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Signed RHP Yovani Gallardo to a three-year contract worth $35 million. [2/19]

Yovani Gallardo is just turning 30, at the end of this month. No, really. The pitcher who at least shared the top of the Brewers rotation for most of a decade, who broke in and helped the team announce itself as an NL Central power in 2007 and who was the ace when they won the division in 2011 and who was still the ace in 2014 when they almost won the division, the guy who survived the decidedly not Doug Thorburn-approved mechanical philosophies the Brewers impressed upon him and who has topped 30 starts and 180 innings for seven straight seasons, the guy who has already undergone the signature concession of an aging pitcher, moving from strikeout stud to ground-ball grinder, the guy who kept the Rangers’ thin pitching staff afloat long enough to let them get less thin and scramble to the division title in 2015, that guy is over a year younger than Jeff Samardzija.

There are two ways to read that, I guess. One way is that, hey, there’s really no reason not to believe there’s something left in Gallardo’s tank. Sure, he’s not missing bats the way he used to, but he’s still found success consistently over the last several years. His velocity hasn’t dropped measurably since 2012. He upped his slider usage in 2015, but the pitch didn’t go flat or get hittable from the added exposure. Few methods for comparing players are rougher than the Similarity Scores at the bottom of Baseball Reference pages, but Gallardo’s top comp there is Jake Peavy. Everyone thought Peavy’s arm was ready to fall off five years ago, too, and that his numbers were trending permanently in the wrong direction. Since then, Peavy has two full seasons, two halved by injuries, and one halfway between those posts. He’s won two World Series rings, and delivered 11.4 WARP.

On the other hand, Gallardo last had a cFIP below 100 (in other words, was last an above-average pitcher in a predictive, skill-centric sense) in 2012. PECOTA doesn’t even want to talk about Peavy; he’s not listed among the 100 pitchers most similar to Gallardo. Instead, the four closest modern comps the system gives are: Gavin Floyd, Jason Hammel, Brad Penny, and Matt Garza. When the uneven half-season dominance Hammel has managed each of the last two years is the beacon of optimism, things aren’t looking up.

I mentioned that Gallardo has been average or worse for three consecutive seasons, and it’s true. He’s also been very durable during that time, though. PECOTA thinks he’ll be less durable and just as mediocre going forward: it pegs him for a 4.50 DRA and fewer than 160 innings pitched this year, and that’s easily the rosiest projection on his long-term forecast. If he’s not markedly better than that, the Orioles will regret investing an eight-figure annual salary in him, and will regret even more giving up the 14th overall pick in June to do it, because they’ll have traded a long-term asset for very little progress toward success in the present.

The hope for the Orioles probably lies in the possibility that Gallardo will stay much healthier than PECOTA thinks. There isn’t much evidence he’ll be better when he’s on the mound—only that he might have the good luck to get worse very gradually. He’s not a FIP beater. He’s not a reverse-split guy. He’s not terribly unusual in any way, so it doesn’t feel like there’s value we’re simply missing with him. He’s just a perfectly solid back-end starter. If he does make another 30 or 32 starts, though, and brings stability to a rotation slot otherwise left to be won by either Mike Wright or Tyler Wilson, he can still be well worth this investment. —Matthew Trueblood

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I agree wholeheartedly. I guess the O's look at him and see a reliable ground ball guy, and want to put him in front of their great IF defense. But, that's a bargain hunting strategy and while Gallardo may be OK (probably not) he's definitely not a bargain. I hate these kinds of contracts, where everything has to go right for them to make sense.
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