Catching up on a few recent moves

A few thoughts today on some Orioles moves from over the last week or so.

The addition of Mychal Givens: I had written early in the offseason that I thought the Orioles should look to add to the bullpen. This came at a time when most of the focus was on a top starter and a big bat.

Eventually, it would be great to see the Orioles have a starting rotation like Houston's, which last year featured five pitchers throwing 148 innings or more. That led to the Astros' bullpen throwing the fewest innings in the American League while recording the No. 1 bullpen ERA. Keeping your relievers fresh and in their roles lends itself to a lot of good things happening with the ‘pen pitchers.

The addition of Givens gives the O’s another solid bullpen arm that lengthens their 'pen. The trade of Jorge López late last year that moved Félix Bautista to the ninth inning took away a setup reliever and thinned out the bullpen, which showed some wear and tear late in 2022.

While Bautista is nowhere near an established closer yet, he showed both the talent and makeup to handle the job and did it well, recording 15 saves while posting a 2.19 ERA. Now in the seventh and eighth innings the O’s will have some combination of Cionel Pérez, Dillon Tate, Givens and Bryan Baker. Joey Krehbiel could factor into that, too, as could others, including DL Hall if he doesn’t make the starting five.

Rule 5 pick Andrew Politi will try to make the team, and he could slot in middle relief at the start if he does. And then, if he pitches well, he could work his way into more high-leverage spots. Others who started last year, such as Austin Voth, could slot into middle and/or long relief, giving the Orioles a pretty good bullpen, top to bottom.

Givens, as we know from his time here previously, is a very good teammate and good in the clubhouse. He worked hard to move into a leadership role after the trades of veteran bullpen arms when he was here before. Manager Brandon Hyde has managed him before and knows Givens had his struggles when asked to pitch more than one inning. He returns to a bullpen that's deeper than the one he left, and the stats tell us his usage will likely often be versus that tough right-handed bat. For his career, right-handed batters hit just .200/.277/.335/.611 off him, while lefties have a career .774 OPS off Givens.

The addition of Adam Frazier: I’m starting to warm up to this signing after initially wondering what it means for players such as Jordan Westburg, Terrin Vavra and Kyle Stowers. Will Frazier be taking playing time from them? Well, he very well may, at least to start the 2023 season.

There are a lot of possibilities here. One could be the Orioles want one or all three of the above prospects getting more Triple-A time and seasoning to complete their development. Perhaps there are a few small things they want any of that group to polish before they return to the big league team.

For another possibility, if rumblings of a possible Jorge Mateo trade come true, more playing time opens up, and so does the shortstop position with the Orioles.

It is also possible that Frazier, on the O’s watch, finds his 2021 batting form and is a key contributor, helping the team to wins and then later being a trade chip in July.

So, a lot still to play out and be determined here. Last year with Seattle, Frazier batted .238/.301/.311/612 for an OPS+ of 80, 20 percent below league average. But just a year earlier, in 2021, those numbers were much better, and his .779 OPS produced an OPS+ of 114.

For a better sample that might be the truest indicator, I went back to his last four seasons, from 2019 through 2022. They produced a line of .270/.331/.379/.710 for an OPS+ of 96, just below league average. And with that he brings above-average defense, per several metrics, especially at second base. Frazier just turned 31 and plays six positions, counting all three in the outfield and all in the infield outside of first base. He’s a left-handed hitter, which the club said it sought.

I also like his career 12.7 strikeout rate, which is way below the major league average of 22.3. Frazier instantly becomes the Oriole with easily the best contact rate. Among the 14 Orioles that had 100 or more plate appearances last year, Adley Rutschman had the lowest K rate at 18.3.

James McCann acquired: The Orioles got their backup catcher in a late-night deal with the Mets on Wednesday. James McCann will play behind Rutschman and gives the club an experienced backstop who should play solid enough defense and has some solid framing stats. He can provide some mentorship for a young catcher.

McCann's offense has been a four-year roller coaster. His OPS was .789 when he was an All-Star in 2019, and .896 in 31 games in the shortened 2020 season. But it was .643 in 2021 and .538 last year, when he was limited to 61 games via injury.

The O's will hope he can stay on the field and lead with his experience of having played in 783 career games. He could DH some versus lefty pitching and has a career line of .258/.325/.458 against southpaws.

The Orioles have recently added four thirty-somethings in McCann, Frazier, right-hander Kyle Gibson and Givens. No doubt they will add both experience and some leadership within a young clubhouse.

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