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Orioles decline 2023 option for Jordan Lyles

The team may still seek to bring Lyles back on a different contract.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

The Orioles answered their first big question of the offseason on Wednesday afternoon, making the choice to decline the $11 million option for Jordan Lyles for the 2023 season. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman was the first to report the news. With the option declined, the Orioles will pay Lyles a $1 million buyout and Lyles is now a free agent.

This statement was provided to Orioles reporters, several of whom shared it to Twitter:

Someone who wants to believe that the Orioles are going to aim for bigger starting pitching fish can certainly be hopeful that this decision affords the O’s the opportunity to do that. The Orioles rotation for 2023 is probably better off if the team takes the extra $10 million that would have gone to Lyles, adds another $10 million or more to that, and signs a starting pitcher who brings better than a below-average caree rERA to the team.

Whether they are able to lure such a pitcher to Baltimore is another story. A lot of other teams will be vying to sign the top-end and mid-tier pitchers. Walltimore may make the Orioles a bit more attractive of a destination than they once were. The team seeming to be on the upswing may help with luring free agents as well. But also, the Orioles will have to put enough money on the table to get themselves into those conversations. We won’t know they will do this until they do it.

I thought the Orioles might end up picking up the Lyles option so there’d be at least one sure thing in their rotation. Lyles was the only pitcher to start at least 25 games for the O’s this season. He seems likely to do so again next year.

The two pitchers who finished with better than league-average ERAs, Dean Kremer and Austin Voth, are not exactly guaranteed to repeat their 2022 numbers. I’m more hopeful for Kremer than Voth. Other guys like Kyle Bradish and Tyler Wells had interesting stretches but poor numbers overall. It’s not certain when John Means will return from his Tommy John surgery. What kind of innings count Grayson Rodriguez ends up on is also uncertain. There’s not a known quantity in the half-dozen names in this paragraph, though I think it’s reasonable to believe there’s 60% of a successful rotation there by August.

The Orioles front office has decided it doesn’t need the thin assurance Lyles offers right now. We’ll get a sense over the next three months or so, with how other moves shake out, whether this was a good decision, a neutral one, or a bad one. If Lyles quickly signs a one-year contract elsewhere for $10 million, letting him go could be a miscalculation. If we’re about to get three months full of hearing about “the price point” every time the Orioles don’t sign a guy, that will be infuriating.

On the other hand, if the Orioles sign Chris Bassitt and Kodai Senga (or, if you really want to dream, Carlos Rodón or Justin Verlander,) then it won’t matter where Lyles signs or for how much because they got better guys than Lyles. Things may play out such that the O’s take a crack at better pitchers, don’t end up signing them, and circle back to Lyles for like $7.5 million when February rolls around. That last thing wouldn’t be an exciting outcome, but nothing would be lost compared to what the team had 24 hours ago.