SARASOTA, Fla. – Wei-Yin Chen’s departure was a foregone conclusion for the Orioles.
Chen was one of the biggest bargains in baseball. In his four years with the Orioles, he earned $15.466 million and won 46 games.
His average annual salary with the Miami Marlins will be $16 million, and he has a five-year contract with a sixth-year option. Chen also has an opt-out clause after two years.
While the Orioles were certainly never going to play in that territory, Chen’s contract might have made sense for them.
Dan Duquette has said that opt-out clauses won’t work for the Orioles, and he’s probably right. But, if Chen has two good years and opts out of the Marlins deal, he’ll be 32, and in effect the Orioles would have gotten arguably the best six years out of Chen.
The thinking here is that the Orioles got the best four years out of Chen, and he’s not likely to get better over the five years of his Marlins deal.
Chen represents Duquette’s best signing in his four-plus years as Orioles vice president of baseball operations. Getting 46 wins for les than $4 million a year is a bargain.
Manager Buck Showalter carefully handled Chen, keeping him away from the Toronto Blue Jays whose right-handed hitting lineup had a big advantage. He also gave Chen extra days of rest.
The Orioles’ strategies of resting him annoyed Chen. In 2015, they sent Chen to Frederick for 10 days to keep him fresh, but it upset Chen and his agent, Scott Boras.
Boras remains upset with the Orioles and said so at the General Managers Meetings in November.
Chen did little to fit in with his teammates. While he did learn English, he only rarely spoke it publicly, insisting on an interpreter.
Because Chen didn’t speak English publicly, fans didn’t get a chance to know him, and he appeared at FanFest just once in his four years with the team.
His loss, which was expected, will be a big one. Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman must have big years, and the Orioles still need to sign another starter from a dwindling pool.
The only top shelf starters left are Yovani Gallardo and Ian Kennedy. Gallardo has been linked with the Orioles, Kennedy hasn’t.
Otherwise, the Orioles will have to look within or at a pitcher with injury or performance concerns for a fifth starter.
Gerardo Parra also left. At the beginning of free agency, Parra looked like a decent bet to stay, but the Orioles didn’t feel he was worth the kind of contract—three years, $27.5 million—given to him to Colorado.
While the Rockies seemingly have a surplus of outfielders, and the Orioles have been mentioned as a possible trade partner, there doesn’t seem to be a match.
The Orioles need a right fielder, but they need a starting pitcher more and can’t be giving up on any of their starters or potential starters.