Right-hander Jordan Lyles, who was the 2022 Orioles team leader in wins and innings, could return to the Orioles for the 2023 season. The decision will solely be made by the front office as the O’s hold a team option on Lyles for next year.
Should they decide to allow him to leave via free agency, Lyles will get a $1M buyout. Should they pickup that option they will add $10 million to that for a total outlay of $11 million. They are going to owe him $11 million to stay and $1 million to go.
This past season, in 32 starts over 179 innings, Lyles went 12-11 with a 4.42 ERA. He allowed 26 homers with 52 walks and 144 strikeouts. His WHIP was 1.385 and he walked 2.6 per nine and fanned 7.2. His numbers were similar to last year in many respects, except his ERA went down from 5.15 and his homer rate of 1.3 fell from 1.9.
It is well documented that Lyles was a real leader for the pitching staff and he embraced and enjoyed the role. For this article late in the year, Tyler Wells discussed Lyles’ leadership abilities.
“He is invaluable in so many ways,” the right-hander said. “You can’t really put a price on what he has done for us as a starting staff, as a team, and as a mentor for a lot of us. He really teaches us what it’s like to be a starter and how he has made a 10-year career into what he has. All based on certain principles – like going deep into games and giving your team a chance to win every single time.
“As us young guys continue to develop our mindsets, our development and pitching strategies we are getting are based off of learning from a guy that has had a very successful career.”
Added right-hander Kyle Bradish: “He’s the leader on our pitching staff. Someone you can go to with any question you have. He has seen it all being in the big leagues so long. It’s a comfort zone for us. If we have any question, we can ask him.”
Lyles sure ate those innings and finished 14th in the American League and 29th in the majors in innings pitched. He limited walks and limited homers allowed, especially at Oriole Park. He went 5-3 with a 3.47 ERA and 0.65 homer rate at home. He went 7-8 with a 5.25 ERA and 1.87 homer rate on the road.
Lyles tied his career high and led the Orioles with 13 quality starts. And the team went 9-4 in those games. The Orioles had just 16 starts for the year of seven innings or more and Lyles led the team with seven. His 12 wins tied his career-high, the Orioles went 17-15 in his starts and he threw five innings 25 times.
Lyles threw 100 pitches or more 11 times, the most by an O’s starter since 2018 when Andrew Cashner did that 13 times and Kevin Gausman 12.
But Lyles did allow an .847 OPS versus lefty batters and .736 against right-handers. He did have an ERA of 5.94 in 18 starts within the AL East and he ranked in the bottom 10 percent of baseball in expected slugging and bottom seven percent in barrel percentage. Teams squared him up more than must have been to his and the team’s comfort level.
But will the positives about Lyles overshadow those numbers? He contributed with his innings total, his gamer mentality and leadership and does that lead the club to pick up his option? If they did, does that keep them from doing other things?
For me, I bring Lyles back and the hope is he is a back-end starter as some of the young pitchers, joined by Grayson Rodriguez and perhaps DL Hall in the rotation and maybe another addition or two, take the top spots. It is just a one-year commitment here and picking up the option should not handcuff the team in any other ways.
If he pitches poorly, you are out some dollars. If he pitches well you bolster your rotation. If he pitches real well he could be traded at mid year. Or help lead the club, they hope, deep into October.
Starting pitching depth is big and if you think you have enough, adding more is a good policy. Pitchers get hurt, some underperform and they can always be traded later.
Bringing Lyles back would be popular in the clubhouse and probably also among most of the fanbase as well. Then you hope you get another year like his 2022 and he continues to lead an emerging AL rotation.