The Orioles are showing continued interest in Red Sox free agent Michael Wacha, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com. Morosi notes that Wacha’s market could move quickly now that fellow free agent starters Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen have reportedly agreed to deals with the Dodgers and Tigers, respectively.
Wacha, 31, enjoyed a productive season with the Red Sox after signing a one-year, $7 million deal with the club last November. In 23 starts for Boston, the veteran right-hander posted a 3.32 ERA and 4.14 FIP with 104 strikeouts to 31 walks over 127 2/3 innings of work.
While those numbers are undoubtedly solid, Wacha did land on the injured list twice because of left intercostal irritation in May and then because of right shoulder inflammation in early July. Upon returning from the IL for the second and final time in mid-August, Wacha pitched to a 4.11 ERA (4.36 FIP) in 10 starts (57 innings) to close out his season.
Over the course of the 2022 campaign, Wacha relied on a five-pitch mix that consisted of a four-seam fastball that averaged 93 mph, a changeup that averaged 84.3 mph, a cutter that averaged 88.8 mph, a sinker that averaged 92.6 mph, and a curveball that averaged 74.7 mph. The changeup was by far his most effective offering, as the 6-foot-6, 215-pound hurler held opposing hitters to a .176 expected batting average with it. According to Baseball Savant, Wacha stood out in two statistical categories this season. His 6.0 percent walk rate ranked in the 79th percentile of the league while his 35.4 percent hard-hit rate ranked in the 70th percentile.
A former first-round pick of the Cardinals who spent the first seven seasons of his major-league career in St. Louis, Wacha — a client of CAA Sports — is surely looking to cash in and land a multi-year deal this winter after having to settle for one-year pacts with the Mets, Rays, and Red Sox in each of the last three offseasons. The Texas A&M product is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to receive a two-year, $16 million contract in free agency.
Coming off their first winning season since 2016, the Orioles appear to be a team on the rise in the American League East. So far this offseason, Baltimore — under general manager Mike Elias — has signed veteran starter Kyle Gibson to a one-year, $10 million deal. It also has top prospect Grayson Rodriguez waiting in the wings to join a rotation mix that should include Gibson, Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish, Tyler Wells, Austin Voth, Mike Baumann, DL Hall, and the rehabbing John Means, among others.
Wacha, who does not turn 32 until July, would join Gibson in providing the Orioles with some stability and experience out of the rotation if he can stay healthy. The Red Sox did not extend Wacha a qualifying offer last month, meaning the righty is not attached to any sort of draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.
Boston did, however, issue a qualifying offer to Nathan Eovaldi, who rejected it and is now drawing interest from another division rival in the Yankees. Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said at last week’s Winter Meetings in San Diego that he still looking to add a starter or two, so reunions with one or both of Eovaldi and Wacha certainly cannot be ruled out yet.
(Picture of Michael Wacha: G Fiume/Getty Images)