09 August 2011

Life After Andy MacPhail: Experienced Hands Outside of the Organization

Gerry Hunsicker
In the previous two posts, we considered potential General Manager candidates within the organization and those without GM experience, outside of the organization.  Our feeling is that Buck will have a great deal of say in who the next GM is as well as MacPhail having some infuence as well.  Ultimately, the final choice will need to be someone willing to let Buck dictate the organizational direction while being able to hand the day to day duties of a General Manager that Buck would be unable to do if he remained in the dugout.  There are several candidates that have GM experience and who might be interested in such an arrangement.

John Hart
Senior Adviser, Texas Rangers

Hart has accomplished a great deal in his time in Major League Baseball.  He moved up through the ranks with the Orioles in the 1980s as a minor league manager and a season as a third base coach.  He then flipped over to the Indians where he served as a scout and, for 19 games, the interim manager before being promoted to Director of Baseball Operations.  In the 1990s, he oversaw the Cleveland powerhouse teams that won 6 division titles and appeared twice in the World Series.  He was known at that time for the unusual approach of signing young players long term in order to keep their costs down while buying out free agent years at an assumed lower cost to the franchise.  In 2001, he flipped over to the Rangers and had an uneven record of success with them.  Him and Buck seem to get along together quite well and they may have a decent enough partnership to lead the team together.  I do think though that Hart would not want to be Buck's fixer and adhering to Buck's plan.  Hart's experience would also make him a good Angelos candidate as well.  My only hesitation comes from when he said during the 2010 draft that he would not think twice about drafting Machado ahead of Harper.  I thought that Harper at C, 3B, or RF was clearly a better prospect than Machadon and his ability to stick at shortstop.

Jerry DiPoto
Senior Vice President, Scouting and Player Personnel, Arizona Diamondbacks

You may remember Jerry DiPoto as a relief pitcher for the Indians, Mets, and Rockies back in the 90s.  In the past ten years he has made a quick charge from reliever to a scout in the Boston system to the Director of Scouting and Player Personnel with a short foray as an interim GM for the Diamondbacks.  He is known as a true baseball man and even though his GM tenure was quite short . . . it is anticipated he will returned to that level of management.  His biggest deal as an interim GM was getting Daniel Hudson along with a few other in exchange for Edwin Jackson.  That is pretty good.  With Buck remaining, DiPoto might be a good mix of being willing to listen to someone else's direction due to be being hungry to be a GM.

Wayne Krivsky
Special Assistant to the GM, New York Mets

I assume Krivsky is Sandy Alderson's details man...a sort of GM by function, but not by name.  Orioles fans may remember him best as Andy MacPhail's Special Assistant for the 2009 season.  They may also remember him for his love of Justin Turner.  Wherever Krivsky goes, Turner winds up there via trades or waiver acquisitions.  If MacPhail is part of the process, Krivsky makes the most sense as the two of them share a good relationship with each other.  Krivsky is also known for making smart trades such as acquiring Brandon Phillips for nothing and Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena.  He is also known for trading somewhat valuable commodities in Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez to the Nationals* for a few overworked bullpen arms in a misguided attempt to make the playoffs.  Hopefully, he learned from that mistake.  All things said, he is a very smart guy and is probably itching to get back to being a GM.  I think he would be willing to take on a role similar to MacPhail and would not bristle too much with Buck giving him organizational direction.

Gerry Hunsicker
Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations, Tampa Bay Rays

To be honest, I think Hunsicker is the next General Manager of the Rays.  I think the incredibly talented Andrew Friedman is going to be offered a great deal to take over the Houston Astros.  Friedman will then proceed to win there.  In the resulting void, the Rays will likely try to keep the current framework in place to remain successful.  I could also see them going after someone like A.J. Preller.  However, if Hunsicker is not valued as a GM, I think he would be excited to find opportunities elsewhere.  The reason I think highly of Hunsicker is that he truly appreciates the value of international talent acquisition.  As a GM of the Astros, he helped bring along their Venezuelan program which provided the team with a steady stream of talent (that they would then ship off for valuable veterans).  After being fired and joining the Rays, he scrabbled together some of his old hands in the Astros system and built the Rays Venezuelan effort as well as worked on starting up a Brazilian academy with Andres Reiner.  I think Hunsicker would make do with paying service to Buck while broadening out the Orioles acquisition of talent.  He would be a solid hire.

