Image credit: © Mike Lang / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Baltimore Orioles sign RHP Jordan Lyles to a one-year, $7 million contract and C Robinson Chirinos to a one-year, $900,000 contract.

In theory, it should be impossible for the Orioles to have a worse rotation in 2022 than they did last season. The 2021 Orioles finished 30th in starter DRA and 29th in DRA overall. They had two starters contribute positive WARP. There’s nowhere to go but up, right?

Turns out you can’t hit rock bottom until you sign Jordan Lyles, the journeyman right-hander the Orioles inked to a $7-million deal that only seems modest until you look at his results. Lyles was atrocious last season as he ate up innings for the bottom-feeding Rangers. He’ll now be given the chance to do more of the same in Baltimore.

If nothing else, Lyles should feel right at home surrounded by his new rotation-mates. Here are the seven pitchers who started at least 10 games for the O’s last season, and here are their corresponding DRA and WARP numbers. Here also is where Lyles would’ve ranked among them:

John Means 146.7 5.05 0.7
Jorge López 121.7 5.17 0.4
Matt Harvey 127.7 5.51 -0.1
Bruce Zimmermann 64.3 5.73 -0.2
Keegan Akin 95 5.96 -0.6
Dean Kremer 53.7 6.53 -0.7
Spenser Watkins 54.7 6.96 -0.9
Jordan Lyles 180 6.20 -1.6

Means, Zimmermann, and Akin figure to break camp as members of Baltimore’s starting rotation once more, and they’ll now be joined by a man who ranked 470th out of 472 starters in WARP a season ago.

This ragtag group will often be throwing to Robinson Chirinos, a veteran backstop who ranked 46th in FRAA among catchers who received as many pitches as he did last season. The soon-to-be 38-year-old has not posted a league-average DRC+ since 2017 and has not earned even a fractional win for his teams since 2019. One assumes he was brought in to keep the seat warm for top prospect Adley Rutschman, who was recently shut down for 2-3 weeks with a triceps strain, presumably as cosmic comeuppance for a region that inflicted Old Bay on the rest of the world. [Ed. Note: Old Bay is a blessing]

If you want to be critical of all the punching down here you’d be well within your rights. One *could* take the view that the Orioles are to be commended for allocating nearly $8 million to two veterans instead of just pocketing that cash, as they’re wont to do. Maybe Lyles is the sort of “veteran presence” that will help emerging youngsters like Akin, D.L. Hall, and Grayson Rodriguez learn how to operate in the bigs. Maybe Chirinos is the sort of experienced backstop you want helping shepherd your young arms along the way.

Or maybe you, I, and everyone we’ve ever known or loved are all going to die long before the Orioles are relevant again. It’s been four seasons now since the O’s were watchable. Close to a half-decade since Baltimore decided to tear it all down and embark on an Astros-style rebuild that has definitively, extremely not worked. One point five painful presidential cycles since O’s fans had anything to look forward to other than farm system rankings and the odd Trey Mancini bomb.

Yes, the Orioles now place third in our organizational rankings. Yes, they have five prospects on our top-101, including two in the top five. Yes, they’ve stumbled across some useful pieces like Cedric Mullins, Means, Mancini, and Ryan Mountcastle. But even the Indianapolis Colts wouldn’t hang a banner for that. Though O’s fans might get to see a few more talented, young faces this season, they’re in for another very rough ride. You can say the end is in sight if you want, but sometimes it’s hard to tell the light at the end of the tunnel from an oncoming truck.

It’s tempting to say there’s nowhere to go but up for the Orioles, but that’s not really true. There’s always another Jordan Lyles lurking around the corner. —Ben Carsley

Fantasy Impact

Robinson Chirinos (↓)

Earlier this week, Jim Duquette explained that Mike Elias and the Orioles, even with the new incentives in the CBA, probably wouldn’t want to play their organization’s best catcher for the full 2022 season. Adley Rutschman should be behind the plate on April 7. Instead, it looks like it’ll be Chirinos, who is a significant upgrade over Jacob Nottingham and Anthony Bemboom.

Chirinos can even help a fantasy team — .238/.347/.443 with 17 home runs as recently as 2019, his last time with full-time work with the Astros. Catching around the league is thin enough that he might have found himself in a timeshare, signing elsewhere. But make no mistake: when Rutschman comes up, Chirinos is his backup. Baltimore won’t want to waste his service time the moment the team decides to field its best self. —Howard Megdal

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Robert Hacking
...and in a division with 4 teams that appear very strong.
As a lifelong O's fan it's certainly been painful to watch, but looking at the state of the team when Elias shows up, this was really the only option. Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but watching a 50 win team or a 70 win team doesn't feel materially different to me, either you have a chance to compete for a playoff spot of you're playing out the string. The talent level was just so low that trying to turn the O's into a team that could even sniff .500 in any of the past few seasons would have been impossible. Just the nature of the beast in baseball, you can't draft a LeBron, or Joe Burrow and turn a train-wreck around in a year or two. Here's to hoping we end up with Druw Jones, build the farm system, and have a watchable baseball team in 2024 or 2025.
Ben Carsley
This is ... not really true. You can build a farm system while you pay veterans to put a watchable product on the field. If, as you say, there's no LeBron-type talent that can single-handedly save a franchise, doesn't that make repeatedly gunning for a top-3 pick a rather silly strategy? Going Full Tank is *one* way to repair an organization, but it is not the only way, and I think we're increasingly seeing that it's not even the best way. For every Astros there are many, well, Orioles.
Pirates fans say, "Hi!"
I guess it really comes down to what your end goal is. You may see a lot of value in "putting a watchable product on the field" (e.g. a 70-75 win team), personally I don't. I feel like you either have a team that has a legitimate chance to make the playoffs, or you don't. No reasonable combination of veterans could have been signed by the Orioles that would have made the playoffs a possibility. If they had signed veterans and won 10-15 more games each of the last few seasons, how would that put them in any different of a position than they are today?
Hank Sager
Well they could have conceivably flipped some of those veterans that proved useful for additional potentially useful future pieces.
To be fair, they spent nearly $150 mil (badly but that often leads to these issues) as recently as 2018. And they have gotten some pieces as a result of trades since '18, though predominantly from org players they moved such as Bundy and Givens.

The point is they have money. While the O's haven't really done all that well in flip trades, its mostly because they haven't really tried it. Too many waiver claims and very low digit signings. Particularly in the last 2 years when the tear down was fairly complete and the roster was pretty wide open.
That's a fair point, thus far they haven't shown that they're using the ridiculous amount of cash they've been saving the past few years to improve the team. It's quite possible they don't intend to, which would be disappointing (if not hugely surprising). That said, it's not like that money just vanishes. In theory that money could be building a massive war chest that would allow them to punch above their weight for several years when they're actually competitive. If the team could theoretically support a 150M payroll (just an example) based on the market, they ought to be able to spend 200M with the dollars they're banking now.

I'm very much pro "use your available resources in the most efficient way to win championships", but if they are crying poor in FA in 3-4 years, I'll be pissed.
As the kids say, sick burn!
Jack O'Lantern
Some readers may have played Out of the Park Baseball, the excellent simulation. It allows one to act as GM of the Orioles and, within financial constraints, make trades, sign free agents, and develop players. It’s a challenge with a bad team; but anybody can do better than this. They are not even trying to win.
If you like Old Bay (Editor, this means you!), try J.O. #2 seasoning. It'll add more WARP to your food than the entire O's rotation combined!