The lockout that occurred seconds after the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement could produce the largest gap between an Orioles free agent agreement and actual signing in franchise history.
Pitcher Jordan Lyles accepted the terms of his one-year, $7 million deal, which also contained an $11 million club option for 2023 and $1 million buyout. But the ink hasn’t dried on the contract because a pen never touched paper.
The transaction is pending a physical that can’t be done until a new CBA is negotiated and the sport reopens for business. This is why teams were in such a rush leading to the deadline, whether with free agents or trade partners.
The Orioles obviously were comfortable waiting on Lyles and he’s clearly happy with the financial package after posting a 5.15 ERA this summer in 32 games and a 7.02 ERA in 12 games the previous year. He isn’t left in limbo during the lockout.
This is the largest deal from the Orioles since Mike Elias’ hiring as executive vice president/general manager, though they still haven’t signed a free agent for multiple guaranteed years. This isn’t a minor league deal with a “reclamation project” that pays $1 million if making the club.
But why Lyles?
We can’t talk to Elias about the agreement because it isn’t official and he can’t comment on 40-man roster players. Nothing on infielder Rougned Odor, the six arbitration-eligible players who were tendered contracts, the six players protected in the Rule 5 draft that’s now on hold.
Lyles posted a 2.64 ERA and 1.147 WHIP in 22 games with the Brewers - 11 relief appearances in 2018 and 11 starts in 2019. He won eight of nine decisions, and the Rangers reacted by giving him $16 million over two years.
For the Orioles, they’re getting a pitcher whose 180 innings this year would have led the Orioles by 33 1/3. Who completed six innings in 18 starts. Who completed the seventh in seven. Who can be flipped at the deadline if he entices a contender.
The bullpen was taxed again by the rotation’s inability to provide sufficient length in games. The Orioles aren’t paying for Max Scherzer and I doubt that he’d be excited to join a rebuilding club. Going to $7 million was a surprising move, but it shows how much they covet durability, and Lyles has made 28 starts in 2019 and 30 in 2021.
The Orioles also will take the strong finish this season, with Lyles allowing three runs or fewer in six of his last eight appearances. He had a 2.87 ERA and 0.989 WHIP in his last five outings, which included one run allowed in seven relief innings in Arizona, and opponents batted .215/.292/.346.
The four-seam fastball is typically 92-93 mph and BrooksBaseball.net data shows that Lyles decreased its usage after July, with more of a reliance on his slider, sinker, curveball and changeup.
Camp competition will determine where Lyles is slotted behind Means. The Orioles will resume shopping in the minor league free agent market and offer more chances to Bruce Zimmermann, Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells. The 40-man roster also includes Mike Baumann, Kyle Bradish and Kevin Smith.
Jorge López signed a $1.5 million contract to avoid arbitration, but he could stay in the bullpen.
Lyles started against the Orioles on Sept. 25 at Camden Yards and carried a shutout in the seventh inning before allowing three runs. Kelvin Gutiérrez hit a two-run homer with two outs in the seventh and Lyle was replaced.
Lyles went 0-3 in three career appearances against the Orioles, all of them in Baltimore. He allowed six earned runs (nine total) and 18 hits in 12 2/3 innings.
* An unreported minor league move was finalized Monday with the Orioles signing pitcher Denyi Reyes.
Reyes, 25, has appeared in 112 games and made 72 starts in six years, and he spent the past two seasons with Double-A Portland in the Red Sox’s system. He didn’t pitch in 2020 due to the cancellation of the minor league season.
The Red Sox signed Reyes in 2014 as an international free agent and assigned him the following year to the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. He was placed on the 40-man roster in November 2018, designated for assignment in January 2020 to make room for Mitch Moreland and outrighted a week later.
Reyes elected free agency after the 2021 season and signed with the Orioles. He’s listed on Double-A Bowie’s roster.
The overall numbers are impressive, including a 44-21 record, 2.92 ERA, 1.050 WHIP and 1.3 walks and 0.7 home runs allowed per nine innings. But Reyes wasn’t as effective in Double-A, going 12-14 with a 4.18 ERA and 1.211 WHIP in 46 games (31 starts).
Reyes, listed at 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, represented the Dominican Republic this year at the Olympics in Tokyo.
One more fact about Reyes: He has his own YouTube channel, “Historia Bíblica y Mas,” translated as “Bible History and More,” where he covers topics in Biblical scripture.
I’m still researching whether he enjoys long walks on the beach.
* The cancellation of the Winter Meetings also postponed the annual Rule 5 draft, which is a big blow to the Orioles. They are all-in all the time.
However, only the major league portion is impacted. The Triple-A phase goes on, as reported by Baseball America.
Teams can select players at the Double-A level and place them on Triple-A rosters. Executives have the freedom to talk about them, since the moves don’t impact the 40-man roster.
The Orioles chose right-handers Rickey Ramirez from the Twins and Ignacio Feliz from the Padres, and catcher Chris Hudgins from the Royals, in last December’s Triple-A phase. They didn’t lose any players.
Ramirez, 25, had a 3.21 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 18 relief appearances with low Single-A Delmarva and struck out 39 batters in 28 innings.
Felix, 22, allowed five earned runs (nine total) and 23 hits in 43 innings with Delmarva, walking 21 batters and striking out 45. Opponents batted .152. He surrendered 19 earned runs (21 total) and 23 hits in 18 1/3 innings with Single-A Aberdeen, walking 17 batters and striking out 23. Opponents batted .315.
Hudgins, 25, appeared in 60 games with Bowie and slashed .198/.281/.377 with 11 doubles, one triple, eight home runs and 32 RBIs. He went 1-for-9 with a home run at Triple-A Norfolk.