Everyone knows the Orioles want to improve their pitching staff for 2016. They’ve shown interest in free agent starters Yovani Gallardo and Scott Kazmir.
Both Gallardo and Kazmir are two of the handful of remaining top free agent pitchers. Neither is top shelf, but either would make a useful addition to the Orioles.
Some might think that the Orioles should favor Kazmir because he’s left-handed, and the current rotation has no left-hander, and because his signing would not cost the team a draft choice next June.
Gallardo, who received a qualifying offer from Texas, would necessitate the team losing a draft pick to sign him. Kazmir, who was traded from Oakland to Houston in July, couldn’t be given a qualifying offer.
At this month’s Winter Meetings, Dan Duquette seemed to be adverse to losing a first round choice (the Orioles pick is the 14th), but two years ago, they not only surrendered their first, but their second round picks in the June 2014 draft for signing Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez.
The Orioles weren’t scheduled to pick as high in the 2014 draft as they are this year, Duquette said. But, that probably won’t stop the Orioles if they want to sign Gallardo, Alex Gordon or Justin Upton—if their prices are right.
Conventional wisdom is that Duquette made a shrewd move in signing Cruz to a one-year contract. His bat was instrumental in the Orioles winning the AL East, but regrettably the team didn’t offer him a four-year contract, and he was lost in free agency a year ago.
Many of those who think that the Cruz signing was wise also think that the Jimenez signing was a mistake—and they’re mistaken.
While Jimenez struggled mightily in 2014, and fell out of the starting rotation in the last six weeks of the season and was left off the ALCS roster, he was the club’s leading winner in 2015.
Jimenez’s first half was better than his second half, but he made huge improvements from 2014. His control was better and his WHIP was lower than both Miguel Gonzalez’s and Chris Tillman’s.
The Orioles must pay $25 million over the next two years to Jimenez, and while that’s not a bargain, it’s the going rate for serviceable big league starters.
At the beginning of free agency, Toronto signed J.A. Happ for $36 million over three years, about what the Orioles paid for Jimenez.
Happ has a major league record of 62-61 with an ERA of 4.13. When Jimenez signed with the Orioles he was 82-75 with a 3.92 ERA.
Interestingly, according to Baseballreference.com, the pitcher whose stats most resemble Jimenez in baseball history, is Kazmir, who reportedly is looking for a four-year deal.
At the time of Jimenez’s signing in Feb. 2014, the Orioles went beyond their comfort zone with a fourth year, but aren’t likely to do that with Kazmir.
Not only was Jimenez not overpaid, his presence at the back end of the rotation gives the team one fewer hole to fill. If the team finds another starter who’s around for more than one year, then the team can have a stable starting staff in 2017 as well.
For fans fretting about the draft pick lost, there’s no predicting who the team would have selected in the first round that year. And for all the good first round picks who have been important contributors—Kevin Gausman, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis, Brian Matusz and Matt Wieters, the Orioles haven’t drafted a pitcher who won as many games as Jimenez won last year since Erik Bedard won 13 in 2007.
NOTES: Ned Rice, the Orioles Director of Major League Administration, is leaving the team to join the Philadelphia Phillies as an assistant general manager. Rice will join Duquette’s predecessor Andy MacPhail, with the Philadelphia Phillies.
-Now that the Orioles have reached agreement with infielder Paul Janish on a minor league contract with a major league spring training invitation, the team has at least 11 players likely to begin the spring at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.
Last month the team announced that pitchers Pedro Beato, Cesar Cabral, Todd Redmond and Ashur Tolliver, infielders Ozzie Martinez and Steve Tolleson and catcher Audry Perez had received invitations.
The signings of Janish, pitcher Jeff Beliveau and outfielders Xavier Avery and Alfredo Marte have yet to be announced, but the latter three have substantial major league experience.
Assuming a full 40-man roster (it’s currently at 39), the Orioles should have room for a few more invitations to camp. The team will decide after next month’s minicamp if Hunter Harvey will come to big league camp. Manager Buck Showalter wants fewer than 60 players on hand so that an auxiliary clubhouse doesn’t have to be used.
MORE ORIOLES: Many big-name free agents still available for Orioles