Has John Means’ Time With the Orioles Come to an End?

John Means was a ray of hope during a dark time for Orioles fans. After a second Tommy John surgery, his future is uncertain.

John Means of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - MAY 11: John Means #47 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 11, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

Through some of the worst years of Baltimore Orioles baseball, there was one reason to turn a game on. John Means was that reason. During the 2019-21 seasons, John Means was the best player on one of the worst teams in baseball.

Earlier this season, Means went down with a UCL injury and would undergo Tommy John surgery for the second time since 2022. A player who was once a beacon of hope for the future and what was to come has not been able to reap the benefits of his service.

John Means is in his final season of arbitration, and after his second Tommy John surgery in as many years, no one knows what the future holds. This season could be the last time that we see Means pitch in an Orioles jersey.

A journey that started full of potential, could be coming to an incredibly unfortunate end.

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The 2019-21 Seasons

During these three seasons, the Orioles had a combined record of 131-253 (.341). The 2019 and 2021 clubs were two of the three worst teams Baltimore has ever seen (the third being the 2018 Orioles).

Through everything, Means was the one constant across these three seasons. He made 67 appearances including 63 starts. He threw 345.1 innings with a 3.73 ERA while walking only 1.85 hitters per nine. Among all qualified pitchers across those seasons, he was seventh in BB/9, 27th in ERA, and 38th in fWAR.

Keep in mind that these were Means’ first seasons in the majors. As a rookie in 2019, he was an All-Star and finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Yordan Alvarez.

The highlights of these seasons were John Means, a 30-homer season for rookie Ryan Mountcastle (2021), and a Cedric Mullins 30-30 season (also in 2021). Other than that, there was very little to look forward to when watching these teams.

Perhaps the singular highlight to come out of those dark years came on May 5, 2021.

While on the road in Seattle, John Means would take to the mound and sit down 27 consecutive Mariners for the Orioles’ first no-hitter since 1991. It would have been a perfect game if not for a dropped third strike that allowed Sam Haggerty to reach (he was then caught stealing).

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That is a game that many Orioles fans will not soon forget.

2022 to the Present

What seemed like such a promising start to a young career has since come to a screeching halt. After a strong first three seasons for John Means, the most recent three have been sidetracked.

By no fault of his own, Means has struggled mightily with injuries over the last three seasons. Two Tommy John surgeries have prevented him from being a contributing part of the best Orioles teams we have seen this century.

Since the start of the 2022 season, the Orioles are 233-169 (.579), but unfortunately, Means has only started 10 of those games.

In those 10 starts, he threw 52.1 innings with a 2.75 ERA and 1.0 fWAR. Even when not completely healthy, Means pitched well when he was on the field.

Now in 2024, the Orioles are poised to make a deep run into these playoffs, and they will not have their veteran pitcher with them to help make that run.

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What Is Next for John Means?

Having now lost most of three seasons to injuries, it is hard to know what will be next for Means.

The one thing that is certain is that he will be a free agent this November. A free agent who will turn 32 at the start of next season. A season he will likely miss almost all of.

There is certainly a chance that a team still signs Means to a deal this offseason. We saw Tyler Mahle sign a deal with Texas last winter knowing that he likely wouldn’t pitch for much of this season. The difference, however, is that Means is coming off of his second Tommy John in as many years.

Walker Buehler is another pitcher coming off his second Tommy John, only his surgeries were roughly eight years apart. He is also only 29 years old, four years younger than Means will be in 2026.

Still, Buehler is finding himself struggling to come back from Tommy John. He currently has a 5.84 ERA in eight starts.

I use Buehler just as an example that coming back from a second Tommy John procedure is incredibly hard. Even if age is on your side, it can be difficult.

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This could not only be the end of Means’ Orioles tenure, but it could be the end of what was once a promising young career. When it comes to Means’ future, hopefully the Orioles do right by him. A two-year deal for Means at $5 million or so seems appropriate.

It would allow Means to rehab during the 2025 season and eye a potential return in 2026. However, if this is, in fact, the end of Means’ time in Baltimore, what a ride it has been.

Thank you, John Means, for making what were pretty miserable seasons bearable. Orioles fans are rooting for you, and we hope to see you in black and orange once more.