Allard Baird
Vice President, Player Personnel and Professional Scouting, Boston Red Sox

Some people think Baird was given a raw deal with the Kansas City Royals.  The David Glass ownership was incredibly tight fisted and certainly inhibited the way a team could be run.  However, Drayton "The Process" Moore has been able to develop the Royals farm system into the best in baseball.  Moore's MLB moves are just as confounding as Baird's was, but Moore's group does seem to value scouting appropriately.  That said, Baird is a smart guy and he interviews well.  He is highly experienced, can operate the team in a day-to-day fashion and is likely to put up with Buck calling the shots.  He is in the Red Sox system, so he must know something.  As an organizational type, he might be pleasing to Angelos.

How Would I Rank Them?

Gerry Hunsicker
John Hart
Jerry DiPoto
Wayne Krivsky
Allard Baird

The Orioles' weakness is development and getting enough talent into the system.  Hunsicker's experience will devoting resources to international talent pools is a known commodity.  It is also an area that Buck would have little insight in, giving Hunsicker a free hand.  The Orioles are also known to have issues with organizational personnel in the Dominican, but Hunsicker would likely have free reign in other countries that suit his strength.  Hart is appealing because a unified organization tends to be more successfully then several groups acting separately from one another.  DiPoto is at the break even point for me.  He has been a hard charger and hopefully the Peter Principle would not be in play for him.  Krivsky is interesting, but that reliever trade is the typical misevaluation.  Baird has shown me nothing from his tenure in Kansas City to suggest he is capable of building a winner under restrictions.

I think Hart and Krivsky are the two likely ones from this group to have consideration to replace MacPhail.  The one selected would be based on whoever had more power: Buck or MacPhail.  In future articles, I will go over the choice we see most likely one by one.

* In the original article, I accidentally named the Indians as opposed to the Nationals as the other team in the deal mentioned.

08 August 2011

Dempsey's Army Presents: Last Week in Chats (August 1 - August 8, 2011)

Mondays Heath from Dempsey's Army will recount all things Baltimore Orioles from the previous week's chats.  It is a convenient way to learn what national writers think about specific issues that relate to the Orioles.

Where we distill all the week's chats down to their Oriole essence...

Jonah Keri, FanGraphs.com

2:03 Comment From Boog Powell
Thoughts on the O's Uehara deal and failure to trade Lee and/or Kevin Gregg?

2:04 Jonah Keri: Um, they did trade Lee. but yeah, Gregg, Guthrie, there were other guys. Suspect there were fewer buyers willing to shell out real talent for fill-ins this year.

Jerry Crasnick, ESPN

Sam (Baltimore)
What did you think of the Os deal with Texas? Seems like we got two pretty good potentially good players for a flash in the pan middle reliever.

Jerry Crasnick (1:21 PM)
Sam, I can certainly live with it. Chris Davis has a lot of holes, but he's a pretty athletic kid and certainly has power. And Tommy Hunter, to me, is a decent back end of the rotation guy. I thought Andy MacPhail did just fine with that trade.

Dave Cameron, FanGraphs.com

12:00 Comment From daniel
Does Chris Davis' high strikeout rate, poor walk rate, and insane BABIP at .500 prevent him from being worth a waiver claim (only two claims left for me in my league) despite having the 1B job and 3B eligibility?

12:01 Dave Cameron:
I'd say that Davis is not likely to do particularly well in the majors, yes.

12:02 Comment From The Oriole Bird
Glad to see you here, Dave! Is there any data to back up the common knowledge that, other things constant, a team shouldn't have too many high-K players? Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds sure swing and miss a lot.

12:02 Dave Cameron:
The mid-90s Mariners struck out a lot too, but they scored a lot of runs anyway. Strikeouts aren't a problem in and of themselves. They are a problem if they cause your hitters to suck.

Dan Szymborski, FanGraphs.com

12:02 Comment From Zach Britton
there's no way I throw 40 pitches in the 1st inning and get pulled tonight v. the Royals, right?

12:02 Dan Szymborski:
The O's have reached that inevitable point of the season in which the wheels have come off and ALL things are possible. The Royals could probably sign Andy Abad, and he could no-hit the O's as a non-pitcher and I wouldn't be too surprised.

12:04 Comment From Stan the Caddy
What's your background Dan? What team are you a fan of?

12:04 Dan Szymborski:
Econ major, O's fan.

12:08 Comment From Paul D
I'm starting to think that the Blue Jays might have a chance... but the Orioles? Is there any help?

12:09 Dan Szymborski: Not with the ownership they have. A team in Baltimore's position can't be as confusedly conservative and risk-averse as they are. They just don't seem to relish high-upside plays.

