Are O’s just doing due diligence on Means?

It was a tweet that no doubt was well seen and read throughout Birdland. That the Orioles were “dangling” John Means in trade talks. Not completely sure what that means, no pun intended, but dangling is defined as “hanging or swinging loosely.”

That last part could apply. No one can know for sure what the team is thinking on this, but a guess here is that Means is certainly not being shopped. I would see him as much more likely to be on the team than dealt between now and opening day 2022. But any team would just be doing due diligence in fielding trade calls and engaging discussions. It’s part of the job and no doubt dozens, maybe hundreds of prominent players come up in talks that never get to a finish line and few ever know or find out about.

This could very well simply be that.

A team so desperate for starting pitching would seem unlikely to part with their best. Not to mention a homegrown product who beat long odds as an 11th-round=drafted pitcher that hardly got noticed on his way to the majors. A pitcher who will turn 29 early next year and could be coming into his best years. A pitcher who could serve as a leader for a host of young pitchers from the farm looking to join him in the rotation.

We’ll see how it plays out, but keep in mind that Trey Mancini’s name has been rumored in trade talks for how long now, and he’s still here. Sometimes where there is smoke there is fire, but often in baseball, there is just a bit of smoke.

orioles-fan-baltimore-hon.jpgMeans has put together two full seasons of well-above-average pitching. In 2019 his ERA+ of 131 put him 31 percent above the American League, and he was at 126 on ERA+ last year. He went 6-9 with a 3.62 ERA over 146 2/3 innings with a 1.30 WHIP. He allowed just 1.6 walks per nine innings and was actually more likely to give up a home run (at 1.8 per nine).

In 2021 he was 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA his first eight starts, pitching as well as just about anyone in the game. That included the Orioles’ sixth no-hitter when he blanked Seattle May 5. He fell 15 1/3 innings short, but his ERA would have ranked eighth-best in the American League and his WHIP would have been No. 1 if he had had enough innings to qualify for league leaders. In fact, going into his final outing, Means was looking to become the fourth O’s pitcher in team history (minimum 100 innings) to post a sub-1.000 WHIP. Means’ numbers would have been better, but he spent about six weeks on the shelf with a shoulder strain and that led to an ERA of 5.87 over an eight-start stretch. But before he gave up six earned runs his last game, his ERA was 2.78 his previous six starts. So, he really had it going, both at the beginning and the end of his year, with an injury that marred the middle.

Means has a projected salary of $3.1 million through arbitration. With his stats, that seems like a bargain in the current world of the major leagues, where former Oriole farmhand Eduardo Rodriguez just got a five-year deal for $77 million from Detroit via free agency. Rodriguez has a career ERA of 4.16 to Means’ 3.82. Granted, E-Rod has thrown about 500 more innings.

To me, Means is a player who could easily be part of the core group that returns the Orioles to winning baseball. The team may see it very much that way as well. But that doesn’t make him untouchable, though, or mean that the club won’t answer the phone when someone calls to inquire about him.

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