Should the Orioles make such a move, their options would include pitchers like Zach Britton, Jair Jurrjens, Freddy Garcia and Josh Stinson. Stinson was interestingly moved out of a recent start in Norfolk and instead pitched in relief Sunday for the Frederick Keys, leaving many to think he would be the most likely move. The trouble with any of these guys is that until Steve Johnson is ready to return from a rehab assignment and/or a more highly touted prospect is considered ready, the organization would be hard pressed to believe the measure to be much more than a stopgap.
This brings me back to hindsight.
LHP Joe Saunders hasn’t exactly been dominant for the Seattle Mariners in his first four starts this season. He struggled mightily in his first start (4ER, 7H, 4BB over 4IP in a loss to the Athletics) and his fourth start (7ER, 9H, 3BB over 4.2IP in a loss to the Texas Rangers). In between, Saunders allowed a combined 9H, 3BB and no earned runs over 13.1IP in starts against the Astros and Rangers. He’s been fairly solid, which is about what can be expected from a starter at the back end of a rotation.
The Orioles allowed Saunders to depart for the Emerald City following the 2012 season at a price tag of $6.5 million for just one season. It’s remarkably similar to the one year, $6 million deal Mark Reynolds signed for in Cleveland after leaving Charm City as well.
Neither move appears to have doomer the Orioles in any way, as even after Saturday’s loss they sit at 10-8 in a very competitive AL East. That said, the team’s mighty struggles at DH during the first three weeks of the season and the looming decision to make at the back end of the rotation certainly make it easier to judge such decisions harshly.
Many baseball fans in Baltimore would have been much more accepting of the team’s decision to let such players go had it been paired with the addition of more high profile free agent acquisitions. That wasn’t to be for the Orioles, who decided to keep their payroll roughly the same (some arbitration deals and Adam Jones’ mid-season contract signing brought it up about $8 million from Opening Day 2012) as the year before despite the team finally snapping their lengthy postseason drought.
The decisions were made in part for financial reasons, in part to allow their younger players a less crowded road to the roster. Analysts (like Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal) discussed the quantity of Orioles pitching often in Spring Training, but spoke much less about the quality of said pitchers. The team appeared to have at least a stable top of the rotation in Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez as well as two stud prospects in Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. The rest of the organization’s pitchers fell mostly in the territory of unknown commodities.
It’s easy for me to suggest now that Joe Saunders was probably worth $6.5 million to anchor the Orioles’ rotation in 2013. I will openly admit I did not carry quite as much concern about Saunders’ departure as I did Reynolds’. In defense of myself, it was hard to see Arrieta’s control issues being this significant.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, the answer to Arrieta’s struggles in 2013 likely isn’t available for a $6.5 million paycheck.