12:14 Comment From Chris Davis
So exactly how long is my new orange and black leash? What happens in the offseason if I can't start making a little more contact?

12:15 Dan Szymborski:
The team kept playing Mark Reynolds, with crazy no-contact early and playing defense about as well as I would in the majors, so they'll probably give Davis every chance. It's not like the O's are overflowing with guys like Davis organizationally (is that a word?)

12:20 Comment From Louis
How do you continue to justify being an O's fan? There is nothing good about the organization (besides the Unis) and I don't see it changing for at least another decade. Every consider becoming a baseball agnostic?

12:21 Dan Szymborski:
Good pit beef. I'm not really the rah-rah sort anyway, I hope that someone reading my work wouldn't know what team I root for unless they already knew what team I rooted for.

12:28 Comment From Myles
I'm not a die-hard O's fan, but I see the trend of disappointing home-grown SP's, despite the fact that no one really raised a brow when they were drafted. What do you see as the biggest problem within their development process?

12:29 Dan Szymborski:
I can't exactly say why the O's particular pitchers have failed, but there's a pattern in the O's organization in which they seem to make decisions based on what they *want* a player to be rather than *what* the player is.

12:35 Comment From Matt Wieters
Will I ever be a truly worthwhile fantasy catcher? Where did my power go?

12:36 Dan Szymborski:
Well, he's *still* going to end up with 15 home runs or so. I know it's disappointing for Wieters to be merely an average catcher, but catchers have weird developmental curves.

12:48 Comment From Jimmy
I'll tell you what's wrong with the O's: Zach Britton has contributed more offensively than Vladimir Guerrero. True story.

12:48 Dan Szymborski:
I think I mentioned that on Twitter last week. At the time, Britton had more offensive WAR than Vlad *and* Lee combined.

12:55 Comment From steve
Thoughts on the Uehara trade?

12:56 Dan Szymborski:
I really liked it from the O's perspective - they don't really have a lot of great prospect depth and could use guys like that (if you still call them prospects). The Rangers are giving up a lot ofr their relief help, but they did at least get actual good relievers and they're in a competitive position where you *can* trade away future value without worrying to much.

Keith Law, ESPN

Luke (Baltimore)
Hearing anything on Nick Delmonico's signability for the O's as we approach Aug. 15?

Klaw (1:30 PM)
My take on him predraft is that he was headed for school.

dc (dc)
Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds on the same team. Thoughts?

Klaw (1:35 PM)
Is there a window open? I feel a breeze here.

Bill (CT)
Keith, it has been speculated that teams with GMs on the hot seat such as in Baltimore (McPhail) and Chicago (Hendry) that the reason such highly sought after pitchers such as Guthrie and Garza were not dealt at the deadline was so these teams could win a few more games down the stretch so that these GMs could some how save their jobs. Isn't this the reason why these teams haven't won in the first place? Short term veiw vs long term in terms of getting good prospects for these guys?

Klaw (1:57 PM)
Hendry, yes, although I've also heard that Ricketts promised him the 2012 season to turn things around (which would be so Cub-like if true). I keep hearing that MacPhail will step down after the year, so I don't see why he'd be motivated to win a few more games this year. He's not the type of guy to deliberately do something against the franchise's long-term interests just to let himself leave on a higher note.

Klaw (1:58 PM)
I should clarify what I'm hearing on MacPhail is not from him or from Baltimore sources, but from other FO guys around the game.

06 August 2011

Life After Andy MacPhail: Newcomers Outside of the Organization

Former O's Front Office Employee Scott Proefrock
Since our last piece on potential replacement for Andy MacPhail, we have seen a good deal of conjecturing and pulling for Buck Showalter to leave the dugout and climb the management ladder.  There are many who subscribe to the belief that Buck is an accomplished franchise builder as every team he has been fired from had appeared and/or won a World Series within five or so years after his termination.  If that is not convincing for you, there are many that wax on and on about how incredibly prepared Buck is for each game.  That nuanced day-to-day preparation may serve a front office well.  Of course, the skills that make one a good manager may not necessarily make one a good General Manager.  For instance, managers are typically skilled at getting specific short term objectives whereas General Managers require long term planning and vision.  Well, that is unless you get a sweetheart deal like Ruben Amaro where you can just blow through all of your resources to keep that window wide open.

