When Dan Duquette ‘s extension was announced, he talked about how he’d like to add another veteran to the pitching staff. Jair Jurrjens will be that veteran.
Of course, the Orioles could still sign Joe Saunders. Many people thought that Saunders would have chosen his 2013 team by now. With just over two weeks to go before spring training begins, Saunders surely can’t wait much longer.
There are still a few reclamation projects out there that Duquette could sign to minor league contracts. I’m assuming that Jurrjens contract puts him on the 40-man roster and that catcher Luis Exposito will be dropped from the roster. If he clears waivers, Exposito can easily return with a minor league deal.
If Duquette doesn’t add Saunders or anyone else, competition will be healthy for the rotation. Assuming that Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez are the first four, there are several candidates for the fifth spot.
Even though Brian Matusz will pitch starters innings in the spring, he’s much too valuable to the team as a left-handed reliever. While it’s possible that he can return to the rotation, there are many more viable candidates for the rotation than there are for the left-handed relief spots.
Tommy Hunter showed a lot more relieving in September than he did as a starter. While I’m sure he will also be given chances to start in the spring, he’s better off as the long man, an area that manager Buck Showalter had trouble filling in 2013. Hunter is out of options and while he could be dealt, he’s a favorite of Showalter’s.
Tsuyoshi Wada had Tommy John surgery last May, and while he’s reportedly been making good progress, he may not be ready to start the season with the Orioles. A healthy Wada would be nice to have as a fifth starter, but he probably won’t be ready until the season is a month old.
Jurrjens has an impressive resume. A dynamic first half of 2011 with an All-Star selection, but lots of injuries and ineffectiveness since. The Braves had no choice but to non-tender him, and he’s hoping for a fresh start I in Baltimore.
At 27, Jurrjens is a good gamble, if healthy. If he’s not, what’s $1.5 million in today’s baseball market?
Jurrjens is a strike thrower and could be a nice complement to the rotation. If there are five healthy and sharp starters, he can be optioned.
The Curacao native will add to the Orioles’ international flavor. He’s surely acquainted with Calvin Maduro, the former Orioles pitcher now serving as an international scout in Aruba.
A rotation including Chen, Wada and Jurrjens would be another neat angle to explore.
But first, there’s lots of competition. There’s Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Steve Johnson. Johnson could fold into a long relief option if Hunter is unimpressive or traded. He was very effective in limited opportunities at the end of the season.
Other major league clubs keep asking about both Arrieta and Britton, but Duquette keeps turning them away. He values the young pitching and doesn’t feel other clubs value them as highly as he does.
There’s another unknown in the mix. He’s T.J. McFarland, the left-hander taken in the Rule 5 draft. He won’t have the advantage Ryan Flaherty had a year ago; there’s so much more competition and accomplishment this time around.
If McFarland is sharp this spring, he may force a trade or two, but his presence and Jurrjens’ could make things most interesting.