With a 2.5 game lead in the American League East, the primary focus for the Baltimore Orioles is understandably on the here and now of the 2016 season.
Earlier this Month, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported that Baltimore is one of several teams interested in Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore.
Moore would be an exciting addition, but the Orioles would have to overcome a number of other interested teams, and get Tampa Bay to trade within the division. As such, it seems highly unlikely to me that Moore will be spending this Summer in Baltimore. The hope should probably be that the Dodgers get him (vs. him going somewhere else in the AL, or Boston or NY sending Tampa Bay a bunch of prospects).
That said, the O’s being interested at all is fairly telling.
If the O’s are interested in Moore, the real takeaway is that the O’s will be be looking for ways to upgrade the rotation here in ’16.
We can also look at Moore and his contract (club options for ’17 $7M, ’18 $9.5M, ’19 $10M), and probably get something from that. He’s a lefty with pedigree, who has AL (and AL East) experience, and the ability for team control. Also has more ceiling then some of the guys we’ve talked about previously.
Even if the O’s fall short in their pursuit of Moore, Baltimore can be expected to pursue other options who might be more obtainable. Again, some of the guys we’ve talked about previously such as Hill, Hellickson, and Cashner.
What Baltimore does here in the next few weeks, can impact more than just the remainder of ’16. Maybe they get back a pitcher with some control? Maybe they give up multiple existing assets to obtain?
When / if a trade is made, we can revisit this, and determine the impact for ’16 and beyond.
Based on what exists internally, and the forthcoming Free Agent market, let’s review the Orioles current rotation options for 2017.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Chris Tillman (arbitration eligible), and Kevin Gausman are locks. No reason to spend much time discussing either. If they are healthy, and there is not an unexpected trade; Tillman and Gausman will be two of the five O’s starters in ’17.
Who will join them?
Yovani Gallardo is signed for next year, with Baltimore holding a club option for ’18. There are $11M reasons why Gallardo should be expected to be in the O’s rotation next year. Saying Gallardo’s stuff has looked good since coming off the DL is a bit much. It’s looked better though than what he showed initially to begin ’16. For the importance of this year, and looking towards next season, let’s hope that he looks competent the rest of the way.
Ubaldo Jimenez is under contract for $13.5M. Let’s look at Jimenez’s three most prior seasons before ’16.
2013: 13-9, 3.30 ERA, 3.62 xFIP, 182.2ip, 25 K%, 10.3 BB%, 43.9 GB%
2014: 6-9, 4.81 ERA, 4.48 xFIP, 125.1ip, 21 K%, 13.9 BB%, 41.3 GB%
2015: 12-10, 4.11 ERA, 3.83 xFIP, 184ip, 21.2 K%, 8.6 BB%, 49.1 GB%
If Jimenez was having the average of those three years, finding a taker for the majority of the last year of his contract would not be difficult. The O’s would also probably be comfortable with bringing him back.
Instead, here in ’16, Jimenez’s ERA is just under 7 after 16 starts, his K% is down significantly, and his BB% has jumped back up above his career averages after a career low last year.
Jimenez doesn’t come across as a ‘bad’ guy, but he still has an argument for being one of the most unpopular players to wear an O’s uniform in the past 25 years due to his nibbling pitching style.
When you couple that unpopularity, with the fact that starts for Jimenez (opportunities to rebound closer to his career norms) will be limited during the remainder of the year; it seems likely that the O’s will eat a lot of his contract to find the RHP another home for ’17.
If the O’s do eat the majority of Jimenez’s ’17 contract to send him on his way, that’s all the more reason to believe Gallardo will be part of the ’17 rotation. The thinking being that eating contract on both starters doesn’t seem overly plausible.
I guess the argument could be made that Gallardo could possibly be easier to move, but right now I’ll go with the assumption Yovani will return, and that Ubaldo will not.
Prior to any trades, or Free Agent acquisitions, Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson would again figure to be in the running for starts.
