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Offseason Forecast: Starting Pitching

Grayson Rodriguez
Craig Landefeld/GulfBird Sports
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Hello everyone, and welcome back. I hope everyone enjoyed the MLB playoffs and the start of the NFL season. I think the time is right to look at something that has excited me for a while, and I can’t wait to talk about it.

My excitement for this offseason started in July after the deadline. Despite trading away two essential players on the 2022 Orioles and not buying at the deadline, Mike Elias still stood his ground. He believed that this offseason would be the Orioles’ time to take off. He dropped his quote about being “liftoff from here,” and I have been excited about this offseason ever since.

That quote has been living in my head rent-free, which inspired this idea for an offseason series. I will be going through every position, looking at where the Orioles can improve, and seeing if we can build the perfect Orioles offseason while also putting Elias’s words to the test.

So with that said, let’s begin with the starting pitchers:

Orioles starting pitchers were a big surprise for the 2022 team. Many names stepped up when the injury bug would not go away and allowed the team to be competitive when they had no business doing so. Guys like Jordan Lyles, Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish, Tyler Wells, and Austin Voth all stepped up when called upon.

How do the Orioles feel about this rotation right now? Do they trust their guys again and roll with what they have, or do they feel the need to upgrade, knowing that the seasons from guys like Voth and others are likely unsustainable? The answer may remain in the middle.

This is how I would work the rotation: I would try to make marginal upgrades when needed, but don’t go for the big fish, instead focusing on getting several good pitchers instead of landing one “great” one.

This is my hottest take for this off-season. I don’t see Elias going after the big fish at this position, insteadfocusing on marginal upgrades. Why is this? If liftoff time is here, why shouldn’t Elias target a true ace?

The answer is quite simple: supply and demand.

For one, the free agent market isn’t the best place to look if you need an ace. Looking at the free agency list this year for pitchers, I see maybe four, definitely three names. Those are Jacob DeGrom, Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, and maybe Carlos Rodon. As for deGrom and Kershaw, they just don’t fit the Orioles plan. Kershaw is either going to retire or come back to the Dodgers, and I don’t think there is an in-between, and I don’t see DeGrom leaving the Mets. Verlander is 39 years old, and I don’t see him leaving the Astros to go to a different team with a worse chance of winning the World Series.

The last name here is Rodon, and he is an interesting case. I like Rodon and would welcome him and be happy, but if other teams know that the other three are unavailable, Rodon’s market will explode. I don’t see the Orioles getting into a bidding war with ten other teams who all want Rodon. Maybe they do give him the Godfather offer, but If the Orioles are going to swim in those waters, I like that money to be spent elsewhere.

That doesn’t mean you don’t do anything with the rotation. It just means that they should allocate their resources in an alternative fashion.

Luckily the market has other names that won’t cost the Orioles an arm and a leg. For much less, guys like Chris Bassitt, Jameson Taillon, Taijuan Walker, Nathan Eovaldi, and Mike Clevinger could all be had. They aren’t as good as the aces, but they are still quality pitchers that would probably be the Orioles’ number two or three starters out of the gate. Even a Sean Manea could be had for cheap because of his struggles later in the season, but if they bank on the upside he could be had for cheap and give the team quality for less.

Another thing the Orioles have to do is decide if Lyles is coming back. He has an $11 million club option, and it has to be picked up soon after the Word Series ends. I say they do it. Lyles was so important to the 2022 season that they must bring him back. I want Lyles in Baltimore, even if they substantially add in free agency.

There still are ways to improve the rotation, mainly through trades. Predicting trades in the offseason before it begins is one of the hardest things to do. We don’t know who is available and what teams are willing to sell. No one expected the Reds to have a fire sale, yet they did. It all depends on how the market works; unfortunately, my crystal ball can’t tell the future. If a team like the Guardians wants to unload Shane Bieber, or the Brewers want to trade Corbin Burnes or Brandin Woodruff, yes. The answer is yes to all of the above. The Orioles have the farm to get those guys, and they could give them extensions which would probably be less than paying Rodon.

Another thing that will help the rotation out is the emergence of Grayson Rodriguez. He didn’t pitch in the majors last year due to injuries, and he better be in this rotation on Opening Day. He probably will be on an innings limit, but if he is anything like he was in the Minors, that is an Ace. They will also have to figure out what to do with D.L. Hall. Hall pitched out of the bullpen down the stretch, but all signs point to the team giving him a shot to win a job out in the rotation. Hall’s role, I think, will depend on what they do this winter. Hall will probably have trouble inserting his way into the rotation if they make a considerable addition through free agency or trade. If they don’t and they add more number three-type guys, I think Hall has a better chance of cracking the top five.

So here is how I think Elias is going to handle the rotation. I think he doesn’t go after the big three of DeGrom, Kershaw, and Verlander. I think he checks in on Rodon, but his market gets too crazy, and the Orioles don’t want to get into a huge bidding war. I think he signs one of those tier-two Pitchers and another, like Sean Manea, who could bounce back. He also brings Lyles back. If a big name is available through trade, I think he checks in on them depending on the pitcher; I think he gets a deal done with a big name prospect or two attached. I also think he gives Rodriguez a spot out of spring, training and Hall will have to work for his, but he does get a spot in the back end of the rotation.

So, it would look like this:

  1. Trade Acquisition/potential free agent signing (TBD)
  2. Jordan Lyles
  3. Kyle Bradish
  4. Dean Kremer
  5. Grayson Rodriguez/Tyler Wells/DL Hall
  6. John Means (post-All-Star Break)

Thanks for reading, and come back next week when we talk about the bullpen.

Mike Elias on his laptop.
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