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Thursday Bird Droppings: The Orioles free agent pitching market is shrinking

A number of pitchers struck deals yesterday. The Orioles could still use another starter.

Wild Card Series - San Diego Padres v New York Mets - Game Three
The Orioles are running out of pitching options. Chris Bassitt is still out there.
Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

Hello, friends.

There are now three months and 22 days remaining until Orioles Opening Day 2023.

The winter meetings have come and gone. If you were hoping that the Orioles were going to make a significant signing to bolster their starting rotation before they were over, then you are probably disappointed today. This far into the offseason, all they’ve got to show for themselves is Kyle Gibson. He might end up being a cromulent Orioles starting pitcher, but at best he secures a back-end spot for one year.

It would have been nice to get at least a #3 guy for multiple years. Maybe the Orioles can still end up doing this. However, the number of choices remaining to them is a lot less after yesterday’s round of agreements. Taijuan Walker, Jameson Taillon, and José Quintana all came off the board. These were mid-range options of the sort you might have thought seemed like reasonable targets for the Orioles. Walker and Taillon each got a guaranteed four years for more money than some people had expected.

As fellow Camden Chat writer Tyler Young mentioned on Twitter yesterday, as much as it is disheartening that the Orioles have done nothing yet, there also aren’t many deals to regret that they haven’t made. I might put Quintana’s two years, $26 million from the Mets on that list, and I also wish the Orioles had been able or willing to kick in the big bucks in the short term for Justin Verlander, but that’s about it. I’m not excited about the Walker or Taillon deals.

Still out there are Carlos Rodón and Chris Bassitt. Giants beat writer Susan Slusser suggested yesterday that it may take a six or even seven year deal to get Rodón. That’s a long deal. Bassitt, who is older, figures to get a shorter contract, but even that could go for four years and he’ll be 34 next Opening Day. I hope the Orioles take a chance, though.

If they don’t sign one of these free agents, then there really needs to be a trade to get a good starter. There’s time left for one or the other of these things, but there aren’t a ton of names left. Otherwise we’ll be looking at a starting rotation of... I don’t know... Dean Kremer, Kyle Gibson, Grayson Rodriguez, and two of DL Hall, Tyler Wells, Kyle Bradish, and Austin Voth. You can talk yourself into believing that might work out. It would just be better to not have to do this.

For the Rule 5 fetishists among us, yesterday did bring another chapter in that Orioles saga. The team snagged right-handed reliever Andrew Politi from the Red Sox.

Around the blogO’sphere

Let’s look at a bunch of Mike Elias quotes from his media availability last night.

The people who got upset that Mike Elias spoke the truth after the trade deadline that the odds were against the Orioles getting a wild card don’t like this one either. I find “make the playoffs without subtracting too much from the next several years of Orioles teams” to be a realistic and acceptable goal for 2023. They need to actually meet that goal, though.

I’d like to see the Orioles sign another guy or two, but it is heartening to me that they won’t be looking to sign someone who’s going to block prospects or core players. I haven’t been particularly interested in the O’s signing one of the big shortstops on the market for this reason.

Perhaps I’m overly enamored with the coming prospects and too focused on the back half of a mega-contract. I think they can certainly sign a pitcher to improve the rotation without blocking a prospect or core player. It is important that years of Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson not be wasted in the way that the previous regime wasted years where the Orioles had a core lined up.

Talking to a bunch of guys isn’t going to matter a whole lot if what ends up happening is that the Orioles sign zero of them and their rotation just is what it is right now. The projected payroll right now is $53 million. In another remark that will probably be blown up due to a kind of viral-ready phrase, Elias said the Orioles won’t “flip a light switch and get to our max capacity again.”

So, of course the wild dreams of signing Verlander and another pitcher and maybe some outfielder and suddenly the Orioles are back having an MLB payroll after one offseason were not going to happen. I do think that there is a real opportunity to add maybe $25 million to the payroll this winter and make a nice upgrade to the roster that will not be straining the bank for years to come. They could boost by $25 million this offseason and still add another $25 million free agent (or multiple free agents, depending) next offseason and probably even do the same the year after that.

If we get to the start of next season and that improvement hasn’t been made, that’s going to be disappointing - and if we get to the end of next season and this obvious flaw of an uncertain starting rotation turns out to have been the problem holding the 2023 Orioles back, that’s going to be infuriating.

I think that condemnation based on a lack of big signings at the winter meetings is premature. There’s two months for things to happen before spring training. But there’s no doubt the number of free agent starters who might be realistic fits for the team and might also be upgrades is getting small.

Pursuit of left-handed bats leaves Kyle Stowers, Terrin Vavra with uncertain roles (The Baltimore Sun)
Their roles were uncertain enough even as they seemed to clearly be able to offer skills that the 2022 Orioles did not possess!

Birthdays and Orioles anniversaries

Today in 1996, the Orioles signed pitcher Jimmy Key to a two-year contract. Key posted a 3.43 ERA in over 200 innings for the 1997 Orioles. Some 21st century O’s teams wish they could have signed such an effective free agent starter.

Happy 54th birthday to baseball Hall of Famer Mike Mussina, who ought to be recognized at Camden Yards with a statue and retired number like every other Hall of Fame Oriole. 2002-04 infielder José León also has a birthday today.

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday to you! Your birthday buddies for today include: cotton gin inventor Eli Whitney (1765), General Motors founder William C. Durant (1861), The Doors vocalist Jim Morrison (1943), Allman Brothers Band musician Gregg Allman (1947), and rapper Nicki Minaj (1982).

On this day in history...

In 1660, the first recognized public performance with a woman on stage in England took place as the role of Desdemona in Shakespeare’s Othello was played by a woman. History has narrowed it down to one of two women, with many believing it was an actress named Margaret Hughes and another set thinking this was an actress named Anne Marshall.

In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered a speech to Congress in response to the previous day’s Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, calling it “a date which will live in infamy.” The United States then formally declared war on Japan.

In 1980, former Beatles member John Lennon was shot and killed in New York City.


And that’s the way it is in Birdland on December 8. Have a safe Thursday.