Baltimore Orioles: Expecting the starting pitching market to thin out

BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 19: Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman
BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 19: Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman /

Yesterday, one of the top free-agent starting pitchers came off the board. The remaining starters on the market could find themselves a home rather quickly. But, will the Baltimore Orioles capitalize on any of them?

Pitchers and catchers will begin trickling into Ed Smith Stadium in two days. One guarantee the Baltimore Orioles have at the moment is who their numbers one-and-two are. The other is that their lack of starting pitching will be covered most frequently throughout the spring.

A highly covered topic indeed, and rightfully so.

Dating back as far as I can remember, there have always been questions and concerns about the rotation. As much as they enjoy waiting out the market, it’s an oddity that the front office sits two days before camp opening, with two guaranteed starters.

I’m an advocate for holding out hope until the last second, though. There’s still plenty of starting pitching on the market right now. And, who knows, maybe an in-house candidate or two will have a semi-decent season. However, there’s no doubt the rotation would drastically improve with a free-agent signing – or two.

The key here is the length of any potential deal.

The length of the contract

We could begin to see pitchers start accepting deals after Yu Darvish‘s six-year, $126MM deal was agreed upon yesterday. That deal could potentially cause the domino effect. Although, it may not mean anything for a team that doesn’t enjoy handing out long-term contracts.

It’s no secret that the Orioles frown upon signing free-agents to long-term deals. Over the last ten years, only two free-agents have signed a three-year or longer contract.

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In 2014, Ubaldo Jimenez signed a four-year, $50MM contract and in 2017, Mark Trumbo signed a three-year, $37.5MM deal.

What’s even rarer is a four-year deal for a starting pitcher.

In franchise history, only two free-agent starters signed four-year deals with the club. One, of course, is Jimenez. The other is right-hander Steve Stone.

On November 29, 1978, Stone signed a four-year, $760K contract with the Orioles. Stone only played out three-of-the-four years, though. After dealing with tendinitis in 1981, Stone retired the following season. Although, he was a Cy-Young winner in 1980, pitching to a 25-7 record and an ERA of 3.23.

Long-term contract demands

Of the top starting pitchers on the market, they all have at least one thing in common. They all want long-term deals.

Lance Lynn, whom the Orioles have had discussions with recently, is still seeking at least a four-year deal.

Per MLBTradeRumors and Jon Heyman, Alex Cobb, is now, “willing,” to sign a four-year deal totaling $70MM or a five-year deal worth $80MM.

Jake Arrieta had been seeking six-years as of November, but would probably receive a four-year offer from someone as well.

Because of the length of those potential contracts, I’d expect the Orioles to stay far, far away. However, there are a few names on the market that wouldn’t mind a lesser deal.

Andrew Cashner is still out there, looking for a three-year deal.

Jason Vargas, one of the favored pitchers of the club this winter, is projected by MLBTradeRumors to receive a one-year deal.

Add Chris Tillman, and the recent mention Drew Hutchinson to the mix, and you’ve got a class of starters that would improve the rotation over its projections.

Not to mention, the team wouldn’t have to pay a pitcher $20MM+ per year.

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The latter mentioned aren’t flashy guys by any means. They probably won’t throw a no-hitter anytime soon, and they more than likely won’t win 20 games. But, they come with a cheaper salary, for a shorter period. They have the potential to improve a rotation that was abysmal in 2017 and they – at the very least – give the team a fighting chance. Trying and failing is much better than not trying and failing.