At last week’s end of season press conference, Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias lauded the one-year additions of Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson to the pitching staff over the last two years.
The Orioles didn’t exercise Lyles’ one-year option for 2023, and that’s a good thing. Lyles, who was 12-11 with a 4.42 earned-run average, got a two-year, $17-million deal from the Kansas City Royals and then led the major leagues with 17 losses and had a 6.28 ERA.
Gibson’s numbers were much better for the Orioles. He was 15-9 with a 4.73 ERA. His win total and innings pitched (192) led the team, but at 36, it appears he isn’t in the team’s future.
The starting staff is much more solid than it was at the beginning of 2022 and 2023.
Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer and Grayson Rodriguez are now established starters. Tyler Wells pitched brilliantly in the first half of 2023 before tiring, The Orioles expect him to return to the starting rotation.
They could attempt to trade for an experienced starter and also sign another veteran to a one-year contract, but where does that leave left-hander John Means?
Means had two excellent seasons for teams that lost 108 games in 2019 and 110 games in 2021, but three of his first five seasons have been full of misfortune.
In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Means missed the delayed Opening Day start because of arm fatigue and after he made two starts, he took time off after the death of his father at 58 because of pancreatic cancer.
His Tommy John surgery in April 2022 cost him nearly two complete seasons. Means made just six starts in 2022 and 2023,
But in his time with the Orioles, there has been excellence. In 2019, Means was 12-11 with a 3.60 ERA that earned him an All-Star team spot for an Orioles team that just started rebuilding.
He pitched a no-hitter in May 2021 but later missed more than six weeks because of left shoulder fatigue. He won just two more games after the no-hitter, though he pitched well.
That 110-loss team often didn’t support him, and his 3.62 ERA was nearly the same as it was in 2021.
Means finally won again for the first time in two years in Cleveland on September 23rd when he no-hit the Guardians for 6 2/3 innings and finished 7 1/3 innings, allowing just one run.
Means went through the hard times with the Orioles but was injured during his second start in 2022 and never got to experience the fun on the field, though he regularly visited and traveled with the team.
Manager Brandon Hyde hoped that Means could start a game against the Texas Rangers in the American League Division Series, but a few hours before Game 1, it was announced that he was left off the roster because of elbow soreness.
Hyde thought that Means could have been ready for the American League Championship Series had the Orioles beaten the Rangers, but they didn’t, and Elias said Means should be ready for spring training.
Besides Means, they also have another left-hander, Cole Irvin, as a depth piece, but while fully healthy, Irvin was also left off the postseason roster.
Means has just 21 wins, which hardly indicates his value to the team, but it’s one fewer than Kremer has achieved during his time with the Orioles.
A year from now, Means will be eligible for free agency, and it would be fitting if he could have a healthy season and put himself in position to take advantage of his status. Another fine season from Means would be welcomed and could help the Orioles repeat their 2023 success.
Norfolk sold: The Norfolk Tides were the champions of Triple-A in 2023. For 2024, they’ll have a new owner.
Diamond Baseball Holdings, which also owns Gwinnett, Memphis, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and St. Paul in the International League as well as other successful Triple-A franchises in Iowa and Oklahoma City, the team the Tides beat for the championship on September 30th, will now run the team.
The Orioles have been affiliated with the Tides since 2007 and have a working agreement with Norfolk through 2030. The Tides are expected to continue to play at Harbor Park. Joe Gregory will remain as general manager, and Ken Young, the Tides’ longtime owner, will be an adviser to the team.
Award season underway: Three Orioles are finalists for the Players Choice Awards presented by the Major League Players Association.
Kyle Bradish joins the New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole and Minnesota’s Sonny Gray as finalists for the American League’s outstanding pitcher.
Gunnar Henderson is one of the finalists for the AL’s outstanding rookie. Boston’s Triston Casas and Texas’ Josh Jung are the others.
Ryan O’Hearn, Chicago’s Liam Hendriks and Tampa Bay’s Tyler Glasnow are finalists for the AL’s Comeback Player Award.
The awards will be announced on ESPN on November 2nd.