another reason the Orioles won’t dabble in this tier.
Okay, now that we know all the things we can’t have, here’s all the things we’ve already had. The following free agent starters have been on the Orioles at some point in time and to varying levels of success — but mostly little success. There’s guys like Edwin Jackson, Wade Miley, Rich Hill, Jeremy Hellickson, Andrew Cashner and Gabriel Ynoa.
Then there are guys who are shells of their former self and/or coming back from injury. In theory, a rebuilding team could take a chance on someone like Matt Harvey, Felix Hernandez, Matt Moore or Tyson Ross, but here’s hoping that the Orioles do not.
So with a big chunk of the free agent starting pitching list eliminated for various reasons, there are slim pickings left. And knowing the Orioles’ limitations, not even players predicted to get two-year deals by MLB Trade Rumors, like Michael Pineda, Kyle Gibson, Tanner Roark and Julio Tehran, seem like plausible signees.
But maybe Baltimore would consider signing one of the following three players if the price is right on a one-year deal.
It seems like Nova has been around forever, considering that he broke into the majors with the Yankees in 2010 at the age of 23. He’s got a lot of experience pitching in the AL East, having spent 5 and a half years there with the Yankees. Plus, he’s shown some consistency the past three years, albeit without overwhelming numbers. But from 2017-2019, Nova has averaged about 30 starts a year with a 4.36 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 3.04 SO/W.
Wood’s 2019 season debut was delayed by a back injury and the abbreviated results weren’t encouraging. He made seven starts between July 28 and August 29, registering a 5.80 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 2.8 HR/9 and 3.33 SO/W during that time. He didn’t make a single start in the final month of the season. Up until this back injury, Wood had a 3.29 ERA from 2013-2018. If he can get fully healthy again, he could have a bounceback campaign.
A former first round draft pick (19th overall) by the Cardinals in 2012, 28-year-old right hander Michael Wacha is hitting the free agent market for the first time in his career. Last year he made $6.35 million with a season stat line of 126.2 innings, a 4.76 ERA, 1.56 WHIP and 1.89 SO/W. His home runs were up, as he allowed 1.8 per nine innings. Wacha is 59-39 with a 3.91 ERA in his career, which has been plagued by various injuries throughout the years.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.