Pitching has often been the culprit in Baltimore during the dark ages of Orioles’ baseball. Career journeymen, such as Sidney Ponson and Jeremy Guthrie, have often been tabbed with the responsibility of staff ace. This year has been no different, at least at the top of the rotation. Kevin Millwood came to Baltimore via an off-season trade from Texas, looking to bring a reliable, veteran presence to a young group of pitchers. Well, the one-time All-Star has certainly done his fair share of mentoring, but his results on the mound have been disappointing. Millwood has a record of just 2-13, and while wins and losses don’t completely dictate the success of a pitcher, an opposing batting average of .306 certainly points to major struggles. If there is any consolation to Orioles’ fans, Millwood is now in the final year of a five-year, 60 million dollar contract, and he should not return to Baltimore in 2011. That being said, Andy MacPhail desperately needs a front-line starter. Brian Matusz appears to be the heir apparent, but don’t expect the 23 year old to dominate major league hitters so soon. Perhaps, the best option for the Orioles looms in free agency to sign a former Cy Young Award Winner.
No, unfortunately, I am not suggesting Baltimore signs Cliff Lee, now of the Texas Rangers. The 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner, he could very well be the best pitcher in baseball today. Thus, he will likely receive upwards of the 161 million dollars that the New York Yankees gave Lee’s former teammate CC Sabathia. The Orioles lack the recent success to be a serious contender in such negotiations, but, expect the organization to seriously consider the services of 2006 National League Cy Young Award Winner, Brandon Webb.
Known in the world of baseball for an elite sinker, Webb had been excellent from the very start of his career. From 2003-2008, he had thrown at least 180 innings, while compiling an ERA under 3.60. Furthermore, the one-time ace of the Arizona Diamondbacks had been selected to three consecutive All-Star teams from 2006-2008. In other words, Webb has proven to be a really, really excellent pitcher. The only problem, however, is health. He had been durable for the bulk of his time in the major leagues, until right shoulder problems ended his 2009 campaign in April, and similar issues have kept Webb out of action in 2010. So, why take a chance on a Disabled List regular in the off-season? To me, the injury could work in the Orioles favor. Webb’s market will be severely limited by unsure front offices. An almost guarantee to command at least 100 million dollars just a few years ago, he would be very fortunate to receive more than 5 million dollars annually in free agency, especially at age 32.
Outside of ability on the mound, Webb is mentioned as one of baseball’s most likable players. He could surely help to continue the maturity of highly touted prospects Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Chris Tillman. Moreover, I don’t expect Webb to turn down a mid-level offer, even from the lowly Orioles. Remember, his current team isn’t much better in Arizona, plus having not pitched in nearly two full seasons, he must be itching to pitch at all in 2011. Clearly, Webb doesn’t want to become the next Ben Sheets, who missed all of 2009 following major surgery, and another opportunity, potentially in the spotlight of the American League East, could finally earn the sinkerballer national attention.