Free agency previews: This month, Paul Mancano is profiling free agents who might be of interest to the Orioles at each position group.
It’s difficult to overstate just how important left-hander Danny Couolmbe was to the 2023 Orioles. Acquired just three days before the start of the regular season, the journeyman put up a 2.81 ERA in 61 appearances, serving a vital role in Baltimore’s bullpen.
Now that he’s proven himself, Coulombe may be called upon even more in 2024. After a phenomenal 2022 season, fellow lefty Cionel Pérez took a step back this season. DL Hall showed flashes down the stretch, but the Orioles could be tempted to give him one more shot at starting games. Cole Irvin was better as a reliever than as a starter, but he wasn’t called upon much in high-leverage situations.
Even if Coulombe, Pérez, Hall and Irvin make the Opening Day roster, the O’s could benefit from having another left-handed reliever at their disposal in 2024. Here are four free agents — excluding top prizes Josh Hader and Aroldis Chapman, who will likely be out of the O’s price range — who should be on general manager and Executive Vice President Mike Elias’ radar.
Diekman is well traveled. After struggling with the White Sox to start the 2023 season, the 12-year veteran was signed by the Rays, his eighth big league organization. Tampa Bay did what it does best, coaxing an impressive 2.18 ERA out of Diekman over 50 appearances the rest of the way.
The quintessential “good stuff, bad command” reliever, Diekman routinely ranks among the league’s best in strikeout percentage and among the worst in walk percentage. It may be hard to remember now, but Félix Bautista once had issues with consistently finding the strike zone, walking 5.8 batters per nine innings in his final minor league season, before the Orioles helped the righty harness his control.
At 36, Diekman probably is who is he is at this point. But the O’s might be able to make a few tweaks to help his game.
Sometimes the best relievers are failed starters (see: Britton, Zack). Aside from a stellar 2013 season with the Rays, Moore was a mediocre starter for five teams before the Rangers moved him to the bullpen full time in 2022. He responded by producing a 1.95 ERA with Texas that year, then a 2.56 ERA with Los Angeles, Cleveland and Miami in 2023.
Moore’s changeup devastated opposing batters, who hit just .163 against it in 2023. With just five career saves, the 34-year-old wouldn’t be the closer in Baltimore, but he could be another weapon for manager Brandon Hyde against left-handed hitters.
Speaking of changeups, few pitchers rely on the pitch more heavily than Peralta, who made it his primary offering in 2021 and never looked back. Opponents hit .185 against Peralta’s changeup in 2023 as the veteran registered a 2.83 ERA with the Yankees.
Peralta struggled with the Reds to start his career before finding his footing with the Giants in 2019. He’s improved each year since, and, at 32, appears to have several more good years ahead of him.
If he can keep his walk rate down — it spiked to 13.2% this past season, putting him in the fourth percentile among qualified pitchers, according to Statcast — Peralta would be a quality reliever in Baltimore.
If you can produce a sub-3.50 ERA in Colorado, you’re doing something right. After seven solid seasons with the Brewers, Suter was claimed off waivers by the Rockies last November and put up a 3.38 ERA in 57 appearances in 2023. Perhaps most impressive, he allowed just three home runs all season.
The 34-year-old doesn’t produce many whiffs — just 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings in his career — but he keeps hitters guessing thanks to his incredible extension, which Statcast routinely ranks among the best in baseball.
Like Coulombe, Suter had reverse splits in 2023, holding right-handed hitters to a .229 average but allowing lefties to hit .284 against him. The Orioles may prefer to add someone who can consistently retire left-handed hitters, but there’s certainly room for a pitcher of Suter’s quality in their bullpen.