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Kyle Gibson is an Upgrade Over Lyles, but Rotation Needs More

Kyle Gibson
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The Baltimore Orioles threw their hats into the free agency ring Saturday, signing veteran Kyle Gibson to a one-year deal. Money hasn’t been disclosed yet but it figures to be in the $8-10M range.

Gibson is a guy who has qualified for the ERA title for the last five years, a feat that isn’t common nowadays.  The 35-year-old starting pitcher has been a full time major leaguer since 2014. If you take out the shortened 2020 season, he has thrown 30 or more starts in five of his eight seasons and 29 in two others (he had five relief appearances as well in one of those years).

Suffice to say, availability has been a strong suit for Gibson and that isn’t something to overlook.

Of course, many fans are lamenting this signing and saying it’s not much, if any, of an upgrade over Jordan Lyles.

There is some truth to that. Lyles is an innings eater who doesn’t impress you with his peripherals. Gibson is similar to Lyles, but is a better version, if you look closely. They have similar walk rates and both will give up their fair share of homers, but Gibson misses more bats, strikes out more batters, and posts better xERA and FIP.

The Statcast numbers, such as exit velocity, hard hit%, barrel%, chase rate and spin rates all favor Gibson (although some are quite close).

Gibson, coming off a 5 ERA season, will also enjoy the new left field wall and a far better defense than what was behind him in Philly. His xERA and FIP were far below his ERA, so you would expect him to be better in 2023.

Of course, we can’t just look at the move in a vacuum. We have to ask ourselves what it means in the overall picture of this Orioles offseason.

I think it’s fairly obvious, barring an injury or trade, that Dean Kremer and Kyle Bradish will start the season in the rotation.  Grayson Rodriguez is also likely to make the rotation. That leaves one more spot, with Gibson obviously getting one of the remaining two. The leading candidate for that spot is probably Tyler Wells, but there is talk that he may go back to the pen because of his injuries and his stuff playing up well there, not to mention the need for another back end arm.

Overall, I see this as a very “meh” move. I have wanted Mike Elias to add two starters, yes, but I wanted 2/3 starter-type guys.  Gibson isn’t likely to be that, but he should be a stable guy that keeps the team in most games. Again, he is very similar to Lyles in that way but he’s a little better, so the upside is slightly higher.

This is also a low-risk deal, as it is only a one-year deal. I have talked about it multiple times recently, but this is how the Orioles will handle free agency. They will sign players who will accept shorter-term (and hence, lower-risk for the organization) deals. This is how ownership and Elias will want to attack free agency. This is how Houston does it and whether you like it or not (you should), following how Houston operates is a good thing.

Now, with that said, the Orioles need to bring in another starter and that guy needs to be a legit upgrade. Rodriguez has ace upside. DL Hall, if he can put it together, has Blake Snell-like upside but I don’t want to have to rely on these guys yet.

We can debate if this is a good signing or not. What shouldn’t be a debate is that the Orioles need to do more, and they need a big upgrade over what they currently have. My guess is, that piece will come via trade.

I think before this move can be truly judged, we will need to see the full scope of everything the team is going to do. Yes, if Kyle Gibson ends up being the only reinforcement for the rotation by the time pitchers and catchers report, I’ll join you in sharpening the pitchforks.

For now though, let’s see what else happens. Hopefully, with the winter meetings around the corner, we will see a much clearer picture very soon.

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