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Where Can The Orioles Find A Left-Handed Starter?

October 18, 2017
In Dan Duquette's season-ending media availability, the Baltimore Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations said he'd like to add a left-handed starter.
 
So where will he find one?
 
Ever since Wei-Yin Chen left as a free agent following the 2015 season, the Orioles have struggled to find a lefty starter.
 
In 2016, right-handers started the Orioles' first 106 games, until Wade Miley was acquired. Miley started 11 times in 2016 and 32 times this season. Including the two early-season starts in 2017 by Jayson Aquino, who's no longer on the 40-man roster, just 45 of the Orioles' 324 games during the past two seasons have been started by left-handers.
 
The Orioles are set to decline Miley's $12 million option for 2018, and it's no wonder. He led the major leagues in walks and frequently threw the ball in the dirt.
 
The Orioles had hoped Aquino could be a starter, but once he was sent down to Triple-A Norfolk, he floundered and went 3-10 with a 4.24 ERA. In September, he was outrighted to the Tides, and while he could resurface as a non-roster spring training invitee in 2018, he no longer seems to have much of a future with the team.
 
The Orioles also hoped Chris Lee would be a contributor in 2017, but Lee had a rough year. He went 5-6 with a 5.11 ERA with Norfolk, and later in the season he was moved to the bullpen. Lee remains on the 40-man roster.
 
Tanner Scott was converted to a starter at Double-A Bowie, but he was limited to three-inning starts, and while the Orioles would love for him to be a starter in the majors in 2018, that may not be practical.
 
The only other left-handed starter at Bowie was John Means, who was 9-9 with a 4.11 ERA, and he probably needs more minor league experience.
 
The free-agent market for left-handers doesn't look terribly promising. The New York Yankees' CC Sabathia had a bounce-back year at 37 in the final season of a nine-year, $202 million contract, but if the Yankees want him back, they'll likely make it happen.
 
The Kansas City Royals' Jason Vargas has been mentioned as a possibility and could be a fine option. He tied for the American League lead with a career-high 18 wins, but he'll be 35 before next season begins and could command a longer contract than the team is comfortable with. Vargas has a 3.15 ERA in five starts in Baltimore, but he has lost all four decisions.

Jaime Garcia is finishing the sixth year of a $50 million contract and was 5-10 with a 4.41 ERA in 27 starts with the Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins and Yankees.
 
Many of the other left-handers available have 2017 stats similar to Garcia's. There's Francisco Liriano, who's about to turn 34, with a 6-7 record and 5.66 ERA with the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros. There's also Derek Holland, who was 7-14 with a 6.20 ERA with the Chicago White Sox.
 
Matt Moore, who the Orioles faced when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays, has a $9 million option for 2018 with the San Francisco Giants. Moore was 6-15 with a 5.52 ERA with the Giants. He could be intriguing to the Orioles because he has a 3.90 ERA in six appearances at Oriole Park.
 
Most of the names floated as free-agent starter possibilities for the Orioles are right-handed: the Texas Rangers' Andrew Cashner and Miguel Gonzalez, Tampa Bay's Alex Cobb and the St. Louis Cardinals' Lance Lynn.
 
Other than Sabathia and Vargas, all of those right-handers had better stat lines than the lefties, and they're likely to have multiple suitors.
 
Besides the free-agent market, there's also the trade market, and Duquette has always been an aggressive trader, but there may not be many tantalizing options there, either.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox