Veteran pitcher Wade LeBlanc and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a minor league deal.
The Baltimore Orioles made a little noise on Tuesday night, bringing in the veteran starting pitcher general manager Mike Elias said the organization was still looking to add ahead of spring training.
Per ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan, the Orioles have signed former Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc to a minor league deal. As stated by Passan, LeBlanc will earn $800,000 if he makes the major league roster.
The 35-year-old lefty has spent parts of 11 seasons in the major leagues with seven different franchises, most recently spending the last two seasons with the Mariners as both a starter and reliever.
Back in December, we profiled a number of free agent pitchers who the Orioles could target and discussed LeBlanc as an option, only because both Joe Trezza of MLB.com and Dan Connolly of The Athletic threw out LeBlanc’s name as a possible option. So we quickly dove into the numbers and ultimately decided that LeBlanc didn’t seem like a great fit, but clearly we were wrong.
LeBlanc made 26 total appearances last season (8 starts), going 6-7 with a 5.71 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. He was worth -0.3 Wins Above Replacement per Fangraphs, a large dropoff from his 2018 numbers in Seattle.
The 2018 season was arguably LeBlanc’s best season as a major leaguer, going 9-5 with a 3.72 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Not only did his ERA jump significantly in 2019, the veteran saw his strikeout rate fall from 19.6% to 17.3% and opponents hit .290 against him, a 46 point jump compared to 2018. Both his K-rate and average against were the worst numbers of LeBlanc’s career since 2013 when he split his time between the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins.
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Worst of all, LeBlanc saw his home run rate jump from 1.33/9 IP to 2.08/9 IP, a number that won’t be helped by moving into the American League East and making Camden Yards his new home.
The decrease in production, along with his age, and 86 mph average fastball were some of the reasons as to why this move is surprising, but the Orioles wanted a veteran pitcher and Mike Elias believes Wade LeBlanc is someone who can compete in 2020.
We know 2019 All-Star John Means is in the starting rotation and we can assume that Alex Cobb and Asher Wojciechowski are in, leaving a long list of arms set to battle in camp for the final two spots (read up on all of the new arms added here). Add LeBlanc to the list. The veteran instantly becomes an early favorite to land a rotation spot.
For his career, Leblanc is 45-47 with a 4.46 ERA, 1. 34 WHIP, and a 6.6 K/9 IP rate. Welcome to Birdland!