A year ago, the Orioles signed Jordan Lyles coming off a season in which Lyles had a 5+ ERA. It wasn’t a very exciting signing at the time, and even though it worked out better than you might have expected, it still wasn’t exciting. Here we are now in 2022, and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Orioles have signed - pending a physical - free agent pitcher Kyle Gibson, who, if you can believe it, had a 5+ ERA this season.
One immediate difference between Gibson and Lyles is that Gibson has actually been good in his career. Lyles famously has a negative career bWAR in a 12-year career, even after adding 1.0 bWAR with the O’s this year. Gibson, in his career, has notched 14.1 bWAR and 17.9 fWAR. The 6’6” righty will be 35 next season and hoping for a bounce-back after dropping a 5.05 ERA in 31 starts with the Phillies in 2022.
It’s not crazy to think that bounce-back could happen. Although Gibson’s ERA was unsightly, he had a Fielding Independent Pitching number of 4.28, which is a perfectly cromulent number for a back-end starting pitcher who can be counted on to make his starts. The Phillies were among the worst defensive teams in MLB this season. The Orioles were one of the ten best defenses.
Gibson was also unqualified good as recently as 2021, again in contrast to Lyles, who’s never had a season as good as Gibson’s fourth-best career season. Things went reasonably well for Lyles this year and he still couldn’t get himself to the level of a league-average ERA.
Though Gibson has never racked up impressive numbers of strikeouts, he’s also never had extreme problems with walks. Gibson did have a bit of a problem with homers this season, allowing 24 in 167.2 innings. 14 of these were to right-handed batters. Now he’ll have Walltimore back there in his home starts. According to Statcast, new Camden Yards might have saved Gibson six homers. Lyles did beat out Gibson in eating innings, throwing about 11.1 innings more than Gibson did this year.
If this is the only pitcher the Orioles sign or acquire this offseason, or if they only acquire pitchers on this level, that will be disappointing. If they get a demonstrably better guy than Gibson in addition, then it’s hard to be too bummed out by a veteran back-end signing. I think Gibson definitely passes the “decent chance of being better than at least half of the Bradish/Wells/Voth/whoever group” test.
Terms of the contract have not been immediately reported. Assuming it’s close to the $11 million they declined to pay Lyles in rejecting that 2023 option, that’s a nice potential upgrade at roughly the same price point. The key is that they need to get a dude who’s definitely a lot better than this in addition to Gibson.