Orioles still eyeing starting pitchers after agreeing with Gibson

December 6th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- The starting pitching market has been moving fast in recent days. Jacob deGrom signed with the Rangers on Friday. Justin Verlander went to the Mets on Monday. More big names have been featured in rumors amid the 2022 Winter Meetings.

The Orioles announced a move on Monday evening at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, where general manager Mike Elias confirmed that the club has agreed to terms with right-hander Kyle Gibson on a one-year, $10 million deal for 2023. The 35-year-old will serve as a veteran leader in a role that Elias said was “a must” to fill in Baltimore’s rotation.

But the O’s would still like to add another starting pitcher. In fact, Elias confirmed it remains the club’s No. 1 priority.

“We’ve been very aggressive talking to the free-agent starters that are out there,” Elias said.

According to Elias, the Orioles have had Zoom calls with “eight or so” starters. He’s been joined by manager Brandon Hyde, pitching coach/director of pitching Chris Holt, manager of pitching strategy Ryan Klimek and assistant pitching coach Darren Holmes in those meetings, during which they’ve given a presentation to those players. More are expected to take place.

In 2019 -- when the Winter Meetings were last held in person -- Baltimore may have had a tougher time trying to persuade a top free-agent starter to sign with the team. It likely wouldn’t have been open to dishing out a multiyear contract, either, considering the state of its rebuild at that time.

But this is 2022, and Elias said the Orioles have already had offers on the table this offseason featuring a contract longer than one year. They also have such a deep farm system now that Elias doesn’t consider it a “non-starter” if a player they’re targeting received a qualifying offer, thus requiring a team to give up a Draft pick to sign him.

The O’s aren’t ready to just start handing out massive long-term contracts to anybody, though.

“We’ll just see where this goes,” Elias said. “I think it’s all so case-by-case that it sounds a little boring for me to answer it this way, but it’s the truth. It just depends on the situation and the position and the players and the dollars and every little thing that we look at.”

It’s been rumored that left-hander Carlos Rodón (the top remaining free-agent starter) is seeking a long-term deal. That type of contract may still be one that Baltimore isn’t ready to commit to.

However, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported that the Orioles are among the teams to watch in the market for right-hander Jameson Taillon. And there are some other quality arms still remaining in free agency.

“I just know that we want to get another pitcher, at least at some point, who we feel we can pencil into the rotation,” Elias said. “Whether it’s the Opening Day spot or in the top five somewhere, I don’t know yet.”

Agreeing to terms with Gibson was a good starting point. Baltimore’s rotation lacked experience after the club declined Jordan Lyles’ $11 million club option for the 2023 season.

Gibson can serve as a mentor to the young starters while also trying to have a bounce-back showing for the O’s. A 10-year big league veteran and former All-Star, he logged a 5.05 ERA in 167 2/3 innings over 31 starts for the Phillies last season.

The Orioles paid the same amount for Lyles’ contract buyout ($1 million) and Gibson’s deal combined that they would have given Lyles had they picked up his option. Although Elias didn’t rule out a potential reunion with Lyles, Gibson seems to be taking over that workhorse role on the staff.

“I think our jobs as front-office evaluators is to look at what we think is going to happen in the future and not what somebody’s baseball-card numbers were last season,” Elias said. “We saw a lot of things, to us, that project well into the future for Kyle.”

Baltimore has other needs to address. Elias reiterated that the O’s have some playing time available at first base, designated hitter and the corner-outfield spots, with a left-handed hitter likely to fit in best. They could add a reliever, too, but they’re waiting to see how that market develops first.

By that point, the Orioles may have achieved their next (and perhaps most important) order of business.

“I can’t predict the future or guarantee anything, but it’s definitely on our wish list to get another veteran Major League starting pitcher,” Elias said, “and anyone who’s out there that is a free agent is on our wish list.”