More chatter on Orioles' pitching plans in free agency

If the month of November seems slow or stalled for Orioles business, consider that the only player acquisition a year ago was outfielder Daz Cameron on a minor league contract. The rest of it centered on outrighting a few players and protecting others in the Rule 5 draft.

The Orioles were much more active in November 2021 with waiver claims of relievers Bryan Baker and Cionel Pérez and shortstop Lucius Fox and the signings of second baseman Rougned Odor and pitchers Spenser Watkins, Rico Garcia, Marcos Diplán and Denyi Reyes. The Nationals claimed Fox 11 days later.

Pitcher Tommy Milone was traded to the Braves in November 2020 for minor league infielders Greg Cullen and AJ Graffanino, and first baseman Chris Snow was claimed from the Giants. Outfielder Mason Williams and shortstop Malquin Canelo signed minor league deals in November 2019.

So, it’s usually a non-impactful month under executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.

Meanwhile, free-agent starters began flying off the board, at a senior citizen discount.

Aaron Nola was the big winner at $172 million for seven years with the Phillies, and he’s only 30. But lesser deals already were landed by Lance Lynn (36), Kyle Gibson (36), Kenta Maeda (35) and Sonny Gray (34).

Gray, Lynn and Gibson, the Orioles’ Opening Day starter this year, signed with the Cardinals and pushed the average age of their rotation to 35-years-old. A touch of Gray kinda suits them anyway.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that the Orioles showed interest in Nola. They weren’t showing him that kind of money, however. They weren’t setting aside $172 million.

They aren’t outbidding everyone for Yoshinobu Yamamoto or Blake Snell, projected by MLBTradeRumors to receive $225 million over nine years and $200 million over seven years, respectively. Interest? No doubt. I had interest in a Ferrari after college and bought a Chevy Cavalier.

Naoyuki Uwasawa, who turns 30 in February, has been posted by the Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, and some Japanese media are citing U.S. sources as saying the Orioles are prepared to offer him a multi-year deal to work as a fourth or fifth starter. One post on the former Twitter said that he’d “settle” for a spot in the back end.

Good to know.

The 45-day window to sign with a major league club ends on Jan. 11 at 5 p.m., if you want to track the countdown.

Meanwhile, the Orioles are seeking a starter to insert near or at the top of their rotation. They have some depth with their returnees, even after losing Gibson and with Jack Flaherty a free agent.

Uwasawa owns a career 3.19 ERA and 1.181 WHIP in 173 games in the NPB, had a 2.96 ERA in 24 appearances in 2023 totaling 170 innings, and has been used in relief. He doesn’t walk or strike out a lot of batters. His fastball velocity this year was reported to average 90.8 mph, which puts him in the finesse category.

I’ve seen various articles about Uwasawa also throwing a forkball, cutter, slider, changeup, knuckle curve and kitchen sink.

Perhaps the Winter Meetings will provide solid evidence whether the Orioles are seeking more than just one starter, someone who slots at the end. Despite how they also want a pitcher much closer to ace status to join Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, John Means, Dean Kremer, Tyler Wells, DL Hall and maybe Cole Irvin.

It also would be nice to get solid confirmation on the Orioles’ multi-year interest in Uwasawa rather than simply go with the above reports. I haven’t found anything from national media here.

I could be looking in the wrong places. I went to one site and ended up ordering a Christmas ornament.

* We'll find out this evening on MLB Network whether Félix Bautista will be chosen as the American League's best reliever, an award named after Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera.

Bautista would be the first Orioles recipient since Zack Britton in 2016. I wrote about it here.

I'll update this story later with the result.

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