The Orioles are simultaneously improving public relations and the bullpen by signing free agent Mychal Givens.
Within days of the Orioles signing Adam Frazier, Baltimore signed free agent reliever Mychal Givens to a one-year contract. Including the mutual option for 2024, Givens will earn a guaranteed $4 million. The deal also includes additional performance incentives. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com provided the contract specifics.
The signing comes as welcome news for both the team and the fanbase, as Givens has been a reliable reliever since he debuted with the Orioles in 2015. Givens spent the first six years of his career in Baltimore, mostly as a set-up man, and pitched to a combined 3.32 ERA in 296 games with 20 saves. A popular mainstay out of the bullpen, Givens was far less volatile than the other arms Birdland was used to watching. During the depths of the rebuild, the front office traded him to the Rockies at the 2020 trade deadline.
After those years of stability, Givens has bounced around the past three seasons and has now played for five different teams. Every team needs more good relievers, so Givens has been a deadline acquisition for three straight seasons. In 2021, the Rockies dealt him to the Reds, and then in 2022, the Cubs flipped him to the Mets. A similar situation could occur in 2023 if the Orioles find themselves out of contention.
The recent instability has brought more volatility to Givens’ results, as the small-sample bug has bit him a couple times. He pitched noticeably worse after all three deadline trades before rebounding the following spring. The poor finishes mean the Orioles are getting something of a bargain, since they are not paying for Givens’ true talent level. Perhaps returning to his old stomping grounds will allow Givens to maintain his results throughout a full season.
What the Orioles are Paying For
Mychal Givens throws three pitches and has great stuff, but control holds him back at times. Statcast says Givens has elite fastball spin and above average strikeout and whiff rates, but he has a decidedly below average walk rate and an 8th percentile chase rate. His heat zones are not as condensed as one would like. Being wild can work for some pitchers, but it doesn’t help Givens since hitters don’t swing at his pitches outside the zone.
The good news is that despite the many baserunners, hitters rarely punish him for them. Givens is also above average in opponent exit velocity and expected batting average, and middle-of-the-pack in expected slugging and hard-hit rate. Playing in Coors Field did him no favors, but Givens prevented home runs at Great American Ballpark and Camden Yards before the Orioles moved the fence back.
Givens uses his fastball, slider, and changeup to both righties and lefties, but unsurprisingly at different rates. He ups the ante on lefty changeups with rare sliders, while the reverse is true to righties. Interestingly, Givens pounds the zone with his four seamer to righties, but he nibbles the outside edge to lefties. He has lost a tick or two of velocity over the years, but the separation between his fastball and changeup has actually increased, which is a good thing.
2023 Orioles Roster Outlook
The Orioles had a surprisingly good bullpen in 2022, but most members outperformed their peripherals. Relievers are volatile in general, but the Baltimore unit might be especially prone to falling back to Earth. In that sense, Givens acts as an insurance blanket as well as a productive pitcher. He should get many late-inning opportunities to begin the season, and after eight years of solid pitching, he is far less likely to fall off the table. Most of the Orioles arms have limited experience, so their stats have less certainty.
Despite the good changeup, Givens has rather large platoon splits for his career. His OPS is 163 points worse against lefties than righties. With a few lefties already on the roster, the Orioles can therefore use Givens as a situational right hander. Considering the relative lack of damage, he can also be a fireman to get the team out of trouble.
The signing also brings the 2020 trade full circle, as Givens will now be teammates with Terrin Vavra and Tyler Nevin, two of the three returning pieces in that deal. It is safe to say the Orioles won that trade.
Orioles fans are expecting a playoff berth next season, but they can get their hopes up for something in the near future: as soon as February they will get to see a familiar face donning orange and black. Welcome back, #60!
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