Why Signing Yovani Gallardo Doesn't Make Baltimore Much Better
Yovani Gallardo has finally found a home.
The Baltimore Orioles got themselves a financial deal by signing the right-handed starter to a three-year, $35 million deal with a $13 million club option for a fourth season. But they also paid a price, giving up their first round pick (14th overall), the fly in the ointment that prevented other interested teams from signing Gallardo earlier in the offseason.
Gallardo is not a world-beater, but he is a decent middle-of-the-rotation starter. For Baltimore, he'll likely be closer to the top of the rotation and could get the Opening Day start for the O's.
And while it's not likely this signing is causing the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays or New York Yankees to shake in their boots, Gallardo will help fortify a rotation that was among the worst in baseball last year. Here is where the Orioles' starting rotation ranked last year among AL teams in 2015.
Those numbers include Wei-Yin Chen's 11-8, 3.34 ERA season last year. He signed with the Marlins in the offseason, and the signing of Gallardo essentially replaces Chen, at least based on last year's numbers.
Both players were tied to qualifying offers, meaning both the Marlins and Orioles had to give up their first-round picks to sign them. So that's a wash. The O's got Gallardo for three years and $35 while Chen signed with Miami for five years and $80 million. And Gallardo is one year younger. So, financially, Baltimore ended up with the better deal.
However, it's fair to ask if it was worth giving up the team's first-round pick for a pitcher who only makes them about the same as last year, which wasn't very good, especially when they boast a farm system that is among the worst in baseball.
And Gallardo, once a strikeout pitcher, is now reliant on good batted ball data and an excellent defense behind him. His 5.91 strikeouts per nine were a career low last year, as was his swinging strike percentage of 6.5%. His fastball averaged 90.5 miles per hour last year, also a career low.
So does Gallardo allow this rotation to challenge the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays and Rays in the American League East? It seems unlikely.
Still, the O's have enough position players (Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, and Matt Wieters) that it's understandable why they felt the need to make this move. And it's expected the team will sign Dexter Fowler to a free agent contract (he may have already by the time you read this), which would force Baltimore to give up yet another draft pick but solidify a big weakness in their outfield.
But the Orioles are going all-in in 2016, and Gallardo is at least dependable. He's pitched at least 180 innings in each of the last seven seasons and has posted an ERA of 3.42 and 4.18 in each of those seven seasons. You know what you're getting.
He's a stabilizing arm in a rotation that, if the Orioles want to compete this season, needed another viable pitcher.
Whether it helps get the O's to the playoffs is another matter.