We’re into mid-November now, and after one of the most exciting World Series in memory (maybe ever), we’ve been without baseball for what feels like eons. However, the Hot Stove season has yet to really get rolling, as baseball “news” since the Fall Classic ended has been confined to blockbuster trade speculation, and an award or two.
(Then, of course, there was the tragic Roy Halladay incident, and we’d like to add our heartfelt condolences to those already expressed throughout the sports world.)
As for our O’s, the only thing that’s really happened so far is Welington Castillo declining his player option for 2018. While “Beef” was a pleasant surprise at the dish in 2017 (almost single-handedly winning a series over the Toronto Blue Jays back in May – including a game on Maryland Flag Jersey Day – comes immediately to mind), I’m perfectly comfortable going into 2018 with Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco set to split reps behind the plate. O’s pitchers need all the help they can get from their backstop, though Castillo’s reputation as a sub-par framer (or “receiver” if you prefer) didn’t exactly show up in the results.
Baseball Prospectus data ranked Joseph fifth among all MLB catchers with 15 FRAA (Framing Runs Above Average). They had Beef ninth overall at 7.9. Just for fun, Matt Wieters came in 108th out of 110 catchers.
(I’ll be honest – I expected to have some anti-Castillo ammo in that section. Instead, I’m left saying that I hope Sisco can be even half the receiver that Beef was last season. Still, I’m not too torn up about him deciding to leave…just more than I was, say, five minutes ago.)
What will help the O’s pitching more than good pitch framers though? Good pitchers, for a start! Fans are counting on the team addressing the rotation after years of neglect, in hopes that they will sign at least one *real* number one or two starter, along with a solid #3-4 as well. We’re O’s fans, so we know that we can cross Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta – the only “Aces” available – off our lists immediately. That leaves guys like Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Tyler Chatwood, and Jason Vargas as pitchers who Birdland should be ready to accept (some, gladly!) as non-Ace options.
Well, how about Andrew Cashner?
That’s who Baseball Prospectus’s Bryan Grosnick has the O’s picking up.
Observations: A rate of 4.6 strikeouts per nine innings is a giant, flashing, neon sign saying, “STAY AWAY!” However, Cashner is capable of taking the ball every fifth day. Somehow, that allows him to qualify for this list. (Please don’t be fooled by his ERA last year!)
Prediction: His contract also should be proportional to a team’s desperation to acquire starting pitching innings. Welcome to the Orioles, Andrew.
Quite a ringing endorsement, huh?
I want no parts of Cashner. One, he’d be forced to shave his awesome beard if he came to Baltimore, which at this point in his career, is quite literally the only thing he has going for him.
Since striking out 8.04 batters per nine innings in 2015, Cashner has seen his K/9 dip to 7.64 in 2016, and then, as pointed out by Grosnick, to a dismal 4.64 in 2017 with the Texas Rangers. That was with a career-low swinging strike % of 6.1 (career 8.0). The Birds need more guys who can miss bats, period. Could Cashner rebound? Perhaps, but at this point in his career, he strikes me as nothing more than another low-ceiling innings-eater – basically a right-handed Wade Miley, O’s lame/outdated facial hair violations and all.
Excited yet? No?
Hang on, let me try again.
Earlier in that same article, Grosnick offers up something that might actually raise an eyebrow or two – in a good way – in Birdland.
Observations: Hello. It’s me. The high guy on Eduardo Nunez. I don’t even know what I’ve become. Over the past two seasons, Nunez has taken his combination of contact hitting and versatility to the next level. I think almost any team would benefit from a player who can fill in at multiple positions, hit at or above the league average, and provide his offense in the way many field staffs love to see it: through good at-bats and loads of hard contact. His injury issues may scare some teams away, but he should be carrying the reputation as a legit first-division starter.
Prediction: Staying with the Red Sox would be perfect for Nunez, as he can spell Dustin Pedroia during his early-season injury absence and be a backup in case Rafael Devers slumps or needs a break come the end of the season. But I think Boston’s priorities might lay elsewhere this offseason, so Nunez takes a compelling offer from the Orioles.
Many Orioles fans have a (silly, in my estimation, but that’s not the point) seething hatred of Ryan Flaherty. This year, they’re very likely getting their wish, as Flash is finally a free agent, and will by all indications be flying the coop. That leaves the Birds with a utility infielder need, and Nunez would be a definite step up.
He still won’t turn 31 until June, has been a 2+ fWAR player in consecutive seasons, and can provide some competition for Tim Beckham at shortstop, should the Birds not want to simply hand him the job after his blistering August. He also played 163 innings in the outfield last season, proving that he can offer more versatility than even our dearly departed Ryan could.
Nunez would be a nice addition. He has AL East experience, having played with the Yankees from 2010-13, then again with Boston in the second half last season, can hit, and offers the versatility that Buck loves.
Sports betting at SportsBetting.ag currently lists the O’s as +3300 to win the 2018 World Series. That’s tied for lowest odds in the AL East with Tampa.
Would either of these moves push those odds higher? Doubtful.
Of course the Birds need pitching – REAL pitching – AND they need guys who can get on base.
For now though, how would you feel about Andrew Cashner and/or Eduardo Nunez? Let me know below – I’m curious to hear everybody’s thoughts.