Moving through this offseason, one thing continues to concern me: The Baltimore Orioles only had one starter with 10 wins last season, Wei-Yin Chen. There’s no way we’ll have another successful season with that kind of starter production. The bullpen can only do so much; starters will have to carry more weight.
Signing another proven middle-of-the-rotation guy would make a huge difference. As good as Chen was, I don’t think he’s the guy the young starters can look up to. A proven middle-of-the-rotation guy, who could eat innings and anchor this young staff, would be worth the cost.
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Joe Saunders would be my first choice. He’s already been with the team. He went into Rangers Ballpark and performed well in a place where he had very little previous success. Buck Showalter had total faith in Saunders and, after that game, so did I. Returning starters already have reason to trust Saunders and the organization knows what to expect from him. What he’s worth is debatable, but he wants a three-year deal, that’s pretty clear. While I’m not fond of overpaying for anybody, is a three-year deal at less than $25 million really overpaying for Saunders? If so, not by much. He’s 31, could get us double-digit wins and possibly be a leader in the rotation.
Shaun Marcum is still available; he’s middle-of-the-rotation material. But I think he’s going to be the definition of overpaying. He made over $7 million last season, and I expect he’s going to want a raise. My point is, even though his lifetime ERA is under four, where Saunders’ isn’t, they’re close to the same guy, and I think Saunders is going to be much cheaper.
Our best in-house option will be Jason Hammel. Last year, he was 8-6 in 20 starts with an ERA of 3.43. Hammel dealt with knee issues last season but returned for the postseason and started game one of ALDS. He pitched well, considering the circumstances, and proved he could take the ball in prime time. If he could stay healthy in 2013, I feel confident he could win more than eight games, and could possibly emerge as a leader.
Returning young starters Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman, who pitched well down the stretch, will hopefully pick up where they left off. Of all the young guys, a spot in the rotation will be theirs to lose. Also returning, but fighting for a starting spot, will be Brian Matusz, Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta. Of the three, Matusz proved he could pitch a couple of innings from the bullpen by shutting guys down towards the end of last season.
We have several non-roster invitees for spring training, the likes of Daniel McCutchen from the Pirates, Zach Braddock from the Brewers and Daniel Schlereth who started six games in the Tigers organization in 2012. I wish them all the luck in the world, but none of them can fill the leadership role, nor do I expect any of them to be our 10-or-more-wins guy.
One bright light could be the return of Tsuyoshi Wada. He underwent Tommy Johnsurgery last year after experiencing pain all through spring training. Wada had a lifetime ERA of 3.13 in nine seasons in Japan. I don’t believe he’s a number-one starter, but he could be the second part of our Asian one-two punch and give us double-digit wins.
With a starting rotation of …
- Wei-Yin Chen
- Jason Hammel
- Miguel Gonzalez
- Chris Tillman
- Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Tsuyoshi Wada or Jake Arietta
… or any reasonable facsimile of this, I’m not sure there is one true leader for this rotation. Hopefully, I’m completely wrong and this rotation will be able to push itself collectively without that “one guy.” There’s one thing for sure, the Baltimore Orioles need more starters with double-digit wins in order to repeat last season’s success.