Without Lyles, Orioles will be searching for starters; Roster churn with catchers, outfielders; Game time changes - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Without Lyles, Orioles will be searching for starters; Roster churn with catchers, outfielders; Game time changes

Photo Credit: James A. Pittman-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Orioles have declined the $11 million option on Jordan Lyles, they’ll have to turn elsewhere for starting pitching. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias’ decision on Lyles wasn’t a shock, and  it can’t be truly evaluated until we see where that $11 million is spent.

For the time being, Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, Austin Voth and Tyler Wells are the returning starters with rookies DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez getting strong consideration for the rotation.

Mike Baumann, Spenser Watkins and Bruce Zimmermann could challenge, but there are issues all around for this group.

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John Means, who had Tommy John surgery in late April, isn’t expected to be ready for Opening Day.

The Orioles still have to offer arbitration to Voth, who MLBTradeRumors.com believes could get $2 million. Voth was a useful piece after he was claimed off waivers from Washington in early June and he had a 3.04 ERA in 83 innings.

If the Orioles add one or two starters to their existing group, that may give them enough depth to again contend for a playoff spot.

Wells had two stints on the injured list and threw just 103 2/3 innings. Bradish and Kremer finished strongly, but each had time on the IL and had the most innings behind Lyles (117 2/3 for Bradish, 125 1/3 for Kremer).

All will have to be monitored carefully. So will Means when he returns, and the Orioles are going to be careful with Hall, who threw just 98 innings in the minors and majors and Rodriguez, who missed three months with a strained lat and pitched only 75 2/3 innings.

Lyles threw 179 innings, and while he had just a 1.0 WAR (Wins Over Replacement), he served as a mentor for the younger pitchers, and could have been a reliable back-end starter had he returned.

The Orioles feel that $11 million can best be used elsewhere. If they sign a second-tier pitcher, for example, Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi or Michael Wacha, the New York Mets’ Chris Bassit, Philadelphia’s Zach Eflin or San Diego’s Mike Clevinger, they’ll likely have to pay far more than that $11 million and offer multiple years.

It doesn’t seem likely that the Orioles will attempt to reel in the Mets’ Jacob deGrom, Houston’s Justin Verlander or the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.

Each would cost far more than $11 million a year, though Kershaw or Verlander might only need a two or three-year contract.

Elias’ optimism for the team has fans dreaming of the bigger names, but it’s more likely that they’ll spend more than they’ve spent in the last four years—perhaps much more—but not enough to convince the public that they’re truly big spenders.

I would have re-signed Lyles. His 4.42 ERA ranked just 40th of the 45 major league starters who threw enough innings (162) to qualify for the ERA title, but he was always willing to help, and not looking for an early exit from games.

While he was often derided as an “innings eater,” that’s a compliment not a dig. A pitcher who can consistently and effectively pitch seven innings in today’s game is valuable.

Lyles threw six or more in 14 of his 32 starts, and 13 of those 14 were quality starts (three earned runs or less in six innings or more).

The Orioles could “remain engaged” with Lyles during the offseason, as a source believes, and if he stays unsigned and there’s an evident need, perhaps he finds his way back to Baltimore.

But his 2022 performance was one of the best of his 12-year career. In his last two seasons, Lyles has thrown 180 and 179 innings, showing impressive durability as he ages.

At 32, he should be able to find a team that can use him as a fourth or fifth starter. It just won’t be the Orioles.

Subtracting catchers and adding another outfielder: In the first weeks of the offseason, the Orioles added three catchers—and then subtracted three from the 40-man roster.

Anthony Bemboom was elevated to the 40-man roster, and then outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. Aramis Garcia was claimed off waivers from Cincinnati, outrighted to Norfolk and became a free agent when he refused the assignment. Cam Gallagher, who was claimed off waivers from San Diego in September was also outrighted and like Garcia became a free agent.

Robinson Chirinos filed for free agency, leaving only Adley Rutschman and Mark Kolozsvary, who was claimed off waivers from the Reds concurrently with Garcia on the 40-man. More additions are likely.

Since the season ended, the Orioles, thought to be rich with promising outfielders, have added two via waiver claims.

Last month, they claimed Jake Cave from Minnesota, and on Wednesday, they added Daz Cameron, another waiver claim, from Detroit.

Cameron was drafted by Elias for Houston in 2015 with the 37th overall pick. He’s the son of former major leaguer Mike Cameron.

In three seasons with the Tigers, Cameron, a 25-year-old right-handed hitter has a .201 average in 73 games. He’s shown some speed, stealing nine bases without being thrown out.

The Orioles have Austin Hays, Ryan McKenna, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander and Kyle Stowers from the 2022 season. Yusniel Diaz remains on the roster with Cameron and Cave.

Means will soon be reinstated to the 40-man roster, which is currently at 34.

Game time changes: According to the Orioles schedule posted on MLB.com, early and late season weeknight games will begin at 6:35 p.m. Monday-Thursday night games from April 10th-May 17th and from September 11th-28th  have the earlier start times. Weeknight games after Memorial Day and before Labor Day begin at 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday night games begin at 7:05 p.m.

The Orioles have also scheduled more weekday afternoon games, five beginning at 1:05 pm., two starting at 12:35 pm, and one at 3:05 pm. There are four 4:05 pm starts on Saturdays and a 1:05 pm start on Memorial Day.

Question Time: I’ll be answering Orioles questions in the coming days. Please email yours to: [email protected].

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