Fauber: O’s should stick with what they’ve got
A few short months ago, I was desperate to see any kind of offseason move or addition made by the Baltimore Orioles. I wanted to see one or two high profile moves that showed me that the Orioles’ front office was devoted to improving upon the success that’s been had in Baltimore over the last two seasons.
True to form, the O’s were quiet during Major League Baseball’s annual Winter Meetings, and some of the biggest headlines coming from Baltimore so far have been the unforeseen implosions of deals with Grant Balfour and Tyler Colvin. Not exactly the offseason I was hoping for.
But after months of pleading and hoping for some kind of transaction to take place, I’m going to change my tune. Given what is left on the diminishing free-agent market and the price that the Orioles would have to pay for remaining targets like starting pitchers Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez and first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales, it’s probably in Baltimore’s best interest to dive into the 2014 season with its current roster.
I say this mainly because the signing of either Santana, Jimenez or Morales would cost the Orioles a first-round pick in this year’s draft, and frankly, that is too steep a price to pay for what Baltimore would be getting in return. Neither of those three guys is going to single-handedly boost the Orioles into serious World Series contenders this season, so it doesn’t make sense to forfeit the opportunity to grab a potential big-time prospect in what is seen as a talent-rich draft class. It would also seem to directly contradict the Orioles’ devotion to building the franchise on the strength of its farm system.
Santana — who appears to be ahead of Jimenez in terms of Baltimore’s interest level — is coming off a 2013 season where he went 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 211 innings with the Kansas City Royals. Jimenez, who has fallen off a lot since a dominating season in 2010 with the Colorado Rockies, is coming off a solid bounce-back year with the Indians in 2013, in which he went 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 182.2 innings. Both guys are decent pitchers, but Baltimore already has some decent pitchers. The Orioles look like a .500 team this year, and I simply can’t get excited about the possibility of adding a player that is worth, at the most, two extra wins this season.
The same goes for Morales, who would be an OK option at designated hitter, but he would likely split time at that position and his impact would be greatly minimized.
The Orioles missed a huge chance to add pitching depth and experience without losing a draft pick when they lost out on signing Bronson Arroyo and A.J. Burnett. Arroyo and Burnett — who have since signed with Arizona and Philadelphia, respectively — aren’t world-beaters either, and Baltimore probably isn’t missing out on a whole lot by failing to sign them, but it would’ve been nice to have a stable presence in a rotation that is facing a lot of questions going into this season.
Right now, Chris Tillman looks like he will lead the Orioles’ starting rotation. Tillman is coming off of a career season in which he went 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA and 179 strikeouts over 206.1 innings in 2013. Wei-Yin Chen (7-7, 4.04 ERA, 104 strikeouts in 2013), who faltered down the stretch last season, should be in the rotation on Opening Day, as should Miguel Gonzalez (11-8, 3.78 ERA, 120 strikeouts) and Bud Norris (4-3, 4.80 ERA in nine starts with Baltimore).
It’s unclear right now who will fill the fifth and final rotation spot, and this is where a guy like Santana or Jimenez would hold some value, but Baltimore should stick with internal options here. Lefty Zach Britton should be the early favorite for the fifth spot as he is out of minor-league options, but Korean righty Suk-min Yoon — who has agreed to a three-year deal with Baltimore, pending a physical, of course — could compete for that spot along with bullpen arms like Brian Matusz, T.J. McFarland.
Honestly, I think the Orioles would be better off keeping the back end of the rotation warm for young righty Kevin Gausman, who will probably need a little more time in the minors but should be back in Baltimore sooner rather than later this season.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD