On Monday, MLB Trade Rumors released their list of top 50 free agents. Three of the writers over there put together the list and evaluated where each free agent could sign, along with predicting a contract for them.
MLB Trade Rumors doesn't have the Orioles landing any of the free agents listed in the top 10, but they do appear on the list multiple times. First up, they have the Orioles landing the 17th ranked free agent, that being starting pitcher Lucas Giolito. Could there be a fit?
Does signing Lucas Giolito make sense for the Orioles?
Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors had the Orioles signing Giolito, with a projected contract of two years and $44 million, which would be $22 million per season. Giolito is one of the bigger risk/reward signings of the offseason. He posted strong numbers in 2019, 2020, and 2021 and appeared to be a genuine number two or three starter entering 2022.
However, he struggled in 2022 to the tune of a 4.90 ERA, 4.06 FIP, and 1.435 WHIP and made 30 starts, largely a healthy arm. 2023 was also not good. He had a 4.88 ERA, 5.27 FIP, and 1.313 WHIP over 184 1/3 innings, making 33 starts. He spent the year with three different teams, playing for the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels, and Cleveland Guardians.
First off, a two year, $44 million contract for someone like Giolito, with the last two seasons being poor, is a little rich for any team, with the Orioles likely to balk at that kind of contract. Giolito gave up plenty of home runs, giving up 41 on the year, averaging exactly two homers allowed per nine innings.
One thing that has been noticed is the drop in Giolito's fastball velocity. Once averaging 94 on the gun, it's dropped to 92-93. His 25.7 strikeout percentage, while still higher than league average, is still down from what it used to be for Giolito.
Evidenced by a 25.7 strikeout percentage and 12.2 swinging strike percentage, Giolito still misses bats. He averaged exactly 10 strikeouts per nine in 2023 despite his inflated home run numbers and has a 9.6 strikeouts per nine career average.
Giolito also still has solid walk numbers, averaging 3.6 walks per nine in 2023 and 3.4 walks per nine in his career. He is a durable pitcher, having been on the injured list only twice since 2020. His 184 1/3 innings in 2023 are a career high, and 200 innings is a realistic possibility in 2024 as well as down the line.
The durability alone could be what lands Giolito a multi year contract, similar to that of Jameson Taillon with the Cubs and Taijuan Walker of the Phillies. A veteran signing in the middle of the rotation isn't dissimilar to Kyle Gibson last year, but Giolito presents a higher upside as a pitcher than Gibson.
With the Orioles looking for pitching, Giolito makes sense as a reclamation project, as the Orioles have done a good job developing pitching as of late. However, at $22 million a season, it would be too expensive for the Orioles. If a one or two year deal presents itself at a lesser annual salary hit, the Orioles should move in on Giolito.