After months of waiting, the Orioles have finally lost their first free agents of the offseason.
Though his departure was always expected, starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen agreed to a five-year, $80 million contract with Miami, according to multiple reports. Represented by Scott Boras, the Taiwanese lefty will have an opt-out clause after two years and a vesting sixth-year option worth an additional $16 million.
Outfielder Gerardo Parra also agreed to a three-year deal, $27.5 million deal with the Colorado Rockies, per MLB Network.
The loss of Chen is clearly the more damaging blow after the 30-year-old served as the steadiest member of the Baltimore starting rotation over the last four years. Originally signed to a three-year contract with a club option prior to the 2012 season, Chen went 46-32 with a 3.72 ERA over 117 starts while earning a total of $15.466 million, less than the average annual value of his new contract with the Marlins.
Though the Orioles saw their starter ERA fall to 14th in the American League at 4.53, Chen remained the bright spot in 2015 as he posted a career-best 3.34 ERA in 191 1/3 innings. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette never expressed optimism at the prospects of re-signing Chen, but he did say at the start of the offseason that he wanted to acquire a starter for the top half of the rotation, something he has yet to accomplish with spring training roughly a month away.
Because they made Chen a qualifying offer at the beginning of the offseason, the Orioles will receive a compensatory pick at the conclusion of the first round of June’s amateur draft.
The Orioles currently have a starting rotation consisting of Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Miguel Gonzalez, and Ubaldo Jimenez with the fifth spot appearing wide open. Veteran newcomer Vance Worley, Mike Wright, and Tyler Wilson would appear to be the top candidates for the No. 5 job if no additions are made.
Acquired from Milwaukee at last July’s trade deadline in exchange for minor-league pitcher Zach Davies, Parra was a disappointment in his two months with the Orioles, batting just .237 with five home runs, 20 RBIs, and a .625 on-base plus slugging percentage and struggling in the field. The 28-year-old was worth -1.1 wins above replacement with the Orioles, according to Baseball Reference.
With the Parra signing, the Rockies immediately appeared to have a surplus of outfielders and the Orioles have been linked to two-time All-Star Carlos Gonzalez in past trade talks. However, a limited farm system would appear to make a high-impact trade a difficult chore.
According to FOX Sports, the Orioles were having “ongoing trade talks” with the Rockies immediately after news of the Parra signing broke.