Pitch­ing no longer a press­ing ne­ces­sity

Free-agent mar­ket is weak; no O’s win Gold Glove Award

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jon Me­oli

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

Colon.

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.

KARL MER­TON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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.

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