Guest Post by Cody Colston. You can follow him at @The_OtherCody.
“The Orioles need an ace to be a contender.”
If you’re an Orioles fan, you have heard the above statement or any other variations since last season ended until now. “Experts” have claimed the Orioles need a front-of-the-line starter to make a push in the playoffs, stating that “You need a starter that can win Games 1 and 5 for you.” But do they really?
Right now the rotation consists of Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Jason Hammel, Zach Britton, and, probably, Kevin Gausman. If you ask me, if replace Zach Britton with a healthy Wei-Yin Chen, that is a winning rotation. Tillman has finally found himself and is debatably the best pitcher on hand, with a 10-2 record and 3.68 ERA in 17 starts. Gonzalez, 6-3 record, 3.77 ERA, 14 starts. Hammel had a rough start of the season, but his ERA been on a steady decline the whole month and is down 5.09 and seems to be getting back to 2012 form. Chen, before going on the DL with an oblique injury, had an ERA of 3.04, the best on the team. The fifth rotation spot has been a toss-up but Gausman seems to have all but won the spot after coming into the New York game as a reliever and tossing a scoreless 4 and 1/3 innings and looking absolutely filthy. It’s not like the pitching has to win it for the O’s either, with the offense scoring an average of 4.94 run per game. What have they added, though?
The Orioles just swapped Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman. Feldman, a 3.46 ERA in 15 starts, is a solid back-end-of-the-rotation starter and has pitched in multiple playoff games, very similar to Joe Saunders last year, but can pitch out of the bullpen but don’t be surprised if that is where he ends up. Arrieta needed a change of scenery and probably wouldn’t start again for the O’s but may have gotten moved to the bullpen. Strop, while had a great season last year, has struggled with command and had no options to be sent down and work on it. Jair Jurjjens, a 2011 All-Star, was signed to minor league deal with the Orioles after being released by the Braves due to injury problems, he’s made one start and one relief appearance for the O’s and if he comes back to 2011 form he would be a steal. Freddy Garcia, the 36 year old veteran, held a spot in the rotation for some time but was sent down in favor of Gausman due to consistency problem, he makes a great spot starter/emergency reliever. Feldman is the only established starter though, so, what can they add?
The list of starting pitchers connected to the O’s is a long one; Bud Norris, Scott Diamond, Ricky Nolasco, Edinson Volquez and Matt Garza, to name a few. Norris has a 3.35 ERA on the year, but pitches in a pitchers park and has a 5.02 ERA on the road, which probably won’t transfer to the hitters’ haven that is Camden and he won’t come cheap with Astros looking to build their future. Diamond has a 5.40 ERA in 14 starts, also pitches in a pitchers park and we have better pitchers in our system in Freddy Garcia and Jair Jurjjens, unless he would come back to 2012 form when he had a 3.54 ERA. Nolasco has a 3.93 ERA in 17 starts and Marlins have a high asking price for him and supposedly other teams are interested, he’s also a middle-of-the-rotation guy, not an “ace”, so no dice. Volquez has a 5.50 ERA in 17 starts and has been linked to the O’s many times because the Padres are looking to add younger pitching but, again, we have other pitchers better than him, so he doesn’t seem worth it.
Then there’s Garza, probably the best pitcher of the bunch, has a 3.83 ERA in 8 starts after coming off a stress fracture in his pitching elbow, an immediate red flag. He also hasn’t pitched a full season since 2011 but has proven he can pitch in the AL East after his 3 year stint with the Rays and will not come cheap, another problem. Also, Cliff Lee isn’t available YET, the Phillies still believe they are a contender, so he won’t be available until the trade deadline if the Phillies believe they are out of it, until then, stop calling in to 105.7 The Fan and asking for him.
Whatever the case may be, a true “ace” isn’t available in the trade market, but, in my opinion, they don’t need one. Gausman and Bundy are slotted to become the future 1-2 combo in the rotation, “aces”, if you will. The rotation, as of now though, is built to contain offenses, not shut them down, and it’s been doing that as of late and why fix what isn’t broke? As long as the O’s bats’ don’t go quiet; this rotation can help win a championship, as is.