The readers of this blog are starting to beat the drum already. The Orioles, they say, need to sign some starting pitching for 2020 to avoid a repeat of the pitching we’ve seen in 2019.
OK, that sounds reasonable. But here is the issue: To get real quality with a track record of success, they probably need to offer a free agent a multi-year contract. Are they going to be ready to do that? Probably not. Failing that, you get back to the pitchers you can get for a one-year deal, and they won’t be on a list of All-Stars.
The Orioles added Dan Straily just after opening day this year. The Marlins kept him heading into spring and he was awarded a $5 million salary in arbitration. Then they surprisingly cut him loose just days before the season began, and they owed him only $1.21 million in severance pay.
The Orioles then signed him for $575,000 to eat innings, and that included a $250,000 trade bonus. If he would have just pitched as he did in 2017 (4.26 ERA) or 2018 (4.12 ERA) he would have helped the Orioles. But he pitched to a 9.82 ERA and allowed 22 homers in 47 2/3 innings.
That didn’t work, as we saw, and he was traded to Philadelphia for cash considerations. He hasn’t pitched for the Phillies and has a 4.50 ERA in two starts for their Triple-A club.
So sign a pitcher? Sounds good. Getting a good one is the real challenge here. The Orioles only seem likely to want a pitcher on a one-year deal, and the quality level will not be as high as I would bet the fans are hoping for.
If the club wanted to make a two- or three-year commitment for $20 million or $30 million or $40 million they could land a pitcher who might really help. But how much help is that pitcher going to be next year? A real difference-maker? Not likely.
The Orioles for now have to wait for some of their young pitchers to make their way to the majors and hope a couple of them pop and become No. 1 or No. 2 starters. At some point the club will need to pursue one of those two- or three-year pitchers, but that point will come only when he is one of the final pieces. When the Orioles have won 84 or 85 and now need to get to 94 or 95. They are obviously not there yet.
Their rotation would have been in much better shape this year if Alex Cobb had stayed healthy and pitched as he did in the second half of 2018, and if David Hess had pitched like he did late last year, and if Dylan Bundy’s ERA was closer to four than five, and on and on. Lots of ifs that didn’t work out.
So now the club has just two quality starts with a rotation ERA of 8.56 the last 17 games and an ERA of 7.34 the last 32 games. Not nearly good enough. Orioles starters are getting mostly torched by the Yankees and Houston. They are 1-8 the last nine games against that duo, allowing 31 homers and 92 runs.
They were 16-15 over 31 games before this recent stretch, but now they are overmatched by the Yankees and Astros. Their rotation needs upgrades for next year while they wait for the group now at Double-A and the likes of Keegan Akin to provide some help.
So while they wait, what to do about the 2020 rotation?