Another option that would likely work well with Buck would be to hire a young up-and-coming GM prospect who can take care of the day-to-day front office tasks while Buck gives broad organizational directives from the dugout.  This certainly could be done and some argue it is exactly what is being done in St. Louis for better or worse.  St. Louis has won a World Series, but a great deal of luck and Albert Pujols helped that occur.  Anyway, here is a list of GM prospects outside of the organization.

Rick Hahn
Assistant GM, Chicago White Sox

What is there to say about Rick Hahn that has not been said already?  He has routinely been mentioned as the top GM candidate over the past three or four years by Sports Illustrated, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus.  It appears almost every year he is offered an interview by prominent organizations and either winds up backing out of interviews or being given better terms/responsibilities within the White Sox organization.  He essentially runs the White Sox with directives handed out by Kenny Williams, so one would have to wonder whether he would find the Orioles a good destination if he had to answer to Buck as well as finding himself having to compete with a stacked AL East.  I think he certainly would be someone who Angelos would like as Hahn is very competent with running organizational duties.

Dan Jennings
Vice President, Player Personnel and Assistant General Manager, Florida Marlins

Jennings has been rumored for GM positions for about ten years now.  Last year he was a finalist in the Mets opening before losing out to Sandy Alderson.  Jennings is known as being skilled at scouting and would probably complement Buck Showalter quite well.  As a long time Florida employee, he is also well aware of Joe Jordan.  If the Orioles want more continuity along with revamping the organization to be more efficient, Jennings might be that guy and Jordan might be a great help to him.  The weakness here though is that this leaves no one in the front office in control who has experience running the day-to-day operations of the team.  Buck would need someone who is well skilled to be able to turn deals that Buck cannot do while sitting in the dugout.  I do think Jennings would be an interesting choice.

A.J. Preller
Senior Director, Player Personnel, Texas Rangers

This is my hope.  Preller is a high energy, at-all-costs type of GM and is quickly climbing through the ranks.  An often recounted story is that Preller took up Spanish while working for the Rangers in order to more freely communicate with people in Latin America, strengthening the Rangers' ability to acquire talent there.  He often is compared to his boss Jon Daniels with the same major concern: he is too inexperienced.  However, he has been employed at a high level on the baseball operations side and has been given high marks for the last several years.  The Orioles could be a good launching pad for him.  If Buck could act more like a Nolan Ryan and give Preller the freedom to fit the system to Buck's ordered shape then it might be a good pairing.  With or without Buck, Preller would be my choice.

Tyrone Brooks
Director of Baseball Operations, Pittsburgh Pirates

Brooks is an alumni of the University of Maryland, so you have some local roots here.  He has spent a lot of time working in the scouting and personnel departments for the Braves, Indians, and the Pirates.  He is another young GM prospect (at 34, I think, he is a year older than Preller) who would be willing to cede power to Buck in exchange for the chance to more directly shape an organization.  Brooks' is most known for his effort in social networking.  In 2009, he founded the Baseball Industry Network which tries to connect those interested in baseball operations to find those opportunities.  He also fits the Buck mold well as he is directly involved in high level roster management, such as the Pirates deadline deals for Ludwick and Lee.  He could be the combination of new blood, communication, and front office operation skills to be a successful GM.

Scott Proefrock
Assistant General Manager, Philadelphia Phillies

This would be the choice that makes sense to me if Andy MacPhail is involved in the hiring process.  Proefrock was a member of MacPhail's front office for several years.  It seems he left to go to the Phillies only due to them offering him a position with more responsibilities.  Proefrock has cut his teeth some more with the Phillies and would come back to Baltimore with familiarity of the current system in place, but also with new ideas and honed skills to manage the franchise.  Additionally, Proefrock's experience has largely been high level operations and contract decisions.  He is more business oriented than baseball oriented, which is something that could pair well with Buck.

My Ranking of These Five?

A.J. Preller
Rick Hahn
Dan Jennings
Tyrone Brooks
Scott Proefrock

I think Preller is a special talent.  I think Hahn could run things smoothly and am willing to blame many of that organizations' mistakes on Kenny Williams' apparent shoot from the hip strategy.  I am intrigued by Jennings' experience in scouting and developing players with Florida as well as there being some continuity with Joe Jordan.  Trust me, Jordan is not great, but he certainly is not a problem in Baltimore.  Brooks is an interesting wild card.  I find that intriguing, but am at the point here where I'd begin looking elsewhere.  Finally, I am not sure whether Proefrock has the skills to diagnose the Orioles' problems and be able to fix them.  Outside of that, I'm not sure to what extent a guy who is great at nuts and bolts is going to do for the organization.

