As the MLB Winter Meetings begin a three-day run today in San Diego, the Orioles continue their search for starting pitching. The weekend agreement with right-hander Kyle Gibson is expected to be a starting point but not the end point. They are not done.
Now we await the next rumor and/or dispatch from San Diego that could give us a clue which free agent pitchers the Orioles are truly “in on” and how high they may be aiming in bolstering their starting rotation.
Is it possible that Gibson will not make the Orioles rotation and will pitch out of their bullpen? I would say yes possible, but it seems unlikely. Just as now former Oriole Jordan Lyles was for Baltimore, Gibson is an innings eater and 98 percent of his career MLB appearances have come as a starter. He has thrown 150 or more innings seven times and 180 or more three times. His career-best is 196 2/3 in 2018.
Gibson went 10-8 with a 5.05 ERA last year for the Phillies and actually pitched better at home despite pitching in such a hitter-friendly park. His ERA was 4.57 at home and 5.79 on the road in 2022.
If Gibson is essentially a replacement for Lyles, he could also be, as Lyles was, a clubhouse leader. He was said to be that for the Phillies last season and was the team’s nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award. Gibson was involved with several charities in the Philly area, raising $108,000 thousand dollars during his time with the club.
Were the O’s attracted to Gibson because his strikeout rate increased pretty dramatically late in the season? Well, it did and his K rate was 10.37 per nine over his last nine starts, beginning in mid August. However, his ERA was 7.04 in that span. He got more swings and misses, but the results were not better per those numbers.
Gibson, a 2021 American League All-Star, has pitched better in his nine seasons in the AL with an ERA of 4.42 in that time. Traded to the Phillies in mid-year of 2021, his ERA was 5.06 in 42 starts with the Phillies in the National League.
In Gibson the Orioles are getting a pitcher that has a fastball that averages 92 mph and below average career strikeout rates. He used his two-seam sinker 28 percent last year and four-seamer 12 percent. He gets a lot of groundballs with a career 50.8 GB rate, well above MLB average of 43.7. He shows heavy use of his slider and cutter, throwing those pitches a combined 43 percent last season and his whiff rate was 37.7 on the slider.
A team can’t have all young pitchers in its rotation and some veteran help is usually important. With the Gibson agreement, the Orioles will have that vet with a lot of big league experience for the 2023 season.
The deGrom deal: The Texas Rangers are at it again. They signed free agents to contracts worth more than $500 million last winter. They went out and won just 68 games and fired their manager in August.
So they started this winter signing free agent right-hander Jacob deGrom to a five-year deal worth $185 million. This is an average of $37 million per year for a pitcher that has been limited by injuries to 26 starts the last two years. And he turns 35 in June.
Was that contract a big gamble and possibly an overpay? Well, yes and quite possibly yes.
deGrom has been and can be completely dominant. His ERA is 2.23 since 2019. His strikeout rate was 45.1 in 2021 and 42.7 last year. That is more than twice the MLB average of 21.9. He has massive talent.
But the injuries bring massive risk and we’ll see how this deal plays and also what impact it might have on other big fish still out there like Carlos Rodon and Justin Verlander. And what trickle-down impact it might have for the tier two free agent pitchers – most of which the Orioles have been linked with. deGrom will make $30 million in 2023 with salaries the four years after of $40 million, $40 million, $32 million and $37 million.