The Baltimore Orioles need pitching badly and if a report by Roch Kubatko of MASN is true, veteran righty Andrew Cashner is expected to be a top target.
This cannot be stressed enough. Cashner should be a top priority for the O's.
A staff in need
It's no secret that while the Orioles' lineup is one of the more potent in baseball, ranking 16th in runs scored and fifth in home runs. The pitching, on the other hand, needs all the help it can get. Baltimore's staff put up a collective ERA of 4.97 in 2017 and ranked 27th in baseball in that area. To make matters worse, the entire starting staff underachieved from top to bottom.
To give a better idea, Baltimore saw 11 different pitchers make a start last season and of that total, only one pitcher posted a sub-4 ERA at 3.53. That pitcher was Miguel Castro, and he was only making a spot start while working primarily as a reliever. The rest of the starters were just plain bad, inconsistent, or both. Wade Miley led the majors in walks allowed. Kevin Gausman continued to be like former Oriole Jaret Wright and was lights-out brilliant or giving up several runs at a time.
Former ace Chris Tillman, who missed the first month of the season with a shoulder issue, never found his groove and was 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA on the season. A once-lauded prospect, his future with the Orioles is in doubt, though Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun recently reported that there was interest in bringing him back on a one-year deal.
The good news for Baltimore is that though front office head Dan Duquette doesn't exactly have a reputation as a big spender, especially after opting not to re-sign stars like Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn while serving as GM of the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles do have money to spend this offseason. Only $58.45m is on the books ahead of arbitration, with no money committed to starting pitching at the moment.
This leaves the door wide open for someone like Cashner to be brought aboard. He's not exactly a spring chicken at 31 years old but proved in 2017 that he had no problems pitching in a hitter-friendly environment. In his one year with the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Cashner went 11-11 with a respectable 3.40 ERA, posting an astounding 2.72 ERA at home. Given how Globe Life is considered a hitter's park and Orioles play in a heavy-hitting division like the AL East, that's no small accomplishment.
But let's not forget that Cashner comes with significant risks attached. He missed time with neck and oblique issues in 2017 and pitched just 166.2 innings, and he hasn't ever thrown 200 innings in his career. His career-high is 184.2 innings thrown with the San Diego Padres in 2015 and with Baltimore's strong pitching needs, he'll be asked to be an innings eater on top of providing strong starts.
Cashner also had just 86 strikeouts in 2017, his overall K/9 dropping three points from 7.64 to 4.64, further making him a big gamble for Baltimore.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, they cannot afford to be picky regarding filling out their rotation for the 2018 season. Cashner made $10m last year and is in line for at least a small raise, maybe up to $12m or even $13m a year, but it's not as though he's going to be looking for Clayton Kershaw money on the open market.
This means that Duquette, in spite of extending Manny Machado also being high on his to-do list, needs to prioritize adding substantial pitching to the roster. Baltimore, much like their Beltway rival Washington Nationals, need to approach the 2018 season with a contention or bust mentality, already a tall order in the hyper-competitive AL East. This means possibly overpaying for Cashner, lest Machado leave for greener pastures next season.