I think that Proefrock, Preller, and Jennings are all options here.  I think it would also be accurate to say that those options are in that order.

04 August 2011

Cup of jO's (August 4, 2011): Callis on Bundy/Bauer deals

Game Summary
Orioles 2, Royals 6
Box Score / Play-by-Play / AP Recap

Baltimore's quest for its first AL series win in almost two months will last at least one more night, as Jeremy Guthrie and the Birds fell to Kansas City 6-2. In what has become a frighteningly routine occurrence when Guthrie takes the hill, the Baltimore bats were nowhere to be seen, with just three runners reaching base after the third inning (two by hit and one by strikeout). Baltimore will look to Zach Britton to break his streak of "meh" starts tonight; he's opposite Jeff Francis. STATS LLC preview here.

Of interest....
Trevor Bauer became the first top 10 pick in the 2011 draft to ink a deal when he agreed to a Major League contract with a $4.45 million bonus and a structure that could allow him to earn over $7 million through its duration. Bauer, selected one pick before Orioles top pick Dylan Bundy, was this year's recipient of USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award, as well as Baseball America's Collegiate Player of the Year Award. At first glance, it would seem that Orioles fans should be pleased that an advanced college arm selected in front of Bundy received such a "reasonable" package. After all, it would follow that a lower pick, with a riskier developmental profile, would likely be looking at a slightly lesser deal, right? Wrong.

As we have pointed out a number of times here at the Depot, bonus comps are rarely used among draft picks, and are almost never used among draft picks from different cross-sections (college vs. high school, pitcher vs. position player, two-sport vs. one-sport, etc.). Baseball America's Jim Callis sums up the issue well in a discussion with MASN's Steve Melewski:

"Bauer is a college pitcher but a high school guy (like Bundy) has got more leverage...I don't think it's a great comp (comparing Bauer and Bundy), even though they were picked back to back...I am sure the Orioles would love to tell Dylan Bundy's representation, 'Hey, Bauer got $4.45 (million) guaranteed, so Dylan has to come in under that.' But I don't think the Orioles would try to make that argument and I think B.B.I. Sports Group (Bundy's representatives) would laugh at them if they did...MLB likes to act like these deals impact everybody else and they really don't. As agents tell me, this isn't arbitration like the comps there; it doesn't work that way."
In reality, these bonuses are generally not very difficult to figure out. As someone with some experience in the process, I have found that generally history wins out and history tells us 1) bonuses for a player type are unlikely to improve be more than 40-50%, and only by that much in the rarest of circumstances, and 2) Andy MacPhail and the Orioles are unlikely to negotiate a record breaking deal.

Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg were back-to-back "generational" players who received total packages topping anything previously handed out. Those record breaking deals topped their closest comp (for Strasburg, college arm David Price; for Harper, high school position player Donavan Tate) by around 50%. Using that as a general guide, we set Bundy's "max" deal at around $10 million, or right around 50% more that high school arms Josh Beckett and Rick Porcello received. In reality, Bundy is not a "generational" talent -- that is, he doesn't stand easily above his contemporaries, as far as scouting profiles are concerned. Accordingly, we put his expected bonus close to either what Porcello earned: around $3.5 million guaranteed and a Major League deal worth upwards of $7 million, or what Jameson Taillon earned as the top high school arm in last year's draft: $6.5 million in bonus money and a Minor League deal.

Inflation might bring those numbers up some -- let's bump the window to $7.0 to 8.0 million. Baltimore's sensitivity to slot suggestions, or more accurately not outdistancing early slot projections by to wide a margin, could cause this number to fall some. Additionally, the Orioles have proven to be shrewd negotiators willing to draw a line in the sand when they have determined that a player is incentivized to sign and they have made what they consider to be a fair offer.

Historically, the largest Major League deal Baltimore has given to a high school pitcher is Adam Loewen's 2002 Major League deal that included about $3.5 million in bonus and another $800 thousand in guaranteed salary. Baltimore's most recent 1st Round high school arm Matt Hobgood received $2.4 million and a Minor League deal as the fifth overall selection in 2009. It's safe to say that any Major League deal signed by Bundy will eclipse $800 thousand in salary given to Loewen and likely that the bonus will improve -- if only nominally -- over the $3.5 million offered to Loewen.

