We have a lot of time to discuss the Orioles’ 2017 rotation – roughly four months before pitchers step on the full mound in Sarasota, Fla.
But let’s do some early slotting at the Tap Room today. (What would you rather do, discuss how the Ravens infuriate you or how the Orioles infuriated you?)
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said recently that he never stops trying to improve the rotation, and so there may be a new starter or two to throw into the mix in February. But I doubt it will be anyone battling for the Opening Day assignment.
There just aren’t many intriguing options in this winter’s free agent class – and certainly not ones without major financial risk/investment. And, as we’ve said before, the Orioles don’t have enough available top prospects to land an ace in a significant trade. (You want an ace? Be prepared to include Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and/or Jonathan Schoop just to get the conversation started.)
Here’s the other part of this surprising equation for 2017: The Orioles already have six starters returning – and that doesn’t include swingman Vance Worley or last year’s rookie tandem of Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson.
It may not be an overly exciting rotation, but if everyone pitches the way they are capable, it would be a serviceable group with some upside.
At this point, there are six candidates for five spots: (in alphabetical order) Dylan Bundy, Yovani Gallardo, Gausman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley and Chris Tillman.
The obvious solution is to trade one of the veterans – Gallardo, Jimenez or Miley — but that’s foolish at this point. You’re not going to get much for any of them, and I’d be surprised if all six of those guys are fully healthy and ready to pitch by Opening Day.
Pitchers get hurt. It just happens. So the Orioles should maintain that depth, unless they are knocked over by a trade offer (and they won’t be). Remember, the Orioles thought they had plenty of depth when they cut Miguel Gonzalez last March and then they spent much of the season looking for rotation help.
So, at this point, I keep all six. And, for me, the odd man out right now is Gallardo, who I’d have in the bullpen, on ice, in case someone gets hurt. Of course, I reserve the right in spring training to change my mind if Gallardo significantly outpitches one of the other veterans.
I’m giving Miley the benefit of the doubt, because being traded can be a difficult transition and because he’s the only left-hander among the candidates. I’m not saying he has a long leash, but he has a tentative rotation spot for me to begin spring training.
Duquette made an interesting point recently that Miley, Gallardo, Jimenez and Tillman are all pitching for a contract, whether it’s as a pending free agent or to have their options picked up.
So that quartet definitely has the incentive to pitch well.
Given all that, here’s my five-man rotation to the start the year: 1. Tillman 2. Gausman 3. Jimenez. 4. Miley. 5. Bundy.
Bundy may end up being the ace or No. 2, but there’s no harm in starting him in the lowest pressured spot to begin the season. I wouldn’t skip his turn, but I’d also allow him to match up with some of the opposition’s lesser starters early on (though scheduling may soon scramble that). But, if you feel Bundy has to be No. 3, I wouldn’t have a problem with that slotting either.
I like Miley breaking up the string of right-handers and I’m not giving the Opening Day start to Gausman just yet – not if 16-game winner Chris Tillman is healthy. Gausman can earn it in the spring, but I’d still go with Tillman.
So that’s my rotation for 2017 – as we sit at the bar right now.
Tap-In Question: What’s your early slotting for the 2017 Orioles’ rotation?