For a couple of years now, there has been nothing to connect the Orioles of the present from the better Orioles of the recent past. That could be a little different in 2023, as the O’s have reportedly agreed on a contract that will result in a reunion with reliever Mychal Givens for next year. FanSided’s Robert Murray was the first to report on the signing, though a physical is still pending. The contract will include $5 million guaranteed, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand said.
Givens was a stalwart reliever for the Orioles from 2015 through to 2018, pitching better than some of those teams deserved. He got to debut for the team in that ‘15 season, six years after he was drafted as a shortstop in the second round in 2009. The conversion stuck. The O’s traded him to the Rockies in the middle of the abbreviated 2020 season, netting Tyler Nevin, Terrin Vavra, and outfield prospect Mishael Deson. He has run into tougher times since leaving the O’s. His post-trade ERA in 2020 was 6.75 in nine games.
Starting off the season hot and getting socked after being traded has been the pattern of Givens’s last three seasons. The Rockies took advantage of Givens looking good early in 2021 to trade him to the Reds, then in 2022, he signed with the Cubs and was good enough that he was traded to the Mets. He was not good with the Reds and he was not good with the Mets either.
In the aggregate, Givens’s performance for the last couple of years looks okay. He finished 2021 with a 3.35 ERA and he had a 3.38 ERA this season. Note that, due to the drop-off in offense this year, a player holding about the same ERA has lost a lot of his advantage relative to his peers. Givens had a 143 ERA+ a year ago and that was only a 120 ERA+ this season. Five of the 2022 O’s bullpen holdovers topped that number, and Bryan Baker was pretty close to it.
If you look at WHIP instead, Givens’s 1.321 was higher than those five guys plus Baker, as well as Keegan Akin and Joey Krehbiel. Stats that are less directly results-based like FIP were not as high on Givens either last year or this year. He had a 2.73 ERA before being traded by Colorado in 2021, going along with a 4.69 FIP. So there was only so much surprise when he had a 4.22 post-trade ERA. It was a less severe gap this season, but there was still a gap and he regressed later. Maybe he will just do better if he’s left in one place for the year.
I’m ambivalent about this reunion. I guess, much like with the signings of Kyle Gibson and Adam Frazier, there’s some kind of ephemeral veteran quality that interests the Orioles a lot more than it does me. Now 32, Givens has eight MLB seasons under his belt. The O’s bullpen is not so stocked with guys with that kind of experience, I will admit. His track record gives him a bit more predictability in terms of what to expect from him next year than some of the guys who came out of nowhere for decent seasons this year.
Another thing in Givens’s favor relative to the current mix is that he remains strong at striking batters out. He finished the 2022 season with strikeouts in 27.3% of plate appearances. Only Félix Bautista topped that percentage among the incumbent relievers who were around all season. When Givens is doing well, he keeps the walk rate at close to acceptable levels, including this year, when it was 9.6%.
Currently, the Orioles 40-man roster is full. There will have to be a corresponding move made either when the signing is announced or beforehand. You could make a strong case for Nevin to be the guy removed. We’ll see what Elias does. The $5 million contract to Givens will not make anyone feel better about money that wasn’t spend on good starting pitching.