While Bundy has leverage as high schooler with the option of going to college and re-entering the draft, that leverage is limited due to: 1) the risk associated with playing as an amateur for three more seasons before being able to declare again (he is a Texas commit and four-year college players must wait until their junior year, or the year in which they are 21 within 45 days of the draft), 2) the uncertainty as to how the new Collective Bargaining Agreement might change the draft landscape (including instituting slot bonuses for 1st Rounders), and 3) the fact that he has very little room to improve as a top 5 talent in 2011.

Risk 1 can be avoided by retracting his commitment to Texas and enrolling in a junior college, as junior college players are eligible for the draft each year, regardless of age or standing. Risk 2 has not come into play with the negotiated deals to which I have been privy this summer, though the risk is much larger for a top 5 pick looking at seven figures than it is to a 3rd or 4th Rounder receiving mid-six figures and about 5% over slot recommendation. The final risk is the largest, and ultimately negates any perceived leverage Bundy has.

While it's true that Bundy could go to a junior college and re-enter next year as a favorite to go 1st overall, that choice carries with it risk of injury, change in draft slot structure and the risk of under-performance. The latter is the hardest to drum home to players and their families, as most top talents have difficulty envisioning struggling.

So where do we end up? The lower threshold for bonus/ML deal package is probably around $6.5 million -- what Jameson Taillon received as the top pick last year. The upper threshold is probably around $8 million -- about a 14% improvement on the total ML package received by Porcello. When discussing this signing with two National League evaluators, the consensus was that Bundy would receive a ML deal due to his advanced profile, with a bonus likely in the $3.5-4 million range and salary structure bringing the total haul to $7 million. Whether Baltimore keeps the number slightly under that or Bundy pushes the number upwards of $8 million will depend on a myriad of factors, the most important of which is probably as simple as who blinks first on the eve of August 15th.

03 August 2011

2011 Trade Deadline: Koji Uehara, reality vs. possibility (Part 2)

In Part 1 of our look at the Koji Uehara deal, we broke down Baltimore's haul (Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis). In Part 2, we will take a closer look at each of our suggested deals for Uehara, provide some more indepth analysis of the players we were targeting and finally compare our hauls with Baltimore's actual get.

The possibilities...
Detroit Tigers
Our suggested packages:

  1. Chance Ruffin (rhp, Tigers - ML) and Drew Smyly (lhp, Lakeland - AA)

  2. Andy Oliver (lhp, Toledo - AAA) and Drew Smyly
Whether you prefer option 1 or option 2 depends on whether you prefer a good relief arm that could be stretched out to start, or a potential solid starter that could be good in relief. I lean to to the Chance Ruffin package, as it gives you a "now" bullpen arm that can step into the 6th/7th inning and push everyone else back an inning. Eventually I expect Ruffin to be a late-inning guy if he stays in the pen. There is a chance he grows into a mid-rotation arm if stretched out.

Scouting Summarys (Ruffin and Smyly):
Ruffin is a slightly undersized righty that showed four pitches as both a starter and a closer at the University of Texas. He has pitched exclusively in relief for the Tigers, logging just 45 innings between Double-A and Triple-A before being promoted last week. You can find some of my scouting video on Ruffin here.

At UT, Ruffin generally sat 90-92 mph with his fastball and has bumped that to 91-94 mph this summer. There is some armside life and he has shown an ability to spot it to both sides of the plate. His slider is a wipeout offering at its best, coming with tilt and late bite (generally low-80s velo). Though he hasn't shown them often as a pro, Ruffin also has an 11-to-5 curve and a change-up in his repertoire. The curve doesn't have great depth, but when he snaps a good one its tight and can change the eye-level of the hitter. His change is undeveloped, and stands as the biggest hurdle to converting to a starter.

His armslot is true three-quarters, and the arm action is fairly clean. He'll flash the ball to hitters on the backside, but the ill effects are minimal since his slider and fastball grip are not easily discernable. If he were to fold a change-up in the mix more often, he may need to address this.

Ruffin is a potential late-inning arm with closer stuff if he can continue to grow his fastball and slider command. Even if he does not make the conversion to starter, it would be nice to see him drop his curveball from time to time, as it could be another putaway pitch and at minimum would give him a true change-of-pace offering.

Smyly was a 2nd Round selection in the 2010 draft and has spent the bulk of 2011 in Lakeland (A+), where he averaged 8.6 SO/9 and 3.67 SO/BB. He has made one start at Double-A Erie, tossing seven shutout innings while striking out eight and allowing just six baserunners (four via hit, two via walk).

