HomeMLB RumorsOrioles Could Pursue Closing Help At Deadline

Orioles Could Pursue Closing Help At Deadline

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The Orioles lead the American League with a 26-13 record, putting them half a game above the Yankees at the top of the AL East. Baltimore again looks like one of the best teams in the league and is trending towards buying at the deadline.

One area that could be a priority this summer: fortifying the back of the bullpen. Baltimore lost star closer Félix Bautista to Tommy John surgery last fall. They signed Craig Kimbrel — their only major league free agent pickup of the winter — to a $13MM deal to solidify the ninth inning. That hasn’t worked out quite the way the front office envisioned. Kimbrel has run into recent struggles that put his status as closer into question.

Baltimore used Kimbrel in the seventh inning in last Friday’s win over the Diamondbacks. Manager Brandon Hyde was noncommittal after that game about whether that signified a permanent role change for the nine-time All-Star. The O’s haven’t had a save situation since then, though they used Yennier Cano in the top of the ninth in a tied game (a situation in which a team typically calls on its closer) on Saturday. Kimbrel threw a scoreless 11th inning in that contest and got the win when the Orioles walked off in the bottom half.

There are more than two months for Kimbrel to pitch his way back into the ninth inning before the deadline. Still, the situation is flexible enough that the Orioles could consider alternatives if the veteran’s performance remains uneven. To that end, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale wrote over the weekend the O’s will monitor the status of established closers like Jordan RomanoRyan Helsley and Ryan Pressly.

All three players are theoretical deadline trade possibilities, although they’re each on teams that entered the season expecting to contend. The Blue Jays are four games under .500 and sit last in the AL East. The Cardinals are at the bottom of the NL Central with a 16-24 record. At 15-25, the Astros have an even worse mark, though they’re at least ahead of the Angels in their division.

None of those clubs are going to start moving veteran players anytime soon. Houston GM Dana Brown recently shot down the possibility of selling in any capacity, although it seems likely the team would reconsider that approach if they remain well below .500 in July. All three are veteran-laden teams that surely won’t pivot to selling unless it’s clear they don’t have a path back to competing this year, though.

Romano, 31, has operated as Toronto’s closer for the last three seasons. He’s a two-time All-Star who has saved 36 games in consecutive years. Romano hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs per nine in any of the past three seasons. He opened this year on the injured list with elbow inflammation. He was reinstated in mid-April and has worked at his typical velocity (96.5 MPH fastball, 86.4 MPH slider). Romano is playing on a $7.75MM salary and is under arbitration control for one more season.

Helsley is also arbitration controlled through 2025. He’s making $3.8MM this year for the Cardinals. The 29-year-old has been one of the game’s most effective relievers on a rate basis going back to 2022. Helsley owns a 1.65 ERA with a massive 36.5% strikeout rate in 120 1/3 innings over the past two-plus seasons. The power righty pairs a fastball that averages more than 99 MPH with an upper-80s slider. After missing a good chunk of the 2023 campaign to a forearm strain, Helsley has been healthy this season. He has allowed just three earned runs with 21 strikeouts and two walks over 19 innings.

Things have been more rocky for Pressly, who has surrendered 11 runs (nine earned) in his first 14 1/3 frames. The 35-year-old righty has managed 22 strikeouts with six free passes, though, and he’s keeping the ball on the ground more than half the time an opponent makes contact. Those secondary marks and Pressly’s career track record should lead to plenty of interest if the Astros get to a point where they’d seriously consider moving him at the deadline. Pressly has worked in a setup capacity to Josh Hader this year; he saved more than 30 games in each of the last two seasons.

From a financial perspective, Pressly would be a costlier add than either Romano or Helsley. He’s playing on a $14MM salary and has a matching option for 2025 that would vest if he appears in 50 games this season. He’s at 16 appearances already and looks well on track to triggering that option barring a notable injury.

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