Entering the 2017 season, the biggest question surrounding the Orioles was whether their starting pitching would be good enough to get them to the playoffs.
With the Orioles eliminated from postseason play and their starters' 5.65 ERA the worst in the majors, the answer is a clear, resounding no.
"They're going to be in a position where they're going to have to go and get somebody," former Orioles pitcher Ross Grimsley told
Glenn Clark Radio
Sept. 20. "They are two starters away from contending in the [American League East]."
Grimsley points out that the Orioles' low on-base percentage (.314, 25th) and lack of success on the road (29-47) also contributed to the team failing to stay above .500 this season, but it all starts with the rotation, he said.
"If you're serious about contending and getting deep into the playoffs, you're going to have to get starting pitching," Grimsley said. "And right now, in the organization, I don't see anybody that's ready to step up next year and go into that."
Within the Orioles' organization right-hander Miguel Castro has a 3.29 ERA in 38 games and 63 innings pitched this season, and 2013 first-round pick Hunter Harvey finished 2017 with a 0.96 ERA in 18.2 innings in the low minors after having Tommy John surgery last year. But Grimsley does not feel they are solutions yet. He reasoned Harvey needs to progress further in the minors, and pulling Castro into the rotation may hurt the bullpen.
Right-hander Dylan Bundy, who has nearly completed his first full MLB season as a starter, has the lowest ERA (4.24) and WHIP (1.20) on the starting staff. Before Bundy's hamstring injury ended his season, Grimsley saw reasons for keeping Bundy active and shutting him down.
"If you don't want to give him too many innings too quick, then shut him down," Grimsley said. "There's a good chance you're not going to make it to the playoffs, and that was the whole key. If you don't get to October, what are you saving him for?"
The former left-hander noted the Orioles have a better understanding of how Bundy feels physically. He added that pitchers can learn from every outing.
"Every time you go out and pitch, whether it be a starter or reliever, you're going to learn something -- or you should," Grimsley said. "About pitching and what you can and can't do and how to make adjustments."
With third baseman Manny Machado, outfielder Adam Jones, closer Zach Britton and right-hander reliever Brad Brach all set to become unrestricted free agents after the 2018 season, Grimsley feels the time is now to make a move.
"The window is basically closing. Next year is the year because you're going to lose some guys to free agency after that," Grimsley said.
Despite the starting pitching woes, when asked if he could make one decision for the Orioles next season, Grimsley would choose to sign Machado to a long-term deal.
"That decision has to be made very soon now, because if you're not, you might as well move him and get some pieces in the future," Grimsley said. "You might be able to get a couple pieces if you trade Manny."
For the Orioles, 2018 may already have a boom or bust feel to it.
"The one thing you hear in spring training with the Orioles [is], 'Well, we want to be competitive.' Excuse me? You want to be competitive?" Grimsley said. "Don't you want to get to the World Series?"
For more from Grimsley, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox