With Major League Baseball’s free agency window soon to open, a pair of Baltimore Orioles relief pitchers have elected to test the market this winter
After being removed from the Baltimore Orioles‘ 40-man roster towards the end of the season, relief pitchers Cesar Valdez and Adam Plutko have elected free agency and are unlikely to re-sign with the team, according to reports over the past week.
The loss of Valdez and Plutko is significant, considering what the attitude was around them coming into the year. During the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Valdez was nearly automatic for Baltimore, allowing just two runs in nine outings while striking out a dozen batters with his wipeout “dead fish” changeup.
As for Plutko, Orioles fans saw promise in his leadership qualities and his ability to operate in a swingman role after the team acquired him from the Cleveland Indians in late March. Prior to joining the Orioles, Plutko completed 217.1 big-league innings during his time in Cleveland.
In April, both veteran relievers posted an ERA below the 1.50 mark, leading an Orioles bullpen that, at the time, was one of the best units in baseball. By the end of April, Valdez was part of a three-way tie for the most saves in the American League. Despite starting the 2021 season on the right foot, neither Valdez nor Plutko remained effective throughout the summer.
Plutko collapsed in May, allowing five home runs over 12.1 innings of work. Likewise, Valdez’s season-long ERA ballooned to be as high as 5.30 after an outing against the Chicago White Sox near the end of the month. As a result, the Orioles’ bullpen struggled, finishing the year with a league-worst 5.70 ERA.
In Roch Kubatko’s latest report for MASN, he reflected on a post-game quote from Plutko on May 22nd, following a 12-9 loss at the hands of the Washington Nationals:
"“Obviously, I know what my line was and I know what my first inning was, but what’s the point of beating up myself on that?” Plutko said. “That seems pretty pointless, and what’s the point of dwelling on a lot of us maybe struggling for a hot minute or being in a quick slump? Let’s build on some positives.“This game’s hard enough, so let’s look for some positives and really, really focus in on those,”"
As the Orioles continue to retool their team in hopes of building a postseason contender, addressing the issues in the bullpen is almost certainly at the forefront of general manager Mike Elias’ mind.