Time to take a look at a few more free agent starting pitchers. No, we are not looking at the very best, not even close, but diving into the much more shallow end of the pool. It’s an attempt to be realistic here and not get too far ahead of ourselves.
Will there be a day when the Orioles look to sign or trade for a top starting pitcher? We sure hope so, but we’re not there yet.
In recent posts here and here, we looked at six pitchers that MLBTradeRumors.com listed in the category of older veterans/back-of-rotation options. There are 13 pitchers listed so we’ll keep moving through them with a few today and a few more still to come. So far, we’ve looked at Brett Anderson, Tyler Anderson, Alex Cobb, J.A. Happ, Rich Hill and Kwang Hyu Kim.
Will the Orioles sign any of this group? Maybe, maybe not. But if they are looking for someone with at least some level of track record of some previous success, that they could get for a reasonable one-year deal, this group might provide one. And now onto the next group of hurlers.
Lefty Wade LeBlanc: I know fans may be chuckling over a suggestion that LeBlanc could come back to the Orioles. I certainly don’t expect it, unless they just sign him to a minors deal, and it would then be a real longshot if he even makes it.
While the guy pitched real poorly for the Orioles, he made a strong impression in the clubhouse and with the coaches for how he handled himself and for being a good teammate. Before last season, the O’s signed Matt Harvey, Félix Hernandez and LeBlanc, taking three fliers, and only one made it through most of the year, as we know.
The club has actually signed LeBlanc to minor league deals on Feb. 3, 2020 and again on Feb. 3, 2021. But in two seasons and just 12 games for the Orioles, he has gone 1-1 with an 8.38 ERA. Captain Obvious feels the fool-me-once phrase may come into play here.
But when the St. Louis Cardinals were desperate for pitching last summer, they signed LeBlanc and he threw pretty well, going 0-1 with a 3.61 ERA in 12 gamesand eight starts over 41 1/3 innings. But LeBlanc ended the year hurt again with an elbow issue and was shut down in early September.
Last March 25, he opted out of his O’s minors deal, but re-signed the next day with the club. He actually threw pretty well in the spring but the Orioles designatd him for assignment on April 25. On May 4, he signed with Milwaukee and the Brewers released him May 27. On June 1, he signed with Texas and the Rangers - you guessed it - released him June 16. The next day, he signed with St. Louis. So he burned up the transactions wire.
He has a career 4.54 ERA over 13 seasons, but it seems very unlikely he will show up at O’s spring training for the third straight year.
But when the O’s cut him loose in late April, O’s manager Brandon Hyde described the meeting in his office as “extremely hard.”
“Really like Wade a lot,” Hyde said. “He’s a pro. We talked a lot about him yesterday. He’s a big-time pro, he’s great in our clubhouse, one of our few veteran guys that we have and it’s not easy to have that conversation with somebody like that.”
Lefty Jon Lester: Now 37, the one-time O’s killer went 7-6 with a 4.71 ERA in 28 starts last season between the Washington Nationals and Cardinals. The Nats signed him before last season to a one-year deal for $5 million. He went 3-5 with a 5.02 ERA and 1.593 WHIP in 16 starts for them. Washington traded him to St. Louis and he went 4-1 with a 4.36 ERA and 1.424 WHIP with the Cardinals.
A team like the Orioles could do worse than Lester, who even as he has gotten older, has gone 23-19 with an ERA of 4.67 in 71 starts over the past three seasons.
He was part of two championship teams during his nine-year run with Boston where he made 241 starts, the last coming in 2014. O’s fans are aware of his good career numbers versus Baltimore - a record of 15-5 and 3.09 ERA over 29 career games.
Lester was co-MVP of the 2016 Naitonal League Championship Series for the Chicago Cubs against the Los Angeles Dodgers, won Game 5 of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians and pitched three innings in relief in Game 7.
Lester has ties to Hyde, who was a Cubs coach. They were both part of the 2016 Cubs World Series-winning club. Lester went 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA for that team.
Right-hander Jordan Lyles: Unlike LeBlanc and Lester, Lyles is younger at 31 and at least could say he ate a lot of innings in 2021. The Texas Rangers signed him to a two-year deal worth $16 million in December 2019, but he posted a 5.60 ERA for them over 44 games.
Last season, he went 10-13 with a 5.15 ERA. While he was 18th in the league in innings with 180, he allowed a major leading-leading 38 homers, three off a team record. And his ERA was the third-highest in the American League among qualifying pitchers. So those numbers are not good, nor is a 37.6 groundball rate. That probably doesn’t fly, pun intended, at Camden Yards.
Lyles did post a WHIP of 1.389, allowing 9.7 hits per nine with 2.8 walks and 7.3 strikeouts. The Rangers went 13-17 in his starts. He had an ERA of 4.86 in the first half and 5.49 after the All-Star break. He did produce a career-high 13 quality starts and went six innings or more 18 times. Lyles gave up an OPS of .812 to lefty batters and .849 versus right-handers.
He did have a decent finish to his year. After pitching to an ERA of 7.60 in August, he had an ERA of 2.87 and a WHIP of 0.989 in five September games.
In other news: The Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to terms Sunday with free agent pitcher José Quintana, who went 0-3 with a 6.43 ERA in 63 innings last season between the Dodgers and Giants. He has a career 3.84 ERA in over 1,500 innings.
The Milwaukee Brewers, according to ESPN, signed former O’s catcher Pedro Severino, to a one-year deal worth $1.9 million, pending a physical. He can earn another $400,000 in incentives.
Severino was outrighted to Triple-A by the Orioles on Nov. 5 after being waived, but he was able to refuse the assignment and become a free agent. Severino played in 257 games with the O’s between 2019-2021, batting .249/.315/.397/.712 producing an OPS+ of 91 in that time.