As 2024 begins, Orioles continue to look for a starting pitcher

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As the New Year begins, the Orioles are still looking for another starter. Over the weekend, there were some interesting pitchers who chose their teams for 2024 and in some cases, beyond.

Two that could have interested the Orioles, right-handers Lucas Giolito and Frankie Montas, reportedly reached agreements with new teams.

Giolito agreed to a two-year contract with an opt-out after the first season with the Boston Red Sox. According to reports, he’ll be paid $38.5 million over the two years.

Montas has a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds, which could be worth $16 million according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

The deal with Montas is particularly risky because he only pitched 1 1/3 innings for the Yankees in 2023, missing nearly all last season after shoulder surgery.

Giolito was 6-6 with a 3.79 ERA in 21 starts with the Chicago White Sox before he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels on July 26th. He had a disastrous stint with the Angels, with a 1-5 record and 6.89 ERA in six starts.

When Los Angeles dropped out of playoff contention in August, they put Giolito on waivers, and he was claimed by Cleveland on August 31st. He wasn’t any better with the Guardians, with a 1-4 record and 7.04 ERA in six starts.

There are still pitchers on the free agent market who could conceivably fit into the Orioles budget, perhaps right-handers Marcus Stroman or Michael Lorenzen or left-handers Sean Manaea or Hyun Jin Ryu.

The prices on Giolito and Montas in this slow-moving market were admittedly high, particularly for Montas, so executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias will continue to monitor the trade market.

According to a report by 670 The Score’s Bruce Levine, the White Sox are demanding a high price for Dylan Cease, their right-hander who has two years left before free agency.

Levine reported Chicago asked for Cincinnati pitching prospects Rhett Lowder and Chase Petty, the Reds’ second and sixth ranked prospects according to MLB Pipeline, as well as two position player prospects. Cincinnati’s farm system is rated fifth highest in baseball.

The Orioles, who have the top-rated farm system in baseball, have many infield and outfield prospects, but only one of their pitchers, right-hander Chayce McDermott is rated as high as 10th.

If the White Sox decide to trade Cease, or Milwaukee wants to move on from Corbin Burnes or Cleveland from Shane Bieber, the Orioles will have lots of competition.

There’s still plenty of time before pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota in mid-February for Elias to make a move. Last year, Cole Irvin wasn’t acquired until January 26th.

A year ago, there were many more attractive players on the free agent market, and the market moved swiftly. With many fewer desirable players, prices are being bid up for Giolito and Montas.

Other teams besides the Orioles are looking for starters, and whether they go the free agent route or wait to make a trade, the price is likely to be uncomfortably high.

Over the holidays, there was another painful reminder of how costly free agent pitching can be. Jack Flaherty, whom the Orioles acquired at the trading deadline on August 1st, was able to command a one-year, $14 million contract from Detroit after posting a 1-3 record and 6.75 ERA in nine games for the Orioles.

Elias still must find an assistant pitching coach to assist new pitching coach Drew French in 2024, and perhaps add a veteran outfielder to the mix.

For now, the preoccupation is another starter.

Orioles minor league signings: The Orioles announced a batch of minor league signings on Saturday, some of which were already known.

The most interesting signing was catcher Michael Pérez, a 31-year-old, who’s played 202 games for Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and the New York Mets since 2018.

Pérez has a .179 average and has thrown out 29 percent of runners attempting to steal. He’s 8-for-21 (.381) in seven games played at Oriole Park.

He essentially replaces Anthony Bemboom, who played parts of the last two seasons for the Orioles. Pérez will likely serve as injury insurance behind the plate and catch for Triple-A Norfolk.

The Orioles signed another catcher, David Bañuelos, a 27-year-old, who’s hit .216 in six seasons in the Seattle and Minnesota organizations. He’s thrown out 38 percent of the runners attempting to steal.

Besides Pérez, the Orioles signed another player with major league experience, 34-year-old right-hander Albert Suárez, who was 3-8 with a 4.51 ERA in 40 games with San Francisco in 2016 and 2017.

Suárez spent the last five seasons in Japan and Korea.

In October, the Orioles signed right-hander Nathan Webb to a two-year minor league contract. Webb underwent Tommy John surgery last March. He spent six seasons with the Kansas City organization and had a 13-17 record and 6.11 ERA.

Left-handed pitcher Luis González returns to the organization. The 31-year-old was in the Orioles’ chain from 2013-2019, reaching Triple-A Norfolk. Last year, González pitched in Mexico.

Right-hander Wandisson Charles, who was 7-4 with a 4.57 ERA and 11 saves with Norfolk and Bowie re-signed.

The Orioles also signed left-hander Jakob Hernandez, who was 1-1 with a 3.52 ERA and a save with Triple-A Lehigh Valley in the Phillies organization.

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