The Orioles acquired Danny Coulombe in exchange for cash considerations on March 27. Baltimore already had Cionel Pérez on the roster, but the other lefties in the mix were starters unable to crack the rotation. Instead of turning to Nick Vespi, the Orioles found a 33-year-old reliever who was recently reassigned to minor-league camp by Minnesota.
Coulombe, Pérez, and Keegan Akin all made the Opening Day roster. Pérez struggled in the first half with a 4.45 ERA, and Akin struggled until the Orioles saw enough. Coulombe, on the other hand, immediately emerged as a dependable option in the back end of the bullpen.
Coulombe brought a low 90s fastball to Baltimore, but his slider and sweeper stole the show. The veteran consistently kept batters off balance, and the reliever used deception to pitch above his 5-foot-10 frame.
His emergence came at a crucial time with injuries preventing Dillon Tate and Mychal Givens from taking the mound. Yennier Cano eventually took the world by storm and developed into one of the best stories in baseball, but Coulombe quietly provided a steady presence for a team climbing its way toward the top of the division.
Coulombe finished the year with a 5-3 record, a 2.81 ERA and a 1.110 WHIP. He struck out 58 batters and issued only 12 walks in 51.1 innings. His expected ERA ranked in the top 10 percent of baseball at 3.06, and his average exit velocity (85.5 MPH) slotted in the 94th percentile. He posted a tremendous chase rate at 33.9 percent, and he kept hitters swinging with a 29.3% whiff rate.
The Orioles lost Coulombe to a bicep injury in August, but the lefty only missed the required 15 days. The former 25th-round-pick returned after only one rehab appearance and did not allow a run in his next five outings.
Mike Elias and the Orioles have built an impressive resume of developing under-the-radar players. Coulombe pitched well for Minnesota in spring training, but it’s hard to believe the Orioles anticipated a high-leverage role for the veteran that quickly into the regular season. Coulombe’s success marked one of the many fun stories that made the 2023 Orioles such a delight to watch.
Elias and Co. have found plenty of quality relievers, but they have not been shy about letting them go. The Orioles understand the success out of the bullpen is a year-to-year thing. Unfortunately, the 2024 Orioles will need all the help they can get with closer Félix Bautista out for the year.
Will he be on the 2024 Orioles?
Coulombe is arbitration eligible and projected to make $2.2 million according to MLB Trade Rumors. He exceeded expectations last year, and a similar performance would certainly justify $2.2 million. The question is whether Baltimore believes Coulombe will pitch at a similar level.
The Orioles shelled out $5 million dollars to Givens last season to serve as a veteran member of the bullpen. They signed Givens to pitch in high-leverage situations but never expected him to close games. Now, without Bautista, Baltimore has even more motivation to bring in several trustworthy relievers. The money should not play a factor.
The O’s have been hesitant to grant a full time role to Vespi, and the club will likely stretch out DL Hall once again. Coulombe easily projects as a left-hander in the bullpen on Opening Day.
2023 player reviews: Ryan McKenna, Jacob Webb, Austin Voth/Keegan Akin, Adam Frazier, Jack Flaherty, Shintaro Fujinami, Aaron Hicks, Bryan Baker, Jorge Mateo, Kyle Gibson, John Means, DL Hall, Jordan Westburg, James McCann, Ryan O’Hearn, Mike Baumann, Ramón Urías, Cole Irvin, Ryan Mountcastle
Monday: Tyler Wells