The Orioles had until Thursday to make a decision on Jordan Lyles’ $11 million club option for the 2023 season, and they chose to decline it.
Instead, the organization decided to give the “Innings Eater” a $1 million buyout, allowing the 32-year-old right-hander to test the free agent market.
Lyles made a career-high 32 starts and went 12-11 with a 4.42 ERA and 1.385 WHIP in 179 innings, one short of tying his high set last year with the Rangers. He registered 13 quality starts and was everything Orioles GM Mike Elias anticipated him to be for the 2022 O’s club.
Lyles was more than the numbers, however. He was the team’s veteran presence and took over a much-needed leadership role on the pitching staff after John Means went down with Tommy John weeks into the season.
“I can’t tell you how great Jordan Lyles has been to our pitching staff and how to be a professional and how to take the ball every fifth day or take the ball when you’re called and go about your business the right way.”– Orioles starter Spenser Watkins on Lyles’ impact
There’s no denying the absolute workhorse that Lyles was for the Birds in 2022. But the Orioles are a much different club than they were heading into spring training in February.
After exceeding expectations last season, the O’s are heading into an offseason where they will be more active than they have been in years.
The market for starting pitchers is far better this offseason compared to last, with names like Jacob deGrom, Carlos Rodón and Chris Bassett all available.
The O’s will be looking to sign a legitimate one or two starter for their rotation, something that wasn’t a priority last offseason. In order to do that, they’ll need all of that $10 million.
That type of money is quite a bit for a .500 starting pitcher. To give you context, Luis Castillo of the Seattle Mariners will make $11.4 million next season, and Sandy Alcantara of the Miami Marlins, who will most likely win the NL Cy Young next week, will make $6.3 million.
The depth of the O’s pitching staff is another factor.
John Means will be out until June at the earliest. There are two locks for the rotation next season, Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer.
Tyler Wells could be back in the rotation again after starting for the first time last season. And you have two top prospects in Grayson Rodriguez and D.L. Hall, who both could make the rotation out of spring training.
Add guys like Bruce Zimmermann, Mike Baumann and Austin Voth, and you have a plethora of options to choose from.
But is an O’s/Lyles reunion completely out of the picture? No.
Lyles expressed his desire to stay with the Orioles when asked on October 1 at Yankee Stadium. It was reported Wednesday that both sides will be in communication throughout the offseason.
“I would love to be back here. To see what we’ve done in the last calendar year as an organization, from what was expected of us coming into the season, and the transition to be where we are right now, it’s pretty special. I enjoy the guys. Hyder (Brandon Hyde) has been amazing. Definitely Manager of the Year in my eyes. A good clubhouse. Everything is positive here. I would love to come back.”– Jordan Lyles on a potential reunion with the Orioles in 2023
If the O’s bring Lyles back and save three to four million dollars in the process, it would be beneficial to the club by giving them payroll flexibility to go out and sign multiple free agents.
But they might not even need to bring him back. He’s a solid pitcher, but he’s not an ace.
This is the correct move for the Orioles.
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