Long and lean, Smyly's strength is his ability to change speeds and create tough angles with his long limbs. His fastball vacillates between 87 and 92, sitting most comfortably 89-91 mph with solid bore. His curve works well out of a high slot and is an above-average to plus pitch when he's hitting his release. Smyly has made strides with his change-up, which was fringy at best at Alabama and likely tops out as an average offering when all is said and done.

Smyly's high arm slot and long arms helps to produce excellent plane on each of his offerings, and makes him very difficult to square-up. His landing could be softened some, particularly on his curve which he has a tendency not to finish. He'll come across his body some, as well, but all in all there is a lot to like about his easy motion and release.

Smyly could be a mid-rotation arm with continued improvement in his secondaries. His easy motion has allowed him to locate well -- even with inconsistent off-speed stuff -- and he offers enough physical projection that you could dream on another uptick in velo, as well.

Ruffin - Potential late inning arm, Major League ready, could handle late-inning work by 2012.
Smyly - Potential mid-rotation starter, Double-A in 2012, could be ML ready by late 2012/early 2013.

Texas Rangers
Our suggested packages:

  1. Robbie Erlin (lhp, Frisco - AA; Note: traded to San Diego, now San Antonio - AA)

  2. Mike Olt (3b, Myrtle Beach - A+)

  3. Jordan Akins (of, Rangers - Rookie) and Justin Grimm (rhp, Myrtle Beach - A+)
I ranked Mike Olt as a 3rd Round talent last spring, and the Rangers nabbed him in the Supplemental-1st Round, ultimately singing him for an affordable $715,000. In his first taste of pro ball he has improved his contact rate and his defense, while continuing to show good power. Still, at 22 years old in HiA, I have enough concerns about his probability to prefer the safety of option 1 or the disbursed risk of option 3. While option 3 may ultimately provide the highest upside, it probably makes more sense to focus on talent closer to contributing with the current "core" in place at Baltimore. That leaves Robbie Erlin as our suggested package with the Rangers.

Scouting Summarys (Erlin):
Robbie Erlin split his 2011 summer in the Rangers system between Myrtle Beach (A+) and Frisco (AA), before being moved to the Padres system as part of the Mike Adams trade. Erlin is undersized for a starter, listed at just 6-foot, 175-pounds, but possesses the arsenal and command to eventually land him in the middle of a Major League rotation. He has consistently hit a BB/9 rate around 1.0 as he's progressed through the Minors, while posting a career SO/9 rate over 9.0 through 246 innings (never dipping below 8.7 at any level).

His arsenal is lead by an upper-80s to low-90s fastball that tops around 92 mph -- an average offering that plays up because of Erlin's surgical placement. His secondaries consist of an upper-70s hard 1-to-7 breaker that flashes plus and is consistently and average or better offering, and a mid-70s change with fade and late drop. Both his breaking ball and change-up could be true plus offerings when all is said and done, and at minimum the diminutive lefty should boast three average or better weapons with easy plus to plus-plus command.

Erlin's mechanics are minimalist and clean, with excellent pacing, a short arm circle and consistent timing and release. He throws out of a high-three-quarters slot, giving his pitches some angle in spire of his size. With one of the prettiest motions you will find, there is little doubt that Erlin will continue to place pitches to the quadrants, which will help him make the necessary adjustments at Triple-A and eventually with the big club in San Diego.

Though he won't light up radar guns, Erlin is a strike thrower with two potential plus offerings in his curve and change-up, who shows elite command of all of his offerings and an advanced approach to pitching. He works with a purpose on the mound and will be providing valuable innings at the Major League level sooner rather than later. He tops out as a #3, but is a good bet to get there.

Erlin - Potential mid-rotation starter, Triple-A in 2012, could be ML ready by early 2012.

Philadelphia Phillies
Our suggested packages:

  1. Jonathan Singleton (1b, Lakeland - A+; Note: traded to Houston, now Lancaster - A+)

  2. Brody Colvin (rhp, Lakeland - A+)
Jonathan Singleton was included in the Hunter Pence deal, along with fellow Lakeland prospect and Futures Game participant Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid (Reading - AA), and thus is highly unlikely to have been available to land a relief arm. Similarly, it seems unlikely Philly would unload Brody Colvin after already moving one third of the Lakeland Trio (Cosart, Colvin and Trevor May). Accordingly, we aren't going to dig into the details on Singleton or Colvin...yet. Check in tomorrow, as we'll be writing up two larger deals potentially available to Baltimore -- one of which could have netted Colvin, Singelton and more.

