(WJZ) — After throwing a no-hitter Wednesday night, Orioles starting pitcher John Means is 4-0, sporting the league’s third-best ERA (1.37) and is tied for the American League lead in wins. The 28-year-old is through seven starts this season and has come into his own posting the best all-around stats of his career. But, despite, or perhaps more accurately, because of that, there’s some question about what his future should be with the team.
That’s, of course, because the Orioles are still knee-deep in their rebuild, and anything that can lead to strengthening their rising farm system will, at the least, be considered as an option. Even if it leads to trading away their best players on the roster right now, including Means.READ MORE: Baltimore County Public Library Hires Full-Time Social Worker
In fact, one Reddit user posed the following question to the r/baseball subreddit just last week:
“Hot topic in Orioleland, what to do with John Means? Trade him, keep him, extend him. Curious what non Oriole fans think we(Elias) should do.”
The question, combined with Wednesday’s no-hitter, got us wondering, too. What is the best move both for Means and the organization going forward?
First, let’s acknowledge that yes, on its face, this seems ludicrous to be asking after the first solo no-hitter for the franchise since the halcyon days of Jim Palmer in 1969.
Okay, is everybody calmed down and stopped yelling at their computer screen? Good. Let’s continue.
At 28 years old, Means is in what would be largely considered his prime years as a player. Now in his third full season (if you include last year’s shortened 2020 year), he remains under team control through the arbitration process for another three seasons before becoming eligible to be a free agent in 2025 at age 32.READ MORE: Ravens Launch Subscription Wine Club Brand 'Winning Drive'
The Orioles, as currently constructed, are still in the early stages of their rebuild. After bottoming out in 2018 and 2019, they’ve added youth to the farm system that ranked fifth entering this season according to MLB.com’s “MLB Pipeline” rankings. The team has four prospects in the Top 100 in catcher Adley Rutschman (No. 2), pitcher Grayson Rodriguez (No. 22), outfielder Heston Kjerstad (No. 59) and pitcher DL Hall (No. 60).
Based on that, Means does theoretically fit in with the team’s contention timeline as Rutschman is expected to arrive in the majors later this summer, Rodriguez and Hall in 2022 and Kjerstad in 2023. If all goes to plan, a trio of Means, Rodriguez and Hall atop the rotation would be a nice combination.
But, that’s if all goes to plan and those four prospects, plus the others in the pipeline, turn into full-time players for the big club in the next several seasons. As any baseball fan knows, trying to predict the outcome for a prospect is a fool’s errand. There’s so much that can go wrong along the way and even the most highly touted players can fall by the wayside. Hence why the more talent in the farm system to turn to, the better it is for the rebuild.
So, would a trade make more sense? In theory, a starting pitcher with that many controllable years left who is performing the way Means is at the moment could command a high price on the market. But, there’s not much in the way of historical precedent here, so what the team could get in return is up for debate.
From looking at the original Reddit thread, the fan consensus there, unsurprisingly, was to keep Means via either extending him or through arbitration and figure out after this season where the team is in the rebuilding timeline. With the minor league season finally starting up, the O’s prospects will have their first opportunity to play in over a year. The development curve may have been delayed by that time away.
The Orioles at 15-16 and a -6 run differential are staring at an A.L. East division that makes it hard to believe they have a shot at the postseason this year or even next. Where does Means fit in the contention timeline? Will he be aging out of the rotation by the time the organization is ready to make a run again? These are hard questions the team will look to find answers for in the rest of 2021.MORE NEWS: Man Shot In The Head, Killed In West Baltimore Tuesday
In the meantime, it would make sense to keep him and give O’s fans an enjoyable pitcher to watch through the rest of the year. What do you think?