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We can spend the bulk of the winter talking about the Orioles rotation and how they can find upgrades without breaking the bank or trading away every prospect in the farm system.
Spoiler alert: There are no easy answers.
They really could use a proven ace who doesn’t come with disclaimers such as, “Needs to take the next step.” But can anyone reasonably expect them to get into a bidding war for Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta?
Maybe Arrieta would give them a hometown discount. Play the “we drafted you” card and hope the rest is a hazy memory for him.
OK, that’s not happening.
Alex Cobb also would be a significant improvement, but we’re back to wondering at what cost. I’d still go for it because it isn’t my money.
They’re more likely to go after a bunch of middle-to-back-end guys for the rotation, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. They still could improve on the production they received from Ubaldo Jiménez, Wade Miley and Jeremy Hellickson while hoping that Kevin Gausman can put together two good halves and Dylan Bundy can, yes, take the next step after increasing his innings total from 109 2/3 to 169 2/3.
Gausman was 5-7 with a 5.85 ERA and 1.763 WHIP before the All-Star break and opponents batted .318 against him. He was 6-5 with a 3.41 ERA and 1.204 WHIP in the second half and opponents batted .240.
Sound familiar? Checking on the 2016 season, Gausman was 1-6 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.304 WHIP in the first half, and opponents batted .272 against him. He was 8-6 with a 3.10 ERA and 1.258 WHIP after the break, and opponents batted .252.
There must be a way to get him out of the gate faster. Make it a priority.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette mentioned before the final game that the Orioles will need a left-handed starter, seeming to indicate that Miley’s $12 million option won’t be picked up, though he didn’t confirm it. Jason Vargas is on the market again and the Orioles have been interested in previous years. Keep an eye on him.
The Orioles were interested in Jorge de la Rosa a few years ago, before he turned 105. OK, he’ll be 37 in April. He also made all 65 of his appearances this year out of Arizona’s bullpen.
As for in-house left-handers, the Orioles removed Jayson Aquino from the 40-man roster, but he’s still in the organization. Chris Lee had a 5.11 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in 27 games with Triple-A Norfolk and opponents batted .302, but he posted a 2.61 ERA in the second half and deserves another shot.
The question is whether Lee is still viewed as a rotation candidate. He made seven relief appearances while piggybacking the starter.
There are plenty of right-handers on the market who fit the Orioles’ budget. They tried to bring back Miguel Gonzalez on Aug. 31 and figure to make another run at him. They never should have let him walk while he still had a minor league option, but $5 million was deemed too expensive for a Triple-A starter.
Lance Lynn broke J.J. Hardy’s wrist with a fastball in June, but don’t hold that against him. He’s 72-47 with a 3.38 ERA in six seasons with the Cardinals, and he already got his Tommy John surgery out of the way. Bid until you’re outbid.
Manager Buck Showalter wanted Doug Fister this summer. He wanted Fister in past years. He’d gladly take Fister next season. Keep an eye on Fister.
The Orioles have been linked to Andrew Cashner in the past and probably will be again. The 3.40 ERA in 28 starts with the Rangers makes him a little more appealing. But he earned $10 million this year and might move out of the Orioles’ price range.