This morning, Buster Olney reported that the Orioles are “dangling” John Means for a potential trade. This seems to be a risky proposition, particularly for a pitcher with existing health worries, but Olney failed to confirm what body part Baltimore is dangling their ace from and we are so starved for any baseball news that we figured we might as well write it up anyway. Particularly since the Mariners front office may or may not have called to inquire about the pitcher-presently-suspended-in-mid-air.
Other teams say the Orioles are dangling left-hander John Means for trade. He's set to make about $3 million in arbitration, coming off a season in which he pitched great in the 1st half (2.28 ERA) struggled in the 2nd half (4.88) and had shoulder issues. https://t.co/rSQSDncyrZ— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 23, 2021
You may recall Means from bangers such as “Very Good Player On a Very Bad Team,” “Shoulda Coulda Woulda Been AL ROY (darn you, Yordan)” and two-part anthem “No-Hitting the Seattle Mariners in 2021: Volume 1.”
The 28-year-old lefty was a low draft pick in 2014, made his debut in 2018 and turned in an exceptional rookie campaign the following season. Last year, the Orioles’ de facto ace sandwiched a rough mid-season combination of injury and the crackdown on banned substances with the aforementioned no-no and a strong finish.
Staff writer Joe Doyle was kind enough to briefly brainstorm what a trade proposal for Means would look like...
- John Means
- Brandon Williamson
- Adam Macko (Note: Could sub Connor Phillips in here, pending ask)
- Spencer Packard
Says Doyle, “Orioles are extremely progressive on the data side of things. Williamson presents track record, intriguing metrics, and proximity. Macko has some of the most enticing stuff in the organization from a low release point and intrinsic ability to spin a baseball… Packard, while a bit positionless, ranked 2nd in the organization in Whiff% in the entire org last year and had some of the most robust exit velos in college baseball in 2021.”
Doyle was also quick to note it wouldn’t surprise him if Orioles GM Mike Elias walked away from the table with that offer.
What makes Means enticing is a high-spin fastball that he spins efficiently to generate a lot of swings and misses. He leans on it about half of the time and rounds out his repertoire with a changeup, curveball, and slider. At his best, he can be quite dominant — he no-hit the Mariners in 2021 — but he’s usually not at his best.
The main issue is that, despite it being his best offering, his fastball isn’t actually that great. Means elevates his fastball more than most, and yet his fastball’s called strikes plus whiffs (CSW) when elevating his fastball ranked dead last this year of all starters.
And then there’s that his barrel percentage over the past few years is well below-average. That’s translated to one of the worst home run rates in MLB, much like that of Andrew Heaney and Matthew Boyd. The main difference is that, unlike Heaney and Boyd, Means hasn’t consistently shown swing and miss stuff.
There doesn’t appear to be a simple adjustment that will unlock Means. He’s just about maxed out on how much he can throw his changeup, his slider is an average pitch, and his curveball is of the get-me-over variety. Perhaps de-emphasizing fastball elevation gets him some of the way there, but right now, Means seems about maxed out, barring any pitch design tweaks.
Seattle’s starting rotation is already riddled with inconsistent question marks and Means, for all the bright spots he has had, isn’t an ideal candidate to improve stability. Add to that the likely high cost (that no-hitter/team ace upcharge is real) of acquisition, and it would seem like Means is not an ideal candidate for the 2022 Mariners. But hey, we’ve been wrong before.