I’m fine with them both being guys you look at as your 6th-8th options. Depth, who could start for you on occasion, or for an extended stretch if there were injuries in-front of them. It would be disappointing to me if Baltimore went into ’17 with either penciled into the rotation.
Wright has a quality arm. I question his secondaries, control, and his temperament. Should he be moved to the bullpen full-time, I think he could be an asset.
Wilson has been more-or-less what you would expect. I’ve been impressed at times with his mound presence, and pitch ability. He has a plan. Unfortunately, his stuff is very limited. I think his upside is that of a 5th starter. Having him around for additional rotation depth is a good thing. Having to rely on him is not.
Vance Worley should also be in consideration for one of those 6th-8th spots. Again, not someone you want to rely on as a starter, but a guy capable of giving some depth. I do think he has more starting upside than either Wright or Wilson; but his lack of starts this year in comparison to them is indication the O’s don’t agree.
Yesterday in the O’s marathon win in LA, Dylan Bundy struck out 7 Dodgers in his 2.1 innings. Prior to this season, we talked about what an optimal ’16 season for Bundy would look like. We started with the obvious, he needed to stay healthy and available. Hopefully showing month-to-month improvement. We wrote about how it would be interesting to see how he was used. Would O’s Manager Buck Showalter be willing to use Bundy in high leverage situations? Could Bundy be used in back-to-back games? What we’ve seen is that Showalter has spaced out Bundy’s appearances to mirror the rest in-between outings that a starter gets.
The issue we kept coming back to prior to ’16 was Bundy’s innings. We guessed that after pitching just over 100 combined innings in ’12, missing ’13, being limited to 40 some innings in ’14, and 25 or so innings in ’15; that him finishing ’16 with 75 innings would be the best case scenario. In the Spring, the O’s announced that they agreed.
With Bundy looking better and better, some have asked if he could even start at some point this year? Outside of the possibility of a spot start or two in September, I’ve never seen how that was practical. As of today, he’s on pace to appear in 42 games, and finish the season with 72 innings.
Bundy possibly getting a couple of starts in September or not, is fairly irrelevant when thinking about if he can start with regularity for the O’s in ’17. The primary question (if there are no set-backs the remainder of the year, and he continues to perform) will again be innings. Even if you don’t believe in the ‘Verducci Effect,’ it is not overly common to see pitchers be asked to take on a vastly higher work load one year to the next. (Chris Sale being a known exception, as he pitched 71 innings as a reliever in 2011, before throwing 192 innings in ’12 in the White Sox rotation.)
If the O’s are going to limit Bundy to +/- 100 innings next year, then they can’t go into ’17 with him penciled into the rotation to begin the season.
Could the O’s jump him up to 150+ innings? My guess is that the O’s will decide that Bundy (who turns 24 in November) will be capable of that, and have him as part of their rotation next Spring. Based on what we’re seeing from him currently, there is definitely excitement in seeing if he can become the rotation force he was once expected to be.
Anyone else we should be considering internally?
We’re a fan of Chris Lee, but even if he’s healthy (he’s recently resumed a throwing program after being out with a lat strain), he’s going to have to show an ability to generate more k’s to be a viable candidate for regular ML starts. Right now, he hasn’t missed enough bats at the AA level to be forcing his way to the bigs.
2013 1st Round Pick Hunter Harvey had a strong 2014 at Low A Delmarva. It was realistic as ’14 ended to believe Harvey could finish ’15 at AA Bowie, and be positioned to join the O’s at some point here in ’16. Instead Harvey missed all of ’15, and is just now getting onto a mound this year. The good news is he is healthy, and the talent is not a question. It’s a matter of building up his innings and experience. Currently Harvey is starting for Aberdeen. Doesn’t really matter where he is right now, you just have to be happy that he is pitching somewhere. It would be good if he could end this year having got a few starts at Frederick.
If he’s ready to go next Spring, I’m not opposed at all to him beginning at Bowie. In April, our O’s podcast ‘The Warehouse’ spoke with Joe Sheehan. Sheehan articulated the argument that pitchers only have so many bullets in their arms. That once Harvey got healthy, the O’s might be best served getting him to the Majors as quickly as possible (Sheehan even suggested using Harvey in the Majors in August and September this year).
Maybe Harvey can be in position to jump to the O’s rotation at some point next year, but that shouldn’t be expected. In his ’14 season he was limited to 87.2 innings. Again, he missed all of last year. 40-50 innings this year is probably the absolute most he gets.
What would be interesting is if the O’s would consider utilizing Harvey in the Majors in ’17 in a role similar to what Bundy has had this year. The obvious difference being that Bundy had to be on the ML roster, and that won’t be an issue for Harvey next Spring. So, the most likely scenario is allowing Harvey to get stretched out in the Minors.
In a similar discussion, someone could bring up recent 1st round pick Cody Sedlock. Sedlock was drafted as advanced college arm which should be able to move through the system quickly. The most realistic path for Sedlock would be beginning next at High A Frederick (Delmarva is possible, but would hope with his college experience, he’d begin next year in the Carolina League), and if things go well…. getting a chance to end next year at AA Bowie. Ultimately his performance will dictate how quickly he moves.
I think it can mostly be agreed that Harvey and Sedlock are far more likely to be teammates with the Keys next year, as opposed to being on the O’s.
Outside of the organization, what starters could be targets in Free Agency? Part of the reason we’ve suggested Hill / Hellickson / Cashner as potential trade options here in ’16, is that each are Free Agents this Fall. So if you don’t trade (and extend) for one of them now, maybe you look at them as FA candidates? Each of them would figure to get 2 years and possibly 3 years from someone.
Will that interest the O’s? Will they decide that is a more significant investment vs. what they would want to make for that caliber of starter?
If the O’s eat contract to move Jimenez, will they have the financial ability to add a FA starter that will require a multi-year deal?
Certainly there are other factors (Do they reach an extension with Machado? Do they pursue deals with Wieters, Trumbo, Britton, Tillman, Schoop, Gausman, etc which gives more clarity on their payroll commitments in future years?) which will impact their decision making process.
Might Baltimore decide that bringing back Jimenez for ’17, is a better decision than giving multiple-years to Hill / Hellickson / Cashner?
Might they decide they are more interested in someone like Bud Norris, on a 1 year make good reunion?
If willing to spend more for 1 year, but not multiple years, maybe Bartolo Colon? Colon is having another quality season, but will be 44 next May. Due to that, he’s likely to go year-to-year at this point.
A listing of all to-be FA starters can be found here.
Based on what exists internally, and the FA market, that probably leads most people to saying the best option to improve the O’s rotation will be through trade. That might be true, but there will be issues there as well. Just like now in the middle of ’16, there will only be so many starters to trade for in the Fall and Winter. The limited O’s system will still make it difficult to obtain the best options which do become available.
Ideally you can find a young starter like Alex Wood (maybe not Wood directly with his current elbow injury… but his profile.. nice ceiling, some team control, potentially blocked). More reasonable trade candidates for the O’s would probably be a starter with a contract a team would be looking to unload.
There aren’t any easy answers with fixing the rotation. It takes time to develop from within. There are only so many FA options, and their ceiling and the O’s ability to obtain them regardless can be questioned. Some quality options might be available via trade, but again there is the question of if the O’s will be able to provide enough in return?
My BSL O’s Colleague Paul Sporer recently reviewed Gausman here. We’ve spent months talking about Gausman being the most important Oriole here in ’16. Stating that the O’s need him to reach another level, and lead the rotation. To be a consistently positive difference maker. When thinking about the ’17 rotation, I believe we’re looking at another year with similar thoughts.
It’s hard to imagine any scenario where the O’s get to where they want to be in ’16, or see substantial rotation improvement in ’17 – without the lights going fully on for Gausman, and him being the driving force.
Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director.