When the Orioles went into the 2015 offseason, they had a few goals in mind. Signing Darren O’Day and Chris Davis were the top priorities, and, after some time, they accomplished both. Along with Matt Wieters accepting the Orioles’ qualifying offer to stay in Baltimore for another year, all that seemed left on the to-do list was to find some outfield help and starting pitching. Within the organization, the Orioles had watched Wei-Yin Chen grow into a subtly dominant starter, posting respectable win-loss ratios and an career best ERA at 3.34 in 2015. It only seemed fair, then, that he would attract a lot of attention in free agency. When it came time to trying to afford the Scott Boras client, the O’s seemed content by keeping quiet. And so, we watched Chen walk, taking a two year deal worth $20 million dollars with the Miami Marlins.
The Orioles waited for what seemed like forever to find a replacement in the rotation. They passed on players like Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija to take a chance on finding someone for a bit less money. Finally, after an eternity, they landed on Yovani Gallardo, who has spent most of his career in Milwaukee and 2015 with the Texas Rangers.
There was a mixed reaction among fans after the Gallardo signing. Chen had become one of the most consistent pitchers in the Orioles’ rotation, and it is hard to argue that he was not the best one they had last year. But, with success comes money, and free agency is the place to find it. In order to put cash in other places, the O’s chose to do what they’ve done in the past- wait it out and feed off the scraps.
But, it’s not truly fair to put Yovani Gallardo in the “scraps” category when you take a step back. In fact, he is more comparable with Wei-Yin Chen than most would assume. Take a look at 2015 for both pitchers.
As is becoming more common knowledge, wins and losses are less important as the stats that relate more personally to a pitcher. Gallardo stands to benefit from a potentially league-leading power lineup and a stellar bullpen behind him. He also gave up less homeruns per 9 innings last season and gets more ground balls than Chen, both of which are big stats in hitter-friendly Camden Yards.
So what’s the catch? Well, for one, he walks guys a lot. He averaged almost 3.5 walks per 9 innings last season which is something nobody wants. Minimizing damage from inherited runners is an issue a few guys in the Baltimore bullpen have had (looking at you, Brian Matusz). His strikeouts per 9 innings have also dropped significantly over the past two seasons, last year averaging 5.9 (Chen at 7.2). And then there is the physical that he failed. While it worked out in the Orioles’ favor by saving them a little bit of cash, it did not build any confidence to know that they had some issues with his physical before he signed.
Regardless of the significant difference in only a few numbers, Gallardo and Chen have seen similar careers. The Orioles made a conscious decision to let Chen test the market and sign elsewhere, and have full faith in their move to replace him with Yovani Gallardo. As spring training continues, O’s fans will get a better picture of what they might come to expect from their new starter- hopefully he will do the justice deserved from Wei-Yin signing with the Marlins.
As always, Let’s Go O’s!