Friday, December 31, 2010

Low Cost Pitching Depth for the Orioles

You can never have enough pitching. Never.

The Orioles appear to be set in the rotation for 2010 with Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman and, waiting in the wings in AAA, Zach Britton. But as we have seen before, injuries happen and these young arms may not all be ready to go. You don't want to have to rush a guy like Britton to the majors because you lack pitching depth. With David Hernandez gone, that just leaves Rick VandenHurk as a guy who could provide emergency starts. Jason Berken is not returning to the rotation.

But Baltimore has enough talent that they don't need to spend a lot of money on pitching depth. There are guys coming off of injury or poor seasons that can be had for cheap and may provide some upside if they rebound. I'm not saying these are great pitchers but they would be available for depth and emergency.

Sign a guy or two from this list and let them compete. They could always be shifted to the bullpen or to AAA if they are not needed.

Here's some candidates listed, more or less, in order of desirability.

Jeremy Bonderman - There is always a chance that Bonderman regains his pre-2008 form when a blood-clot in his shoulder shut him down for the better part of 2 seasons. He pitched a bit better than his 5.55 ERA (xFIP, FIP) and threw 171.2 innings in 2010. Another year removed from the injury, he could improve on those numbers and could provide great value.

Jeff Francis - A lefty starter, Francis pitched much better than his 5.00 ERA (3.88 FIP, 3.95 xFIP). If he's fully healthy, he could be an interesting weapon against the Yanks and Red Sox lefty-heavy lineups. Not a big strikeout guy but has pretty good ground ball rates.

Chris Capuano - The Brewers don't want Capuano, not as a starter anyway, so he's on the market. Capuano didn't pitch badly in 66 innings as a swingman for Milwaukee and even though he would probably see a bump in his ERA (3.95 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 4.08 xFIP), he would still be a slightly better than average starter. Another lefty in the rotation in the AL East couldn't hurt.

Kevin Millwood - Millwood didn't quite live up to expectations but he did provide more than 190 innings and 1.3 WAR last season. Again, he can take the beatings if the youngsters aren't all healthy or ready. He did it last year and you might be able to squeeze one more year out of him.

Freddy Garcia - Garcia is kind of a flyball pitcher which would seem to be a bad fit. Also, there seems to be some competition for his services which may push his price up. Still, he has been right around league average for the last nine seasons so he's a good bet to remain consistent and do that again.

Doug Davis - Davis would be a guy to bring in on a minor league deal. He could be an interesting option as a swingman or 5th starter if he has a good Spring Training.

Noah Lowry - What happened to this guy? He tried to make a comeback before last season, nobody signed him and he didn't pitch anywhere in 2010. Go find him and see if he'll sign a minor league deal. The guy had all kinds of upside as a young lefty for the Giants. It would be worth a look to see what he could do in Spring Training.

John Maine - Why not? Another guy who would come cheap, maybe even on a minor league deal and he could be shifted to the bullpen if needed. He wasn't healthy last season but if he's healthy now , he could give us a half season in the rotation or add depth to the 'pen.

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