MLB Trade Rumors published their list of top 50 free agents recently. Rather than just listing 50 free agents, the crew over there also projected destinations for each player and projected a contract for them.
The Orioles aren't projected to land any of the top 10 or even top 15 free agents. They first appear on the list at 17, with Lucas Giolito projected to sign with them. They come up again at 21, and the name there is relief pitcher Jordan Hicks. Is there a fit between the Orioles and Hicks?
Does signing Jordan Hicks make sense for the Orioles?
Jordan Hicks is a flamethrowing relief pitcher at the back end of any team's bullpen that had incredible strikeout rates in 2023, showing that he is one of the best relief pitchers available on the market.
Hicks frequently hits and surpasses 100 miles an hour with his fastball, with his sinker and sweeper being his most used secondary pitches, giving him a three headed pitch arsenal to mow down hitters. Based on velocity alone, there are very few pitchers who can go toe to toe with Hicks.
The Orioles also have a particular need for a high leverage reliever this offseason, as closer Félix Bautista underwent Tommy John Surgery and will miss most of, if not all of 2024. That alone makes Hicks a target worth the Orioles attention this winter.
Hicks was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to get a four year, $40 million contract this offseason. At $10 million a season for a reliever like Hicks, the Orioles would be foolish not to pursue him this offseason, and they should absolutely be able to sign him at that salary.
Last season, Hicks started the year with the St. Louis Cardinals before he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for minor league pitchers Adam Kloffenstein and Sem Robberse. Combined between both teams, Hicks had a 3.29 ERA, 3.22 FIP, and 1.355 WHIP, throwing 65 2/3 innings and picking up 12 saves in 65 relief appearances.
The strikeout numbers were there for Hicks, averaging 11.1 strikeouts per nine in the regular season, putting him in the 83rd percentile in strikeout percentage. With his fastball the way it is, he ranks in the 100th percentile in fastball velocity, and he induces a lot of groundouts, ranking in the 96th percentile in ground ball percentage.
Hicks also does a great job of limiting hard contact, ranking in the 85th percentile in barrel percentage, 73rd percentile in hard hit percentage, 86th percentile in expected batting average, and 89th percentile in average exit velocity.
The big thing that is a cause for concern with Hicks is the walks. He's averaged 4.9 walks per nine in his career and averaged 4.4 walks per nine in 2023. That put him in the 15th percentile in walk percentage last year.
Hicks has played in five big league seasons, making the Cardinals opening day roster in 2018 at age 21. He has pitched to a 3.85 ERA, 3.66 FIP, and 1.299 WHIP, averaging 9.4 strikeouts per nine and picking up 32 saves in eight starts, 212 total games, and 243 1/3 innings pitched.
The fit between Hicks and the Orioles is there with Bautista down for likely all of next year. He's definitely one of the best relievers in the game, with incredible swing and miss stuff and a proven high leverage reliever with experience closing games. At a projected $10 million a season, it's a deal that the Orioles absolutely should make.