Rotation drags down offseason score

We’ve entered the month of February and the Orioles aren’t receiving rave reviews for their offseason.

Various outlets have given them failing grades. They’re picked to finish in last place in the American League East. They aren’t the winter darlings within the industry.

Any projections at this early date must be taken with a grain of salt. I’d line the rim of the glass with them.

The Orioles signed pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez and outfielder Nelson Cruz after reporting to camp in 2014. Their roster isn’t set this year. And teams that win the offseason usually watch the playoffs from their couches.

The criticism this winter is based solely on the Orioles’ inability to upgrade their rotation. They haven’t done anything to replace left-hander Wei-Yin Chen. No other moves can erase that fact.

It seems unfair on one level. They re-signed three of their four major free agents, a percentage that was unfathomable after the season ended. Retaining Matt Wieters, Darren O’Day and Chris Davis should count in any grading system.

featured_sidebar_duquette.jpgExecutive vice president Dan Duquette also signed Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim and traded for first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo. Vance Worley, claimed off waivers from the Pirates, could be used as a starter or in long relief.

There’s been a significant amount of activity, but not enough directed at the rotation. And that was supposed to be the No. 1 priority, as we were told following the .500 finish in 2015.

Did the Orioles underestimate the cost of pitching on the free agent market? They seem blown away by the contracts given to the first- and second-tier groups.

Did their desire to hold onto their first-round draft pick increase as the weeks melted off the calendar? They were deep in discussions with Yovani Gallardo’s agent, but they now seem much more reluctant to give up the 14th overall selection.

Keep an eye on the Padres’ Andrew Cashner, a free agent after this season who interests the Orioles. He slipped to 6-16 with a 4.34 ERA and 1.440 WHIP in 31 starts last season after going 5-7 with a 2.55 ERA, 1.127 WHIP and two shutouts in 19 starts in 2014.

It still seems more realistic that the Orioles acquire a starter via trade, as long as teams stop asking for Kevin Gausman. However, Mat Latos remains unsigned and could be a one-year bounceback candidate.

Inserting Latos into Chen’s spot in the rotation probably won’t bump up the offseason grade.

If you check Baseball-Reference.com, one of the pitchers listed as comparable to Worley is Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez. Worley is 31-28 with a 3.79 ERA and 1.392 WHIP in six major league seasons. Gonzalez is 39-33 with a 3.82 ERA and 1.284 WHIP in four major league seasons. Worley averages 2.7 walks and 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings, while Gonzalez averages 2.9 walks and 6.5 strikeouts.

It’s important to note, however, that Gonzalez has been pitching in the American League East. Worley is 18-13 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.351 WHIP in three seasons with the Phillies, 12-10 with a 3.31 ERA and 1.294 WHIP in two seasons with the Pirates and 1-5 with a 7.21 ERA and 1.993 WHIP in 10 starts with the Twins in 2013.

The American League didn’t treat him kindly.

The critics will heap the same abuse on the Orioles if they don’t improve their rotation.

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