Another look at Yovani Gallardo, Doug Fister and the pitching market

So O’s executive vice president Dan Duquette told MLB Network Radio that the Orioles prefer to not give up the No. 14 pick in the draft. The O’s have been linked to free agent right-handed pitcher Yovani Gallardo and would lose that pick if they signed him.

Duquette said, “The question for us is, are we willing to give up our first-round pick and so far that answer has been no.” I guess that also means the answer could potentially change to yes if Gallardo’s salary demands or contract terms change and become more to the Orioles’ liking.

But my take has been that if Gallardo seeks a four-year deal in that projected $50 million range, and the Orioles would have to give up the pick, that they should pass. At a lower price, maybe they become more interested.

Baseballs generic.jpgWhile Gallardo went 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA for Texas last year, he also gave up 9.4 hits per nine innings with a WHIP of 1.416. Every Oriole that started a game in 2015 except Mike Wright and Bud Norris had a better WHIP than that. But Gallardo’s career WHIP is better at 1.31 and his ERA+ has been 108 or above in four of the last five years, when he has averaged 194 innings.

There are reasons to like Gallardo and the ability to pitch a lot of innings and remain durable would be huge for the Orioles. He has made 30 or more starts for seven consecutive seasons. But if the price tag is in the $50 million range for Gallardo, signing free agent right-hander Doug Fister to a two-year deal for around $22 million and not surrendering a pick makes much more sense to me.

Fister finished eighth in the National League Cy Young voting for the Nationals in 2014, but his game took a big step back in 2015 and he lost his rotation spot late in the year. He spent time on the disabled list from mid-May to mid-June with a forearm flexor tendon strain and went 5-7 with a 4.19 ERA. He had an ERA of 4.60 as a starter.

Fister went 32-20 with an ERA of 3.29 for Detroit from 2011-13. In 2014, he went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA for Washington. Some feel that his groundball tendencies and low walk rate would play well with the O’s infield defense. He made $11.4 million in 2015.

From 2011 to 2014, Fister posted an ERA of 3.11, which was 11th in the majors among qualifying pitchers, ahead of Zack Greinke, David Price and James Shields. He was just behind Madison Bumgarner at 3.08. His ERA+ of 129 tied for fifth in the major leagues. He also had a 50.5 percent groundball rate.

Fister averaged just 86 mph on his fastball last year, when he dealt with the injury. But his average velocity was just 88.8 in 2013 and 87.8 in 2014. It’s not like big velocity is a part of his success.

By the way, here are some career numbers for Gallardo, Fister and Wei-Yin Chen:

Gallardo: 3.66 ERA, 1.317 WHIP, 8.5 hits per nine innings pitched, 0.9 HR per nine innings , 3.3 walks and 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched
Fister: 3.42 ERA, 1.210 WHIP, 9.1 hits per nine innings pitched, 0.8 HR per nine innings pitched, 1.8 walks and 6.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched
Wei-Yin Chen: 3.72 ERA, 1.252 WHIP, 9.1 hits per nine innings pitched, 1.2 HR per nine innings pitched, 2.2 walks and 7.0 strikeouts per nine innings pitched

If the Orioles stay in-house for rotation candidates, certainly Tyler Wilson and Wright could get a look. So could Vance Worley, who is 28-26 with an ERA of 3.86 in 81 career major league starts.

A longshot candidate for me is 27-year-old left-hander Chris Jones. He has pitched in the organization for three seasons and is on the 40-man roster. He made 14 Triple-A starts in 2014, going 5-5 with a 3.04 ERA and .241 average against. Last year he made 30 appearances, 22 as a starter. In those starts, Jones went 8-7 with a 2.96 ERA and .267 average against.

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