The Orioles can remove some of the questions hovering over them before they convene in Sarasota for spring training. Who else is competing for a spot in the rotation. Is anyone else competing for a bench role. Who could be traded to address their needs if free agency isn’t a solution.
Predicting their future is easier as more time passes, but where’s the challenge?
Here are three more:
Will the Orioles play the rotation hand they’ve been dealt?
Kyle Gibson signed for $10 million in 2023, the most lucrative deal from the Orioles since Mike Elias’ hiring as executive vice president/general manager. He wasn’t viewed as the No. 1 starter, but no one else in the group has better credentials.
The other candidates include Tyler Wells, Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall, Austin Voth, Spenser Watkins and Bruce Zimmermann.
That’s a lot for a five- or six-man rotation. Do the math.
The Orioles have demonstrated this winter that they don’t want to bank too heavily on some of their prospects and players with limited success in the majors. That’s one way for liftoff to be grounded.
The free agent market didn’t play out favorably for the Orioles. The second tier didn’t provide the anticipated fits. They could aim for another starter to slot in the middle or back end, or they could try to work out a trade for a No. 1.
Either way …
Will the Orioles get a better version of Gibson?
Gibson posted a 2.87 ERA in 19 starts with the Rangers in 2021 before they traded him. He had a 5.09 ERA in 12 games with the Phillies over the second half, and a 5.50 ERA in 31 starts last season.
The turnaround in August was stunning, with Gibson posting a 2.30 ERA and 1.117 WHIP in five starts. So was the regression in September/October, with Gibson posting 9.73 ERA and 1.988 WHIP in six starts.
Gibson relied more heavily on his cutter after the trade. His lost velocity on his fastball and sinker, but rediscovered it late last summer after some tweaks.
Elias said Gibson experienced some “bad luck” last season, and the Phillies’ poor infield defense was a contributor. The Orioles offer much better support.
The new left field dimensions at Camden Yards would have reduced the number of home runs surrendered by Gibson last season. Baseball Savant calculated only 18 of the 24 leaving Camden Yards.
On his video call with the media after signing, Gibson talked about “the resources that the pitching side has” and how the Orioles used them to recruit the veteran right-hander. The club is developing a track record of fixing pitchers.
Will Adley Rutschman catch 120-125 games?
He could. Of course, that’s working under the assumption that he won’t sustain an injury in camp.
We know he isn’t going back to Triple-A Norfolk.
Also obvious is how the Orioles expect Rutschman to do the heavy lifting behind the plate. He’s the guy. James McCann didn’t arrive as part of a time share.
The Orioles want to spin Rutschman into the designated hitter spot, a method for keeping his bat in the lineup and reducing the wear and tear on his body. They weren't as keen on having him play first base last season, but he’s done it in college and the minors, and McCann said he was told by the team that Rutschman would join him in the first base and DH rotation.
The club expressed interest in free agent catcher Gary Sanchez, and perhaps that offered a hint about their plans for Rutschman. I’m just speculating on the last part.
The caution with Rutschman will lighten a bit now that he’s going to be a year removed from the right triceps strain he sustained in March 2022. But 120-125?
I’m taking the under.