Restoring the starting rotation for 2018 is a high priority for the Baltimore Orioles this offseason as they strive to bounce-back from a last-place finish in the American League East division.
It’s hard to find worse starting pitching in MLB than the 2017 Baltimore Orioles starting pitchers. As a team, the Orioles starters posted a league-worst 5.70 ERA in 846 innings pitched, which is 127 innings less than the league-leading 973 innings pitched from the Washington Nationals starters.
In 2017, the Orioles starting staff consisted mainly of ace Dylan Bundy and the promising Kevin Gausman, along with declining veterans Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley, Jeremy Hellickson and Chris Tillman. Out of that group, only Bundy and Gausman are locks for a spot in the Orioles rotation for 2018.
Jimenez, Hellickson and Tillman are all free agents and more than likely won’t return. The same goes for lefty Wade Miley with a very slight chance of returning due to a $12 million club option. I would hope the Orioles aren’t that desperate for starting pitching that they’d keep Miley after he posted an 8-15 record with a 5.61 ERA in 2017.
Like every offseason for at least the past decade, starting pitching will dominate the Orioles offseason headlines as they progress to the 2018 season.
5. Jason Vargas, LHP
Just a few months away from turning 35 years old, lefty pitcher Jason Vargas had a sensational first half of the season that earned him his first career All-Star selection with the Kansas City Royals.
The veteran pitcher had a jaw-dropping first half with an AL-high 12 wins in 17 games started with a captivating 2.62 ERA. Vargas began the 2017 season sizzling hot with a 3-1 record and 1.40 ERA. However, after an average May, Vargas bounced-back and won all six of his June starts with 23 strikeouts, along with a 1.98 ERA.
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As baseball returned to action following the All-Star break, the first half version of Vargas was nowhere to be found. Right out the gate to begin the second half of the season, Vargas was unable to get through three innings and allowed six earned runs on seven hits.
Vargas, who returned in his first complete season from Tommy John surgery, has two go-to pitches, his 86 mph sinker that he threw 42 percent and an 80 mph changeup. His other pitches include a four-seam fastball that on average tops out at an underwhelming 86 mph.
With the erratic southpaw pitcher Miley more than likely departing ways with the Orioles this offseason, vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette plans on watching the market closely for a lefty replacement. Vargas fits the bill for a quick solution in 2018 for the Orioles, a proven veteran coming off a rebirth season that can guide the young hurlers of the O’s rotation.