Dillon Atkinson: Who could return to next year’s starting rotation?

As the 2017 season is winding down, what looked to be a fun race for the postseason is now a disappointing finish that came up short. This team has flaws. The offense is inconsistent, at times the defense is shaky and the bullpen, while being good overall, has let us down here and there. But you know exactly what I left out because it’s the most obvious: the Orioles need better starting pitching. I know I don’t even need to bring up any league-wide statistics to prove my point here. It’s very well known that the starting pitching this year has been unsatisfactory overall, to say the least.

Today, I’m not here wondering who the Orioles could acquire in the offseason to make the starting staff better. I’m here to question who from the current staff will return in 2018. Let’s fill out who is already under team control for next year in Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. Unless the Orioles shock the world by going out and getting a front-line starting pitcher in the offseason, these two are going to be at the top. But that’s it. Only two starters are locked in for next season, with three open slots left to fill.

Who’s hitting free agency? That would be Ubaldo Jiménez, Chris Tillman and possibly Wade Miley. Will any of these three return to the fold next season?

There’s one that is pretty much guaranteed not to return: Jiménez. After signing a four-year, $50 million contract prior to the 2014 season, I’m sure the fans were hoping for at least three solid years. His only good year was in 2015, as well as an extremely good second half of 2016 to help push the club to the postseason. Other than that, there hasn’t been anything good to say about his performance. I’m sure he’d like to stop being banned to the bullpen every season as well, so it’s probably best for both sides to go separate ways. I’d guess a one-year “prove it” type deal on a young National League team could make sense for Jiménez.

What about Tillman? Oh boy, the downfall here has been tough to watch. Tillman has been very solid for the Orioles since 2012, but to go out like this in his free agent year is rough. I do expect him to look for a one-year “prove it” deal like Jiménez, but he shouldn’t have a hard time finding one as long as he can prove he is healthy. It’s certainly possible that the Orioles show interest in bringing Tillman back on a one-year deal while he tries to rebuild value, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Tillman would rather have that value rebuild year in a place other than a hitter’s park like Camden Yards. I don’t expect him to return.

Miley is the tricky one here. Notice I said “possibly” Miley when it came to who is testing the open market. This is because Miley has a $12 million club option for the 2018 season with a $500K buyout. You probably look at Miley’s 5.32 ERA in 2017 and immediately say no to that option. If that’s your reaction, I really can’t blame you. But at the same time, keep in mind the Orioles have three rotation spots to fill in the offseason. They can fill a number four or five spot right out of the gate by exercising his option.

I’ll keep any type of prediction simple: I expect Jiménez and Tillman to sign elsewhere and Miley to return by the Orioles exercising his $12 million club option. I’d imagine the Miley decision won’t be a move the O’s will be thrilled to make, but one they may need to, as we’ve seen it is difficult to persuade free agent starting pitchers to come pitch in Camden Yards as a home ballpark. So bringing back Miley makes one less need to fill in the rotation. Think about this - if they don’t exercise Miley’s option, I’d expect his rotation spot to be potentially filled by someone with Miley-like results anyway. Can’t fill them all up with big-contract pitchers, right? So might as well bring back the one that’s guaranteed.

Dillon Atkinson blogs about the Orioles for Orioles Uncensored. Follow him on Twitter: @DAtkinsonOU. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

blog comments powered by Disqus