After stating a desire to improve their rotation and subsequently losing their best starter from 2015 this winter, the Orioles appear on the verge of finally making a significant pitching addition.
According to multiple reports, Baltimore is moving closer to a three-year deal with free agent Yovani Gallardo to sure up a rotation that finished 14th in the American League in ERA last season. Turning 30 later this month, Gallardo carries a 3.66 career ERA over nine major league seasons and has made at least 30 starts in seven straight years.
The sides have been linked as a potential fit for much of the offseason, but Texas made a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Gallardo in early November, meaning the Orioles would forfeit the 14th overall pick in June’s draft to sign him. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has expressed hesitancy to surrender the pick at several points this offseason, but the free-agent departure of Wei-Yin Chen left a huge void in an already-suspect rotation and the Orioles passed on a variety of options who weren’t given qualifying offers.
The Orioles currently have six picks over the first 100 spots in the 2016 amateur draft.
Beyond surrendering a pick, signing Gallardo would come with additional risk as his average fastball velocity has dipped from 92.6 miles per hour in 2011 to 90.5 last season. His strikeout rate has also decreased in three straight seasons and fell to a career-low 5.9 per nine innings in 2015 after averaging more than a strikeout per frame in his first six seasons in the big leagues.
However, his strong ground-ball rate hovering around 50 percent over the last few years would be attractive when he’d be starting half of his games at homer-happy Oriole Park at Camden Yards.