While the Boston Red Sox were a stunning failure in 2022, the Baltimore Orioles were an unexpected success.
After losing 115 games in 2018, 108 games in 2019, and 110 games in 2021, they went 83-79, their first winning season since 2016. They finished fourth in the division, ahead of the Sox for the second time in three years.
It made sense then, that GM Mike Elias declared their intention to build on that momentum by spending this offseason. But in what’s been a raucous offseason thus far, the O’s have barely made a peep. They signed Kyle Gibson, who pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2021 and 2022, but otherwise, it’s been a pretty quiet offseason in Baltimore.
Baltimore Orioles linked to Red Sox standout Michael Wacha
Now, they’re reportedly targeting Michael Wacha. According to Jon Morosi, they’re “showing continued interest” in the veteran starter, whose market has been virtually nonexistent so far. The Orioles are actually the first team publicly linked to the 31-year-old righty. Most of the bigger starting pitchers came off the board first, but it’s still somewhat surprising that Wacha’s name hasn’t come up more.
Should Red Sox re-sign Michael Wacha despite risks?
Wacha is coming off a strong season with the Sox in which he posted a 3.32 ERA across 23 starts, including one of the only complete-game shutouts in baseball. Opposing batters hit .233/.283/.410 against him. He was excellent at limiting walks (6%), induced weak contact, and lowered his home-run rate from 4.4% in 2021, to 3.5%.
However, this season could very well have been an outlier for Wacha; he went on the Injured List twice, and there are serious risks of regression, which could explain why more teams haven’t been inquiring after his services. His strikeout rate has dropped in each of the last three seasons, and his 35.8% hard-hit rate could be attributed to the supposedly-deadened baseballs, but he’s had a 38.6% hard-hit rate between 2015-21. His MLB percentile rankings on Baseball Savant don’t paint a pretty picture.
Wacha is the perfect example of how important it is not to judge a player on one stat. His ERA was impressive this season – better than Kevin Gausman and Gerrit Cole – but he only threw 127 1/3 innings, several frames away from a qualified season (162 IP). He’s only had two qualifying seasons, most recently, in 2017.
Chaim Bloom indicated that the Sox were interested in bringing Wacha back, but it hasn’t gone further than that, at least publicly. They didn’t extend a Qualifying Offer to him, so teams won’t be penalized for signing him, which makes the lack of buzz all the more notable.
The Sox currently have seven or eight starter options on the roster – including Brayan Bello, Garrett Whitlock, Nick Pivetta, Chris Sale, James Paxton, Tanner Houck, and Josh Winckowski – but Bloom continues to reiterate that they’re focused on upgrading the rotation. Wacha had a surface-level solid season, but it may be best to part on good terms.