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Orioles are interested in Andrew Cashner and Jason Vargas

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The Orioles biggest problem this past season (and in many other seasons) was starting pitching. Dylan Bundy was OK, though not good enough to be the best starter on a contending team. Kevin Gausman was serviceable but below average. Everyone below them was a train wreck.

One of the complaints I’ve heard from Orioles fans for years is that the club’s m.o. is to assemble pitching staffs consisting of lots of guys who at one time were good or who, if things broke just right, could have a good season, but which, in the aggregate, consisted of a bunch of fourth starters. If you’re one of the O’s fans who make that complaint, Roch Kubatko of MASN has some possibly unsettling news for you:

Though the Orioles aren’t offering up names of pitchers who are targeted in free agency, there’s definite interest in Andrew Cashner and left-hander Jason Vargas to plug holes in a rotation with only two returning starters.

They’re not bad pitchers! Each of them has pitched pretty darn well at times in the past, including in parts of last season. Cashner, particularly, enjoyed a superficially fine year overall, going 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA (128 ERA+). His June was an absolute disaster, but he was solid most of the rest of the year. One has to wonder, though, if he can maintain his success given that his strikeout rate plummeted to a career low 4.6/9IP, which is not what you want from a starter in this era. He rated pretty poorly in most advanced metrics as well, suggesting that he’s due for a regression.

Vargas led the AL in wins with 18 and he even made the All-Star Game! After that, though, he was a disaster. He went 12-3 with a 2.62 ERA before the break and 6-8 with a 6.38 ERA from mid-July through the end of the season. It was a lot of smoke and mirrors for him in the first half, basically.

If you had to guess what each of these dudes would do in 2018, you’d probably say they’d do worse than they did in 2017. That, while each is capable of going on a nice little run each is also capable of being fairly bad for long stretches. Each, also, have notable injury histories. They’re back-end guys at best.

Which is not to say that adding Vargas and/or Cashner won’t help the team. It could. And it’s not like the O’s are likely to pursue Yu Darvish or pursue a Jake Arrieta reunion. It’s a thin pitching market and the Orioles’ options are limited.

But does that excite you, O’s fans? Probably not. But by now you’re used to the “throw a bunch of ok-at-best arms at the problem” approach, so you’ll know how to process it if that’s what Dan Duquette ends up doing.

Report: Major League Baseball bans transactions with Mexican League teams

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that Major League Baseball has banned all transactions with Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB), popularly known as the Mexican League. As of now, all 30 teams are prohibited from signing players under contract with LMB teams. The ban was issued due to Major League Baseball’s contention that “corruption” and “fraud” run rampant in the player acquisition process.

Passan describes the issues in detail, and they sound pretty compelling. The upshot: LMB clubs — which have full control over their players — are taking advantage of them, taking most if not all of the signing bonuses MLB teams give them after negotiating for their rights. Mexican teams often sign players when they’re 15 years-old so that, once they are old enough for American teams to approach them, they’re in the position to take a usurious cut.

Passan says Major League Baseball is demanding greater transparency from LMB before it’s willing to lift the ban. He also says that the MLBPA is in “lockstep” with Major League Baseball on the matter, which makes sense given that, if MLB’s claims are accurate, players are being exploited here. He also says that if LMB does not change its ways, there is a “Plan B,” though it’s not clear what that is.

There aren’t a ton of Mexican players signed by MLB teams each year, but there are enough to make this a significant issue that is worth watching.