20 February 2017

Orioles Assemble Interesting, Flexible Pitching Depth

Dan Duquette doesn't need any extra motivation to go out and search for intriguing or overlooked depth pieces for the roster. Finding and utilizing fringe players has been a staple in the Duquette and Buck Showalter era for the Orioles, and they've excelled at sorting through the options and finding players that fit. And that obviously includes the starting rotation.

The O's rotation is not overly frightening for opposing lineups, and that's even with assuming Chris Tillman's right shoulder heals in time for a mid- or late-April return. As fourth or fifth starter types, Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley can pitch well in stretches, but they're still wild cards. Plus, the O's likely intention for Dylan Bundy to pitch out of the rotation for the entire season is both compelling and concerning. Of the five options right now, only one of the group, Kevin Gausman, brings comfort to fans.

That brings us to the collection of long relievers the Orioles now have behind them. Duquette has assembled a cast of characters who individually are not overly exciting, but together all have the ability to start and pitch in relief. And unsurprisingly, they all have options remaining.

Before the offseason began, the Orioles had an underwhelming group that included Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, Joe Gunkel, Chris Lee, Parker Bridwell, and Jayson Aquino. In separate moves with the Mets in November and February, the O's purchased pitching depth in Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa. Again, both players have options, so the Mets more or less gave them away. Then, most recently, the Orioles acquired Vidal Nuno from the Dodgers in exchange for minor leaguer Ryan Moseley. That's not a steep price either, but at least it involved an actual exchange of players.

T.J. McFarland, who was designated for assignment to make room for Nuno, was already out of options. So it's not surprising that he was jettisoned, though he still could return and end up in Norfolk.

As you'd expect, all three acquisitions have their flaws. Nuno, the more established of the group, is likely to get more work since he's a lefty, but he has some flyball and home run concerns. Verrett is also not overpowering, and last year he struggled with control (6.5 K/9, 4.2 BB/9 in 91 2/3 innings). Ynoa, meanwhile, is a groundball-inducing type, but he is the worst of the three when it comes to missing bats and still needs to work on his breaking pitches (which need "more consistency," according to Duquette).

Considering the small cost to add them, though, of course they all have their weaknesses. But you can still see the logic here. Instead of opting for an aging starter type like Doug Fister or Jake Peavy, Duquette chose to spread whatever available money around and also maintain roster flexibility, which he greatly values. In addition, the Orioles already had one of those established starter types in Yovani Gallardo (not as old, though) and yet justifiably traded him away to help shore up another position of need (corner outfielder) by hauling in Seth Smith. Starting pitchers aren't cheap for a reason, but even after trading away Gallardo, the Orioles' rotation doesn't seem to be much worse off, if any.

Now, the O's are not positioned not have to rely on Wilson and Wright if/when rotation issues arise. The depth should not be considered great and could easily struggle, but Showalter has shown he can still make things work with a seemingly underwhelming staff.

It didn't seem wise to head into the season having to again depend on Wright and Wilson, who along with Worley finished in the Orioles' top 10 in innings pitched last year. Worley is gone, but Wright and Wilson are not, though Nuno, Ynoa, and Verrett seem to have leapfrogged them in the pecking order. If the Orioles to rely on any of them heavily, trouble could on the horizon, but it's not inconceivable that a few of them could play small, helpful roles.


Roger said...

One of them is bound to thrive just out of probability. At that point, we'll know who the best is. Worley did OK in his role; one of these guys will too. What's great about Ynoa is that he's actually young with room to grow. Verrett has real 5th SP potential. It's the normal function of a farm system that instead DD has to cobble together instead of promote. Aquino looked good in his cup of coffee.

Jon Shepherd said...

Well, it is a good idea when you have nothing much to lean on. A higher octane version was the corner outfield positions in 2015. None of that worked at all. So...outcomes run the gamut.

Anonymous said...

Wright needs a shrink, and Wilson needs to hit the weight room, problem helped, maybe solved?!