The Orioles added right-handed pitcher Vance Worley to their 40-man roster on Tuesday, claiming the veteran 28-year-old off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates, and from what I saw on social media, fans seethed at the move.
In defense of executive vice president Dan Duquette, this isn’t one of the impact moves Duquette was talking about when he said he was dedicated to improving the club’s pitching this offseason. This is an example of the club looking to gain assets year round.
At this time of the year, with the playoffs still going on, there’s not much else activity Duquette can pursue other than to scour the waiver wire. Free agency doesn’t start until five days after the World Series ends, so all Duquette can do is try to negotiate with the Orioles’ five existing free agents.
The Orioles are still compiling their free-agent target list and looking for possible trade candidates.
And before you go there, yes, Chris Davis is still expected to become a free agent. That’s the way his agent, Scott Boras, works. The Orioles will attempt to re-sign him, but that’s not likely to happen until he jumps into the free-agency pool.
As for Worley, he’s an interesting fit for the Orioles. Like most of the Orioles’ existing starters, he pitches to contact. He’s a ground-ball pitcher – he pitched to a 46.2 percent ground-ball percentage – who doesn’t allow many home runs. He’s allowed fewer than a homer a game (0.8 per nine innings) over his career.
That works if Worley has a strong defense playing behind him. (We wrote here yesterday about how the Orioles’ defense in 2015 wasn’t very good).
He’s shown flashes of being a capable big league starter. He was 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA in 2011. And he rebounded from a nightmare season with the Twins – his only year pitching in the American League -- with a strong campaign in 2013, going 8-4 with a 2.85 ERA for the Pirates.
And there’s no long-term commitment to Worley. Right now, he only occupies a 40-man roster spot. That doesn’t mean the Orioles have given him a rotation spot, or that he’s even tendered a contract next month.
At this point, he likely will compete for a rotation spot this spring. Despite losing a spring training battle for the Pittsburgh Pirates' fifth starter spot, he opened the season in the Pirates starting rotation because of an injury to Charlie Morton. He went to the bullpen when Morton returned, was designated just before the trade deadline in July and spent August in Triple-A before returning to the big-league club when rosters expanded in September.
Worley was just 2-4 with a 4.81 ERA as a starter last season, but he held hitters to a .236 average and posted a 2.83 ERA as a reliever. Most of that relief work was done in long relief. He went two or more innings in nine of his 15 relief appearances last year.
He has no minor league options, so he’d have to make the team of out spring training or else be subject to waivers again.
Still, Worley made $2.45 million last season and could have been nontendered by the Pirates. Given that he will get a raise in his second of four years of arbitration eligibility, he would be a great value if he turns into a dependable starter.
However, he might make too much to be an inning-eating mop-up man exclusively, especially with 10 arbitration-eligible players slated to earn raises and Duquette's pledge to replace free agents the team might lose.