Whenever the lockout ends, the Orioles will officially add right-hander Jordan Lyles to their 40-man roster. The news of Lyles’ agreement with the Orioles came around the time the lockout was imposed, and he’ll have to take a physical to cement the deal when a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached.
At 31, Lyles will become the second-oldest player on the 40-man roster. Reliever Cole Sulser, who turns 32 on March 12th, is the oldest.
Lyles’ reported deal is the most expensive handed out by executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias in his three years with the Orioles.
He receives a $5.5 million salary and $500,000 signing bonus plus a $1 million buyout for 2022 as well as an $11 million option for 2023.
The option doesn’t seem likely to be paid by the Orioles. If he has a strong first half, he could become a trade chip, and $11 million could be reasonable for a contending team in 2023.
Elias gave free-agent infielders Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis $250,000 bonuses if they were traded. Galvis was traded to Philadelphia. Franco was released in August.
The $7 million price tag might seem high, but Lyles was eager to get a deal done before the lockout began, and the Orioles were looking to add a veteran starter and knew that at this stage they needed pay well for Lyles, who was 10-13 with a 5.15 ERA in 2021.
Some have suggested that Elias was preparing for a possible salary floor in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in his pursuit of Lyles.
Lyles worked 180 innings in 2021. The Orioles haven’t had a starter work more than 180 innings since Kevin Gausman threw 186 2/3 innings in 2017.
His scariest stat was that he led the majors in home runs allowed with 38 in 2021. In a homer-friendly home ballpark, that isn’t ideal, but the Orioles need starters who can go deeper in games than they did in 2021.
With Lyles and John Means, the Orioles will have three starting jobs up for grabs. Perhaps another veteran free-agent starting candidate or two will sign once the lockout ends.
There are no locks and many candidates. Keegan Akin, Mike Baumann, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells and Bruce Zimmermann are the likeliest contenders.
Kyle Bradish and Kevin Smith will be in spring training because they’re on the 40-man roster for the first time, but they’re expected to start at Triple-A Norfolk, where they struggled last season.
Grayson Rodriguez, the top pitching prospect in baseball, will be in major league spring training for the first time, but he’s expected to need some time at Triple-A after strong work at High-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie.
DL Hall is also on the 40-man roster for the first time, but after losing most of his season at Bowie because of an elbow injury, he needs time in the minors but could find his way to the Orioles in 2022.
What comes after the lockout? Once the lockout ends, the Orioles will have lots of work to do. The Rule 5 draft will provide them with a player or two. They need to sign a pair of catchers because they don’t have any on the 40-man roster, and even though they’ve picked up Rougned Odor to possibly play second, more infielders and perhaps a veteran outfielder on a minor league deal are possible.
The Orioles can sign players to minor league deals during the lockout. Just before the lockout, they added another right-handed pitcher, Denyi Reyes, who had pitched in the Boston Red Sox organization. Reyes is 44-21 with a 2.92 ERA in six seasons but hasn’t pitched above Double-A.
It will be interesting to see how active the market is for second- and third-tier players during the lockout. Will they accept minor league deals because they’re the only ones who can be offered? Or will they wait until after the lockout and hope that they can swing a major league deal?
While some of the top free agents signed in the days leading up to the lockout, many are without a team for 2022 and beyond.
Of MLBTradeRumors.com’s top free agents — Carlos Correa (1st), Freddie Freeman (3), Kris Bryant (4), Trevor Story (8), Nick Castellanos (10), Kyle Schwarber (15), Carlos Rodon (18) — are still available. The timing for the resumption of free-agent signing isn’t known, nor if there will be a salary floor for teams.
The Winter Meetings, scheduled for Orlando, Florida, have been canceled but the minor league meetings will go on, and so will the Hall of Fame voting for the Early Baseball and Golden Days Era committees. Those votes are scheduled to be announced at 6 p.m. Sunday on the MLB Network.