The free agent market has been slow so far, but the pursuit of pitching is there

It has been rather quiet thus far in baseball free agency. Unless you are the St. Louis Cardinals, who have added three of the five starting pitchers signed to this point.

If you are just looking for a juicy rumor involving the Orioles, you may have a long wait. The team seems to work hard at keeping its business close to the vest and Mike Elias has often said essentially it is of no benefit to the team to put such information out there.

While rumors of signings and trades can be good for the game overall to keep fans talking about the sport 12 months a year, some already do that even without any good rumors.

But most teams don’t seem to want to generate rumors about which players they are talking to and pursuing. It could get their fanbase excited for a brief time, but signings, not rumors, truly excite fans.

Here are the few signings that have taken place thus far on free agent starting pitchers.

* St. Louis signs Lance Lynn – one year for $11 million with 2025 club option.

* St. Louis signs Kyle Gibson – one year for $12 million with 2025 club option.

* Detroit signs Kenta Maeda – two years for $24 million.

* St. Louis signs Sonny Gray – three years for $75 million with 2027 club option.

* Philadelphia signs Aaron Nola – seven years for $172 million.

There are just a couple of significant reliever signings thus far via free agency. Atlanta signed Reynaldo Lopez to a three-year deal worth $30 million and the Braves also signed Joe Jimenez for three years and $26 million.

In an article this week written by Jeff Passan (subscription may be required) he said the Orioles were in on the pursuit of Nola. He wrote of the Orioles that, “They want a frontline starter -- and in fact were interested in Aaron Nolan, sources said.”

That is quite interesting because the assumption is that the Orioles are not going to get involved with a pitcher that would require that type of a contract. So, if they were interested in Nola, they had to know how far they might have to go to sign him. And per usual, no local reporters that I know of reported this tidbit, but it came from ESPN. The Orioles just do not tip their hands with Baltimore media often about any potential moves they could make. Passan is a credible reporter with solid sources. If he wrote that, there must be something to it.

Maybe the Orioles are prepared to go farther than we might expect to sign a pitcher. I thought Gray would be a frontline starter worth pursuing. But he didn’t wind up an Oriole and we just don’t know if they pursued him at all.

The ESPN article, about 10 teams to watch in free agency and listing the Orioles as one of the 10 does, conclude essentially saying the O’s best move might be a trade acquisition of Chicago White Sox pitcher Dylan Cease.

In this story here recently, I discussed a potential Cease to the Orioles deal, which obviously makes a lot of sense in that the team would like a frontline starter and has plenty of prospects to deal to get one.

Cease has two years of team control remaining, meaning the price tag via prospects could be quite high. Keep in mind in adding Jack Flaherty for two months the Orioles gave up three prospects in a seller's market. They traded then No. 16 prospect Cesar Prieto, No. 18 Drew Rom and young pitcher Zack Showalter.

So, keep in mind it’s a seller’s market again with several teams pursuing Cease. While he finished second in the AL Cy Young vote going 14-8 with a 2.20 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 2022, he was 7-9 with a 4.58 ERA last year. Over 177 innings he had a 1.418 WHIP, allowing 1.0 homers per nine with 4.0 walks and 10.9 strikeouts.

I think Cease is considered a pitcher closer to the level he showed in 2022 then last year. What also could raise the trade price to get him is the dollars it will take to pay him the next two years. He is due for about $8.8 million this year through arbitration. Even if he had a strong season coming up and doubled his 2025 salary to $17.6 million, he would be costing a team $26.4 million over the next two years. So, the team adding Cease will pay him about the same as Detroit will pay Maeda for two seasons. 

If a team such as the Orioles added him and he left via free agency after the 2025 season, they could make him the qualifying offer and get a draft pick if he leaves for another club.

Adding quality pitching is going to come at a high cost - either in dollars or prospects. 

O's take part in Giving Tuesday: Yesterday, the Orioles and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield partnered to host a Giving Tuesday drive-thru winter accessory collection to benefit The Food Project. Fans were asked to donate new or gently used adult and youth sized coats, scarves, winter hats, gloves, and socks.

A total of 396 people participated in the event, which took place at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, donating a total of 2,415 winter accessories. All fans who donated received a complimentary ticket voucher for two tickets to a 2024 Orioles home game.

“Being able to partner with the Baltimore Orioles has been really wonderful,” said Dawn Montgomery, a Food Project board member. “It has really helped spread the awareness of the need in Southwest Baltimore. To have their support and to really show the city that they are listening, and that they are aware, and that they know the needs of the community throughout the city is very important.”

The Food Project is a Baltimore-based organization focused on feeding food insecure community members and providing jobs and job training to the youth of Southwest Baltimore. Last year, the Orioles and CareFirst announced a joint partnership with The Food Project, pledging funds to provide jobs within the organization for the next three years. The Orioles also sell Seedy Nutty granola in the ballpark, which is made by and benefits The Food Project.

The O's put out this Tweet with more on the efforts from yesterday. 




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