Pitching no longer a pressing necessity
Free-agent market is weak; no O’s win Gold Glove Award
Free agency continued to take shape around baseball Monday, with qualifying offers being made to 10 players, and one look at the market shows how fortunate the Orioles are that their offseason priorities differ drastically from those in years past.
Over the past several winters, the Orioles have needed to secure a starting pitcher, above all else. Though some of their returners at the position don’t inspire the most confidence, the Orioles have no such goal this offseason. Considering who’s available, that’s a good thing.
Come February, the Orioles will have Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Yovani Gallardo, Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley in the fold and competing for starting spots. That surplus will prevent them from having to dip into a pitching market headlined by Rich Hill, Jeremy Hellickson, Ivan Nova and Bartolo
As a result of teams locking up their top pitchers before reaching free agency and the general lack of attractive starting pitching, clubs in need inevitably will talk themselves into signing these pitchers for more than they’re worth. They need pitching, after all.
But if you want to project whom the Orioles would be targeting, think of how Jimenez and Gallardo ended up in Baltimore over the past few years. Once many of the top starters had signed overmarket deals, there were only a handful of pitchers left, and those two had turned down qualifying offers. That meant they had draftpick compensation attached to them.
The Orioles bit anyway, and have gotten two good half-seasons out of Jimenez since he signed a four-year, $50 million in 2014. Jimenez has provided 4.7 Wins Above Replacement as he has posted a 4.72 ERA with the Orioles. Gallardo got a two-year deal this past offseason instead of a three-year deal after a problem with his physical, and made just 23 starts this year because of shoulder weakness, finishing with a 5.42 ERA.
Only one starting pitcher — the
Machado, Davis denied Gold Glove
For the first time since 2010, the Orioles were shut out of the Gold Glove Awards.
Third baseman Manny Machado and first baseman Chris Davis were finalists for the awards, which were announced Tuesday night, but neither won. Strong defense has been a staple of the Orioles under manager Buck Showalter, and the Orioles won 12 Gold Gloves from 2011 to 2015.
Machado was up for his third award in four years but was edged by Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre, who won his fifth career Gold Glove.
Davis, who was a finalist for the second time of his career, lost out to former teammate Mitch Moreland of the Rangers.
Seventy-five percent of the vote comes from managers and coaches, and 25 percent comes from statistical analysis. — Eduardo A. Encina Phillies’ Hellickson — got a qualifying offer this year, which could affect his value should he decide to turn it down.
But unless a team overpays for him early, his qualifying offer could mean he’s available later in the offseason, when the Orioles prefer to do business.
Luckily for them — or unfortunately, depending on your view of the pitchers who will return — the Orioles have no need to dip into the market. The long-term deals for Jimenez and Gallardo, plus the July 31 trade for Miley, gave them a veteran group to carry into the future.
There are no guarantees that Jimenez, Gallardo or Miley (who had a 5.37 ERA with the Seattle Mariners and Orioles in 2016) will take steps forward in 2017 that make them better than what a free agent could add. Nor is there any guarantee that the returning starters will be around by the start of spring training.
The only thing certain is that the Orioles aren’t lined up for a three-month courtship of starting pitchers, and that’s a breath of fresh air this offseason that could make this winter different.
Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez has completed three years of his four-year, $50 million deal with the Orioles. In that time, Jimenez has provided a total of 4.7 Wins Above Replacement and has a 4.72 ERA.