Could this free agent pitcher be targeted by the Orioles this offseason?

This reliever could be a strong addition by the Orioles this winter

Aug 27, 2023; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Robert Stephenson (26) throws a pitch during a game
Aug 27, 2023; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Robert Stephenson (26) throws a pitch during a game / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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When the crew at MLB Trade Rumors released their list of top 50 free agents along with projected contracts and destinations, the trio of writers who put it together had the Orioles landing five of the top 50 listed.

After going through the first three players projected to sign with the Orioles, most recently Kenta Maeda, the list goes to the fourth target, listed at 27. That player is Robert Stephenson. Is there a fit between Stephenson and the Orioles?

Does signing Robert Stephenson make sense for the Orioles?

Darragh McDonald projected the Orioles to sign Stephenson, with the contract projection at four years and $36 million. He was on the hook for just $1.75 million in 2023, so it'd be a big raise, but for how Stephenson ended the season, with a division rival no less, this would be a solid investment.

Stephenson started the season with the Pittsburgh Pirates after ending 2022 in Pittsburgh. He struggled out of the gate, authoring a 5.14 ERA and 1.429 WHIP through 18 appearances and 14 innings pitched. The switch flipped on June 2, when he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays had him start throwing a cutter, sitting in the upper 80s on the gun, replacing his slider altogether. Hitters made contact just 41.1 percent of the time that they swung at his cutter, with Stephenson striking out almost 43 percent of hitters since he joined the Rays, sitting at a 38.3 percent strikeout rate for the whole season.

Opposing hitters slashed just .138/.187/.300 against Stephenson. He posted a 2.35 ERA and sterling 0.678 WHIP, walking only eight hitters in 38 1/3 innings and 42 appearances.

Stephenson's cutter along with his upper 90s fastball that puts him in the 90th percentile in fastball velocity made him one of the best relievers in baseball down the stretch. On 28.7 percent of his pitches as a Ray, opponents had swinging strikes, which is almost three times the league average.

While Stephenson likely won't continue to be as dominant as he was to end last year, $9 million for 4 years is a very reasonable contract for someone like Stephenson. He cut down the walks and added a deadly pitch, and it's set him up nicely entering the offseason. He's a pitcher that the Orioles would do well to pursue this winter.

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