The Orioles added a starting pitcher to the 2019 picture on their Friday off day, agreeing to terms on a contract with free agent Dan Straily. The agreement was first reported by MLB Daily Dish’s Andersen Pickard and later confirmed by mainstream national reporters like Ken Rosenthal. SiriusXM host Craig Mish reported that the deal will pay Straily $575,000 with an additional $200,000 bonus if Straily is traded.
Straily, who turned 30 this past December, was released by the Marlins towards the end of spring training, with the team avoiding payment of his full 2019 salary by releasing him when they did. Orioles fans may recognize this move as what the team did to Miguel Gonzalez at the end of spring training in 2016. Straily was due a $5 million salary negotiated through the arbitration process. The Marlins cut him loose before the season began and owed only $1.21 million instead.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported last week that Straily was weighing multiple offers. It is tough to believe that anyone would choose the Orioles over another team, but perhaps the Orioles were the only ones offering a rotation job to Straily. The 6’2” righty has been in MLB since 2012 and has pitched in 142 games since then, with a career 4.23 ERA.
Over the past three years, pitching for the Reds and Marlins, Straily started 87 games while pitching to a 4.03 ERA, just shy of league average for a pitcher according to the ERA+ stat on Baseball Reference. A different metric, Fielding Independent Pitching, puts Straily at 4.83, suggesting his ERA may have been either luck or defense-aided.
In his career to date, Straily has been an extreme fly ball pitcher. Fangraphs data indicates that Straily got ground balls just 32.1% of the time last season. Not surprisingly, he’s allowed a ton of homers in the process, on a pace of about one home run allowed per six innings pitched.
That’s not super exciting, but Straily does tend to average six innings pitched per start, so for an Orioles team that’s used an opener twice in the first seven games, that could be just what they’re looking for. Straily could basically provide what the Orioles hoped that aforementioned opener, Nate Karns, might provide when they signed him.
Straily has held his velocity well, averaging 90.4mph on his fastball last year, close to his career average. That’s a weak fastball for a right-handed pitcher, though Straily has made it work up to this point in his career. Orioles.com writer Joe Trezza notes that Straily was in the 70th percentile for fastball spin rate and 80th percentile for curveball spin rate last season. That’ll get a guy on the Elias radar.
Will the signing work out? That depends on how you want to define success. If your metric is, “Straily pitches something like what an unbiased observer might call ‘good’ in an Orioles uniform,” then probably not. If you instead prefer to view the signing as, “The chances are lessened that Mike Wright will start games for the 2019 Orioles,” it’s already a victory.
Since Straily did get in nearly a full spring of work with the Marlins before they released him, there shouldn’t be the same late signing poor performance risk that has affected some other pitchers, including last year when the Orioles signed Alex Cobb very late in spring training. He just has to come to Baltimore and face American League East lineups instead of National League ones
Presumably, this sets up the Orioles to have a rotation of: Cobb, Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner, David Hess, Straily. That’s three guys who are 30 or older. GM Mike Elias may be trying to build the Orioles rotation of the future, but it’s not Baltimore where he’s building it.
There is nothing at all exciting about a rotation that maybe manages to hold to around a 4.50 ERA, except for this: Last year’s Orioles starters had a combined 5.48 ERA, and the year before that, they combined for a 5.70 ERA.
Cheap veteran mediocrity is the kind of thing that might keep games from being unwatchable while the exciting players are being acquired and/or developedon the farm. And hey, if Straily’s looking good come July and a contender needs rotation help, maybe Elias can add to the farm that way, by using him as a trade piece.
According to Pickard, the corresponding move for this signing is that Rule 5 super-utility man Drew Jackson has been designated for assignment. Tough week for the Rule 5 guys, but carrying two or three is a challenge for any roster, even one that isn’t expected to contend.
UPDATE 6PM: The Orioles confirmed the roster move. Dan Straily has been signed to a one-year contract. Drew Jackson was designated for assignment. Straily will wear #53 with the Orioles.
Elias delivered a statement about the moves and his thought process behind them to Orioles reporters: