Remembering that time the O’s faced three Cy Young winners

The Los Angeles Dodgers now have a rotation featuring three Cy Young Award winners, and the Orioles of a few years ago know what it is like to challenge that.

I think the Dodgers made a smart move with the free agent signing of right-hander Trevor Bauer. Yes, Bauer can opt after the first or second years of the deal, but Los Angeles hopes to get the top-of-rotation quality Bauer and maybe win another World Series or two over the next two years. For that, they could be out $40 million for his 2021 season and $45 million in 2022. After that, Bauer could opt out rather than accept a paltry $17 million for 2023.

So the Dodgers are getting the 2020 National League Cy Young winner without having to pay $200 or $300 million. If Bauer flops, they will be on the hook for $102 million. If he pitches great and opts out after the second year, they could replace him or go back and re-sign him. We know they’ll have plenty of money with which to do it.

Meanwhile, Bauer will be the highest-paid player in the majors this year (with Mike Trout of the Angels next at $37.1 million) and next. Bauer is coming off a year where he went 5-4 with a 1.73 ERA and 0.795 WHIP while yielding 2.1 walks and recording 12.3 strikeouts per nine. We could point out his career ERA was 4.04 before 2020 - decent but not great. But we could also point out his ERA is 3.18 over the last three years with two seasons where he pitched to ERAs of 2.21 and 1.73.

The Santa Clarita, Calif., native returns to his home state to join Clayton Kershaw and David Price, who also have won the Cy Young, in a loaded Dodgers’ rotation.

So the Dodgers will become the first team pitching three Cy Young winners since the 2014 Detroit Tigers and that team also included Price.

young-high-fives-alds.pngThat Tigers squad had a big three of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Price. Those pitchers, O’s fans may well remember, started in that exact order against a 96-win Baltimore team in the 2014 American League Division Series. The O’s swept them in the best-of-five ALDS, winning 12-3, 7-6 and 2-1 in games started by those Cy Young winners. It sent the Orioles to the AL Championship Series for the first time since 1997 and gave them their first postseason series sweep since beating Oakland in the 1971 ALCS.

Despite Price pitching a gem in Game 3 but being outdueled by then-O’s righty Bud Norris, the three Tigers hurlers combined to allow 10 runs over 20 1/3 innings in that series. They got five runs in Game 1 off Scherzer. We know what would happen next against Kansas City. But that was the last playoff series won by the Orioles and it came as they faced not just Cy Young winners, but the previous three winners in the AL. Verlander won it in 2011, Price in 2012 and Scherzer in 2013.

Santander’s salary is set: Right fielder Anthony Santander lost his arbitration case with the Orioles and will play for a salary of $2.1 million in the 2021 season. He had sought $2.475 million. It is hard to consider he lost something when that is a huge bump from the $572,500 he would have earned in a full 2020 season.

But if Santander produces as expected, that salary will be a baseball bargain for the Orioles, who will then see him get another big bump for 2022.

Santander did enough in 37 games of a 60-game season to win the Most Valuable Oriole award. When he played, he was among the AL leaders in several categories and led the league in extra-base hits on Sept. 5 when he was done for the year due to a strained left oblique.

He batted .261/.315/.575 in 165 plate appearances with 13 doubles, 11 homers, 32 RBIs and an OPS of .890. He helped the club on defense, too, and was a Gold Glove finalist. In the Outs Above Average metric, he improved from 170th in th majors in 2019 to 32nd in 2020. I like the fact that he slugged .667 against breaking balls in 2020 and .591 versus fastballs. He is certainly going to see a lot of secondary pitches moving forward and that number could bode well for Santander.

He lost his case, but nearly quadrupled his salary. Free agency is thought to be where players really make the big money and that is true. But they get big pay jumps in arbitration, which sets them up to go from one level of big money to even bigger via free agency.

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