The signing of a veteran starting pitcher was a certainty as the Orioles attempted to set their camp roster. Could have been a major league deal, could have been a minor league deal. Could have been one major league and one minor league deal. Could have been two minor league deals.
But an experienced starter was going to be slotted into the rotation.
Deal with it.
No one said “when.” The Orioles are still checking the market for pitching.
If the Orioles have a starter bite on their major league offer, he won’t be a $57 million purchase like Alex Cobb or a $16 million purchase like Andrew Cashner, both signed in the spring of 2018. The split contract given to Kohl Stewart last winter would have paid $800,000 in the majors over a full season.
LeBlanc can make $700,000 if he’s on the club and Hernandez can earn $1 million.
The Orioles always figured to stay in the vicinity of $1 million. Sign and perhaps flip later at the deadline as more youth is injected into the rotation
They’ll do it with LeBlanc and Hernández if the veterans are healthy and teams want them. LeBlanc’s elbow injury in August took him off the market, but the Orioles were able to send Tommy Milone to the Braves.
You’ve heard and read the names of in-house candidates who are trying to join John Means, Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer, and now attempting to beat out LeBlanc or Hernández. Bruce Zimmermann is one of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the system. Jorge López is worth another look after the Orioles claimed him off waivers over the summer. Rule 5 picks Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells are in the thick of the competition.
There hasn’t been much attention given to Ashton Goudeau. There isn’t a sense that he’s certain to stay on the 40-man roster if more room is needed. He could be the pitching version of Chris Shaw, who was outrighted after the Orioles signed shortstop Freddy Galvis.
Goudeau, 28, is on the bubble. He’d rather be on the opening day roster.
The Orioles made their first virtual Winter Meetings move on Dec. 7 by claiming Goudeau off waivers from the Pirates and outrighting catcher Austin Wynns to Triple-A Norfolk. Goudeau made his major league debut last summer with the Rockies and allowed seven runs and 15 hits in four relief appearances over 8 1/3 innings.
The Royals selected Goudeau in the 27th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City. The Mariners purchased his contract in 2018, the Rockies signed him as a free agent later in the year and the Pirates selected him off waivers in November.
Seventy starts in the minors, a 2.07 ERA and a 0.919 WHIP in 78 1/3 innings in 2019 with Double-A Hartford - with 1.4 walks and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings - and the 13 scoreless frames with no walks and 13 strikeouts in the Arizona Fall League make Goudeau at least a consideration on this date. He’s averaged 0.9 home runs allowed per nine innings in the minors.
Doesn’t hurt to work him out at the Ed Smith Stadium complex and decide whether he belongs on a major league staff or at least in the Orioles system. He has minor league options remaining.
Meanwhile, it’s too soon for me to anoint a dark horse candidate. Not having a full list of invites deepens the challenge.
Anyone remember my pick in January 2020? I lifted this response from my mailbag:
“I think it’s a little too soon, since the club probably isn’t done making moves and the spring invites haven’t been revealed. But here’s an early one: Reliever Cole Sulser, who was claimed off waivers from the Rays on Oct. 1. He made seven relief appearances for the Rays in September and didn’t allow a run. He’s averaged 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings in six minor league seasons. The Orioles could carry eight relievers, but they also might have to make room for at least one of their two Rule 5 selections. I’d just recommend that you keep an eye on Sulser.”
I also made a bad Sulser-salsa-seltzer joke, but don’t let it cloud the real issue here. I chose Sulser and he led the team with five saves.
Note: The Twins signed former Orioles pitcher Chandler Shepherd to a minor league deal.
Shepherd made five appearances, including three starts, in 2019 but didn’t get back to the majors last summer. The Orioles released him on Sept. 20.