Do the Orioles Need an Ace?


Free agency is in full swing – so what exactly are the Baltimore Orioles looking to add?  According to the baseball world, they need an ace starter.

Joe Saunders came up big in the postseason for the Orioles. Photo Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE

Britt Ghiroli wrote a great piece this week outlining what Dan Duquette says are the priorities for the Baltimore Orioles this offseason.  The article quoted Duquette as saying that first base, DH and left field are the main positions he is looking to fill.  This makes sense, as the Orioles declined to pick up the $11m option on first baseman Mark Reynolds’ contract and left fielder Nolan Reimold is “hoping” to be ready for spring training after a season ending neck injury last year.

Now let’s evaluate the Orioles’ starting pitching.  Joe Saunders was a gamer throughout the playoffs, and was extremely effective.  In fact, other than his first start as an Oriole against the White Sox, Saunders was quite reliable.  He’s not flashy, but he certainly got the job done in the second half last year.

Questions have persisted about Wei-Yin Chen, and Chen’s arm has done the talking.  Critics claimed that Chen couldn’t hold up throughout the long MLB season, but his outstanding conditioning helped him to excel in the playoffs.  Certainly Chen had a few rough starts during the season, but that is to be expected, especially for a rookie.  The league started to adjust to Chen, and Chen was able to find an answer.

Then there’s Miguel Gonzalez, whose guts and determination have endeared him to the fans in Baltimore.  The guy’s got nerve, and he knows how to pitch.  And of course Jason Hammel, who had been the Orioles’ #1 until his knee injury.  Hammel made his way back into the rotation and pitched well down the stretch, including the playoffs.

The rest of the rotation could be filled out with your pick of any of the following: Chris Tillman, Steve Johnson, Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, and possibly others.  I’d argue it’s best to leave Arrieta, Matusz and Hunter in the bullpen, but clearly any of them could move back into the rotation.

With so much depth, do the O’s really need an ace?  Conventional wisdom says yes, that a team needs a “big game pitcher.”  Buck Showalter felt confident to hand the ball to any of his starters in a big game situation.  Analysts laughed at the Orioles’ chances against the Rangers in the Wild Card playoff game when Showalter announced Joe Saunders as the starter (we all know how that turned out).  The role of underdog suited the Orioles well, and the fans of Baltimore relish the role.

While it wouldn’t hurt to add someone like Zack Greinke to the club, it doesn’t seem to be Dan Duquette’s priority, and for good reason.