It’s hard to believe it was only three months ago that Orioles fans embarked on the offseason with dreams of the club landing a big-name starting pitcher in free agency. The O’s were in liftoff mode, they seemingly had plenty of payroll flexibility after years of spending nearly nothing, and the market included stars like Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodón along with second-tier talents like Chris Bassitt and Jameson Taillon. The Birds, notably lacking an ace, were expected to be bidders.
We know now, of course, that the Orioles never had much intention of spending for premium talent; that ownership is in no immediate hurry to raise the budget to a competitive level (and might never do so). When the Orioles inked veteran right-hander Kyle Gibson on Dec. 5, fans hoped he’d merely be the precursor to another, higher-caliber pitcher addition. Yeah, uh...about that. Turned out Gibson was the only starting pitcher in that stacked free agent market that the Birds would sign (though they later added Cole Irvin via trade). It’s not ideal.
Gibson essentially takes over for Jordan Lyles, last year’s token grizzled right-hander in the rotation, and at exactly the same price; instead of picking up the $11 million option on Lyles, the O’s spent $11 million to replace him ($1 million to decline Lyles’ option plus $10 million to sign Gibson).
There’s value in what Gibson provides, to be sure. The 10-year veteran of the Twins, Rangers, and Phillies is a guy who reliably takes the ball every fifth day — he’s made 25 or more starts in every full season of his career — and will generally keep his team in the game even if he doesn’t blow anyone away. He’s got playoff experience with both the Twins and Phillies, and was a 2021 All-Star with the Rangers. It’s understandable why the Orioles wanted to sign him. But it’s also understandable why Orioles fans were hoping for better.
- ZiPS: 4.54 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 1.38 WHIP over 158 innings
- Steamer: 4.23 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 1.35 WHIP over 172 innings (both from FanGraphs)
- Marcel: 4.44 ERA, 1.315 WHIP over 162 innings (from Baseball Reference)
The consensus among these three projections is that Gibson will be...alright. Just fine. Nothing to write home about — and certainly nothing close to the ace the Orioles need — but he figures to be a capable, innings-eating presence in the O’s rotation. (Marcel also randomly predicts Gibson to record a save, even though he’s never had one in his 10-year career. Go home, Marcel, you’re drunk.)
If Gibson lands somewhere around these projections, he’d essentially replicate Jordan Lyles’ 2022 with the Birds (4.42 ERA, 1.39 WHIP in 179 innings) — though the projections are less optimistic about Lyles himself, with ZiPs prognosticating a 4.88 ERA and 4.73 FIP for the now-Kansas City Royal. As for Gibson, the projections represent an improvement over his shaky season-and-a-half stint with the Phillies, when he struggled to a 5.06 ERA in 43 games and was bumped out of the club’s postseason rotation.
The case for the over
Let’s focus on ZiPS, which pegs Gibson for a 4.54 ERA, almost identical to his career 4.52 mark. Why might he end up higher than that? Well, because it’s happened before — several times. Gibson posted a 5.05 ERA last season, a 5.35 mark in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season with Texas, and back-to-back years with exactly a 5.07 ERA for the 2016 and 2017 Twins. He’s had more bad seasons than good ones, and at age 35, it’s not as if he should be expected to markedly improve.
The case for the under
Gibson’s 4.28 FIP last year suggests he deserved better than the inflated 5.05 ERA with which he was saddled. Pitching in front of a sloppy Phillies defense — which was the sixth-worst in baseball by Defensive Runs Saved — may have contributed to Gibson’s frustrations. He’ll now be backed by an Orioles infield that boasts Gold Glove winner Ramón Urías, Gold Glove-caliber shortstop Jorge Mateo, and the defensively promising Gunnar Henderson. Don’t be surprised if that crew gobbles up outs on balls in play that last year’s Phillies would have turned into hits.
Will Gibson see a significant uptick in his first year with his new team? Vote in the poll and let us know in the comments.
Will Kyle Gibson go over or under his ZiPS projected ERA of 4.54?
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Tomorrow: Cedric Mullins