Yesterday, John Means entered the baseball record books when he threw a no hitter. In addition to this being a no hitter, it was the first ever non-perfect game where a batter reached base without a walk. HBP or error. He threw 70% of his pitches for strikes, had a swinging strike % of 33% and threw 26 out of 27 first pitch strikes. It was truly one of the best pitching performances we have ever seen.
While you never expect a no hitter, Orioles fans have grown accustomed to Means being an excellent starter. He came out of nowhere in the first half of 2019. An unheralded prospect, Means burst onto the scene in 2019 and made the All-Star team, compiling a 2.50 ERA in the first half the season. And while he didn’t match those heights in the second half, he hung in there and ended well. The shortened 2020 season started off rough for him. He had an injury and the death of his father really affected him early on. However, one thing that he did have going for him was an increase in his velocity and eventually, he settled down in 2020 and ended the year very strong.
This year, he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. He is 4th in all of baseball in bWAR and 3rd in ERA. His K rate is approaching 10 and his BB rate is under 2. Simply put, he has put himself squarely in the early conversation of All-Star game starter (Gerritt Cole is the clubhouse leader) and early Cy Young talk. Of course, there is a lot of season left and we are talking about a relatively small sample size. That being said, we know Means is a good pitcher and the velocity increase he experienced in 2020 (which was probably the single most important thing to come out of that season for the organization) has upped his ceiling. His command and velocity of his fastball makes his change-up and other secondary pitches that much more deadly and tough to face.
The question I have on my mind is, how long will John Means be an Oriole? Orioles GM Mike Elias has made no secret about his desire to increase the inventory. His plan has been player acquisition and development above winning. You know the thought has already crossed his mind as Means has dominated this season thus far. Will that mindset continue with Means or is he a unicorn that they want to keep long term? Of all the players Elias has dealt, none of them were guys that you felt were long-term options. Dylan Bundy was the closest to that but I never believed the Orioles would sign him to a long-term deal. Means, who is 28 years old, isn’t a FA until 2025. The team could win WITH him in that time frame. However, if he keeps pitching at an elite/All-Star level, the interest in him will be through the roof.
This is likely to be the toughest decision Elias has had to make to this date. Do you keep the stud pitcher, who is looking like a top-of-the-rotation starter, or do you see that he is already 28, had very little MiL success (relative to his ML success) and could have the highest value of his career this July?
It is very possible that trading Means could be a franchise-altering move. On one hand, you could get a package back that eclipses the Erik Bedard deal. OTOH, those prospects could flop, Means could continue to be good and you struggle to find an anchor for your rotation. It’s a risk either way yet it’s also an enviable situation to be in because you have to feel good about either decision.
For me personally, I want to start winning, so I would be more inclined to keep him than trade him. Top starters don’t grow on trees and adding guys like Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall to Means is pretty exciting. That being said, if some team blows you away with an offer, you have to seriously consider it. One thing I think that would be a must in the deal is at least one top guy that is major league ready. I wouldn’t likely move him in a deal featuring several low-A players. I would need someone(s) that can step in and help right away because it’s time for this franchise to start winning games and being competitive.
What do you think? Should the Orioles trade Means?