Any starters out there?

Written by on December 7, 2011 in Orioles - No comments

Can Brian Matusz come back from a terrible 2011? Stay tuned.

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With the winter meetings underway, new Orioles VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette is saying that the pool for starting pitching being very thin, and he will look to improve via trades. That could make these winter meetings very interesting.

One of Duquette’s top priorities is pitching, which is a no brainer, considering how the Orioles finished dead last in all of Major League Baseball with a team ERA of 4.89 and a WHIP of 1.45. Not good. Let’s take a look at what they have.

Jeremy Guthrie is the ace on this staff. A great presence on the mound and in the clubhouse, Guthrie pitched a whole lot better than his 9-17 record shows. Guthrie finished with a 4.33 ERA during 2011 and finished his season strong, going 3-1 in September with a 3.77 ERA. I would be surprised if he was moved this offseason and he should be back next year.

Jake Arrieta was pitching well before getting injured. Arrieta finished 2011 with a 10-8 record and a 5.05 ERA. Arrieta was 9-4 heading into July before getting hurt, but so far, he looks to be right on track to return for Spring Training.

Zach Britton had a great rookie season. Britton led the O’s in wins with 11 to go along with his 4.61 ERA. Britton had a rough midseason after a hot start, but then got it back on track in August before having a rough September. All in all, not a bad rookie season for Britton, and he looks to grow from his first year in the bigs.

Brian Matusz is one player I can’t wait to watch in 2012. You might think I’m crazy, and you might be right, but I’m not so quick to dismiss Matusz, even though he didn’t have the best 2011 season which saw him go 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA while dealing with injuries and a drop in velocity. Matusz had a good 2010 season which saw him go 10-12 with a 4.30 ERA, and after his strong finish to the 2010 season, many thought he would develop into the ace of the rotation. Thanks to some injuries, that never happened, but I think Matusz will bounce back in a big way this year.

Tommy Hunter came over from the Texas Rangers in the Koji Uehara trade which also brought over Chris Davis. Hunter is versatile in that he can start or pitch in relief, although personally I think he would provide more value in the bullpen. Alfredo Simon is another pitcher who can start or come out of the bullpen, although I would prefer he do the latter, and I’m still waiting for Chris Tillman to reach his potential.

One pitcher who could crack the starting rotation is Jim Johnson. JJ had a great 2011 season, and thanks to that success, they are tinkering with the idea of moving him to the rotation, but that all depends on what the front office can do this winter.

As far as free agents are concerned, the “best” starting pitcher out there is C.J. Wilson, who has spent his career with the Texas Rangers. Thanks to the lack of depth at starting pitching in the free agent market, Wilson’s value is skyrocketing, and hopefully Baltimore won’t overpay for a pitcher who lacks heart in big games.

Mark Buehrle is another free agent pitcher out there who is decent, but his asking price will be too high considering his age. If Baltimore is to go after any free agent pitchers, I wouldn’t mind taking a flier on Rich Harden that is heavily incentive based due to his history of injuries (although he’s not as bad as Justin Duchscherer).

Maybe Duquette can work his magic and bring in another quality starter without giving away much. Oakland has plenty of starting pitching, and that might be a good place to start negotiating. If Duquette does nothing else, he had better bring in an extra arm or two for the rotation.

by Andy Mindzak
birds@baltimoreguide.com

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