Over the past several years, even with clear needs in their starting rotation, the Orioles have waited deep into the offseason for bargains rather than jumping into an expensive market.
No one needs to look any further than Houston Astros right-hander Charlie Morton, a transformed starter who earned a four-inning save in Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night, to see that valuable players can be found early in the offseason, too.
When teams are allowed to negotiate with other club's free agents Monday afternoon, there will be plenty of arms available who can be had on short deals that can help fill out the Orioles rotation without breaking the bank.
Morton was coming off an injury-hampered year in which he made just four starts with the Philadelphia Phillies when the Astros gave him a two-year, $14 million contract Nov. 16, 2016. Considering that he went 14-7 with a 3.62 WHIP and was worth 3.3 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs, that's already paid for itself — and helped the Astros win the World Series for the first timeworld series.
He's an extreme example, but there were wins to be found all over the market at that time. Right-hander Andrew Cashner — an oft-mooted Orioles target — signed a one-year, $10 million deal Nov. 21, 2016, and had a 3.40 ERA in 166 2/3 innings with 1.9 WAR.
There were some more mixed results among the 108 pitchers signed last November. Left-hander Jesse Chavez signed with the Los Angeles Angels on Nov. 14 for a one-year, $6.3 million deal and ended the season with a 5.35 ERA. The Atlanta Braves signed Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey as stop-gap veteran starters for $12.5 million and $8 million (with a 2018 option), respectively. Colon's magic wore off and he had a 6.48 ERA between the Braves and the Minnesota Twins, while Dickey pitched 190 innings and had a 4.26 ERA.
A year earlier, 104 pitchers were signed in November, with more bargains strewn in. The Toronto Blue Jays brought back two of their own bargain right-handers: Marco Estrada, on a two-year deal, and J.A. Happ, on a three-year contract.
But the big signee that month was left-hander Rich Hill, Morton’s fellow World Series participant, who parlayed four starts with the Boston Red Sox after being signed out of the independent leagues into a one-year, $6 million contract with the Oakland Athletics. Hill pitched well for the A's and the Los Angeles Dodgers before cashing in this past offseason.
There were over 100 pitchers signed in November in 2015 and again in 2016. Many are anonymous minor league arms who received spring training invitations and toiled in obscurity, but there are pitchers out there willing to find a home for a decent rate at the beginning of spring training. Perhaps this is the year the Orioles find one.