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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.

Red Sox employees “livid” over team pay cut plan

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Even Drellich of The Athletic reports that the Boston Red Sox are cutting the pay of team employees. Those cuts, which began to be communicated last night, apply to all employees making $50,000 or more. They are tiered cuts, with people making $50-99,000 seeing salary cut by 20%, those making $100k-$499,000 seeing $25% cuts and those making $500,000 or more getting 30% cuts.

Drellich reported that a Red Sox employee told him that “people are livid” over the fact that those making $100K are being treated the same way as those making $500K. And, yes, that does seem to be a pretty wide spread for similar pay cuts. One would think that a team with as many analytically-oriented people on staff could perhaps break things down a bit more granularly.

Notable in all of this that the same folks who own the Red Sox — Fenway Sports Group — own Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, and that just last month Liverpool’s pay cut/employee furlough policies proved so unpopular that they led to a backlash and a subsequent reversal by the club. That came after intense criticism from Liverpool fan groups and local politicians. Sox owner John Henry must be confident that no such backlash will happen in Boston.

As we noted yesterday, The Kansas City Royals, who are not as financially successful as the Boston Red Sox, have not furloughed employees or cut pay as a result of baseball’s shutdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps someone in Boston could call the Royals and ask them how they managed that.