The Orioles finally pulled the trigger and forfeited their 2016 first-round draft pick, as the club inked pitcher Yovani Gallardo to a three-year, $35 million contract on Saturday. The two sides had been linked since the beginning of the month, but the Orioles were hesitant to part with the pick. Gallardo’s contract, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman notes, includes an option for a fourth year and some of the $35 million will be deferred.
The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen to free agency, as the lefty eventually signed a five-year pact with the Marlins. Having made no other big rotation additions over the offseason, Gallardo will provide some stability in the middle of a rotation that also includes Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Kevin Gausman.
While Gallardo is still only 29 years old (30 on February 27), the Orioles did not sign the veteran for his upside. He may have posted a sub-4.00 in six of his last seven seasons, but his fastball averaged a career-low 90.4 MPH. That was part of the reason why he also posted a career-worst 15.3 percent strikeout rate, more than six percent below his career average. His walk rate, at 8.6 percent, is subpar, particularly for a pitcher who isn’t missing bats anymore.
On a nine-innings rate, Gallardo struck out 5.91 and walked 3.32. The only other pitchers to average 6.5 or fewer strikeouts and 3.0 or more walks per nine innings were Alfredo Simon and Chris Tillman, who posted respective ERAs of 5.05 and 4.99. In 2014, those pitchers included John Danks, Roberto Hernandez, Shelby Miller, Jarred Cosart, and Chris Young. Both Miller and Young improved those rates in 2015, helping to explain their continued success. Gallardo will have to do the same in his first year in Baltimore.
Needless to say, Gallardo is risky for fantasy purposes. He’s fine in AL-only leagues, but he would only be a late-round add in deeper mixed leagues. Personally, I prefer to go for higher upside by betting on an unknown (i.e. an injured player or a rookie). For $1 in an auction league, you could do worse.
Now that the Orioles have forfeited their first-round pick, they may still pursue remaining free agents. They are still reportedly pursuing outfielder Dexter Fowler, discussing a potential two-year, $24 million deal, per MASN’s Roch Kubatko. As presently constructed, the Orioles have Nolan Reimold, Dariel Alvarez, and Hyun-soo Kim slated to handle the outfield corners. The Orioles are a threat in the AL East as is, but adding Fowler would be a big help.
Chapman Could Get Spring Ban
Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reported on Saturday that Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman could potentially be banned from spring activities, including exhibition games, as part of a punishment handed down by Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Chapman allegedly choked his girlfriend and fired a gun in his garage during a party this past October, but he was not officially charged with a crime. Nevertheless, Manfred does not need a player to be charged with a crime to levy a punishment. He is expected to make a decision soon. Doing so, particularly with a case involving such a high-profile player, will set the tone for how Major League Baseball handles these kinds of situations going forward.
It is worth clarifying that if Chapman were to be banned from spring training, it wouldn’t necessarily replace a regular season suspension. Rather, it could be in addition to an as yet undetermined regular season suspension.
Knowing the potential for a punishment, the Yankees still acquired Chapman from the Reds at the end of December in exchange for minor leaguers Caleb Cotham, Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo, and Tony Renda. Chapman’s arrival pushes Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances to handle the seventh and eighth innings as matchups dictate. Miller – and Betances, potentially – could earn some early-season saves if Chapman is indeed suspended to begin the regular season, so it’s worth keeping an eye on this situation.
Chapman turns 28 at the end of this month. He’s coming off another stellar season, as he racked up 33 saves with a 1.63 ERA and a 116/33 K/BB ratio over 66 1/3 innings. Moving from the lowly Reds to the competitive Yankees will help him rack up additional saves, and he should still be expected to be number one in the strikeouts category among closers.
Smith, Jeffress Could Both Close
Per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Brewers manager Craig Counsell said that he will allow relievers Will Smith (a lefty) and Jeremy Jeffress (a righty) the opportunity to close games. Counsell isn’t picking an official closer yet.
The rebuilding Brewers dealt veteran closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Tigers back in November in exchange for minor leaguer Javier Betancourt and a player to be named later. As Rodriguez finished this past season with 38 saves, a 2.21 ERA, and a 62/11 K/BB ratio over 57 innings, he is leaving some big shoes to fill.
Smith, 26, pitched quite well in the seventh and eighth innings for the Brewers last season, posting a 2.70 ERA along with 91 strikeouts and 24 walks across 63 1/3 innings. And Jeffress, 28, also had some solid results in his first full season in the majors. Once a top starting pitching prospect, Jeffress authored a 2.65 ERA with a 67/22 K/BB ratio in 68 innings, sharing the seventh and eighth innings with Smith.
With those kinds of numbers, either pitcher could succeed closing out games for the Brewers. And both are not yet household names, so they are good value targets in fantasy leagues. The Phillies, also rebuilding, will be having an audition for their closer’s role, giving fantasy owners two situations to monitor over the next month-plus.
Quick Hits: Former major leaguer Felipe Lopez is interested in making a comeback, according to a report … Athletics pitcher Jesse Hahn plans to stop throwing his slider in 2016, believing it caused his elbow issues … Phillies reliever David Hernandez told manager Pete Mackanin that he wants the team’s closer’s role … The Rangers have reportedly “looked into” free agent outfielder Shane Victorino, but the club is only willing to give him a minor league contract … Phillies utilityman Cody Asche is working out at first base, a position he has yet to play at the professional level … Representatives from the Padres are expected to attend Tim Lincecum’s pitching showcase in Arizona later this month … R.A. Dickey revealed on Sunday that he underwent surgery on his right knee shortly after the 2015 season ended in order to repair a torn meniscus … The Brewers are moving Ryan Braun back to left field for the 2016 season … Rays outfielder Steven Souza suffered a left intercostal strain while taking swings in the batting cage … Cardinals manager Mike Matheny named Adam Wainwright as the team’s Opening Day starter … The Dodgers finalized a six-year, $30 million contract with Cuban right-hander Yaisel Sierra on Sunday … The Rangers are reportedly considering re-signing outfielder Drew Stubbs … The Rangers signed pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training on Saturday … The Angels plan to limit starter Tyler Skaggs to 165-175 innings this season … Mariners manager Scott Servais named Felix Hernandez as the team’s Opening Day starter … Dallas Keuchel will start Opening Day for the Astros … Tyson Ross will start Opening Day for the Padres … Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen said on Saturday that Addison Reed will function as the club’s primary set-up man in front of closer Jeurys Familia … Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale announced on Saturday that Rubby De La Rosa has secured a spot in the starting rotation … Rangers reliever Tanner Scheppers has torn articular cartilage in his left knee, the surgery for which is expected to keep him out for half of the 2016 season … The Padres signed reliever Casey Janssen to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training on Saturday.