Neither suggested package likely available for Uehara.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Our suggested packages:

  1. Zach Von Rosenberg (rhp, West Virginia - A)

  2. Starling Marte (of, Altoona - AA) and Brooks Pounders (rhp, West Virginia - A)

  3. Starling Marte and Jeff Locke (rhp, Altoona - AA)
None of the players listed above ended-up moved this past weekend. Further, Pittsburgh's acquisition of Derrek Lee (see yesterday's Cup of jO's) and Ryan Ludwick in exchange for organizational filler indicates that while the Bucs are still taking 2011 seriously, they aren't going to sacrifice any significant future pieces for a one year push. That leaves us dubious that any of the above would seriously be shopped for a relief arm. There were rumors that the Pirates were in on some of the big arms floating around, but we are comfortable striking them from consideration given what actually transpired at the deadline.

Unlikely to move suggested players for Uehara.

Settling on our deal...
After narrowing our search and providing details on our targets, we are left with two potential packages for Uehara:

  1. Uehara to the Tigers for Chance Ruffin and Drew Smyly

  2. Uehara to the Rangers for Robbie Erlin
Saying this, we of course note that there is no guarantee that the Tigers or the Rangers would have agreed to these terms. It is our best estimation based on our own player evaluation, our analysis of what transpired at the deadline, and our analysis of the needs of all teams involved.

Erlin was moved to San Diego along with fellow Double-A arm Joe Wieland in exchange for relief pitching. Wieland's growth in 2011 puts him closer to Erlin in "value" now than he was at the beginning of the season, and it is not a stretch to think that had Baltimore pushed for Erlin they could have received him.

All signs indicate that Ruffin is to be the "player to be named later" in the deal that brought Doug Fister and David Pauley over from Seattle. With Francisco Martinez anchoring that trade from the Detroit side, it's certainly possible that the Tigers could have found another player -- perhaps Andy Oliver -- to include in the Seattle package. Further, the Tigers would have had no need for Pauley with Koji in pocket, so perhaps no player would have been needed to sub into that deal at all.

The benefit of the Detroit deal is two-fold: 1) you get back two pieces, each of which could be above-average Major Leaguers, and 2) you get a ready replacement for Uehara in the pen. The benefit of the Texas deal is the high-probability that Erlin will find success, given his command and approach. With the Orioles's influx of young arms in place and recently stumbling at the Major League level, and with many of them struggling in particular with command, the thought of adding a 1 BB/9 arm to the mix at some point next year is too good to pass on. Both packages are good value for Koji, but if we make the call we go with Erlin.

Camden Depot suggested trade:
Koji Uehara (rhp, ML) to Texas Rangers
Robbie Erlin (rhp, AA) to Baltimore Orioles

It's a toss-up whether we like Erlin more, less, or about the same as the Tommy Hunter/Chris Davis package actually received. There is big upside in Davis's bat and Hunter has already shown success as a starter and reliever in the pitcher-friendly Ballpark in Arlington. It will be interesting to compare these three over the next four years and revisit this post once everything shakes out.

Next up:
Did Baltimore miss the boat on a potential blockbuster? Another two part series exploring a few deals larger in structure and centered on two different O's.

Cup of jO's (August 3, 2011): Britt answers on Pie's antics

Game Summary
Box Score / Play-by-Play / AP Recap

Alfredo Simon shut down the Royals over seven innings, walking just one run on four hits and a walk. Tommy Hunter, acquired in the Koji Uehara deal, made his first appearance with the club, allowing two singles and a run. Chris Davis hit his first homerun as an Oriole, allowing an Everrett Teaford fastball to travel deep on the outer half before muscling it out to the opposite field. It was a good night all around for the Birds, who take a step towards winning their first AL series since the first week of June. Jeremy Guthrie takes the mound tonight opposite former 1st Rounder Luke Hochevar; you can check out the STATS LLC game preview here.

Of interest....
Last week Jon touched on Felix Pie's peculiar habit of chasing down batting helmets tossed during walk off celebrations. Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com asked Felix about this ritual and reported her findings at Britt's Bird Watch:

“It’s a touchdown,” Pie said of grabbing the helmet in celebratory glee. “It’s like we scored a touchdown.”
Makes perfect sense to me. Hopefully we'll get a chance to see a few more touchdown celebrations in 2011. When we do, make sure to keep your eye on #18.

01 August 2011

Cup of jO's (August 1, 2011): Derrek Lee dump

Game Summary
Orioles 2, Yankees 4
Box Score / Play-by-Play / AP Recap

Baltimore dropped the final game of the series to the Bombers and finish the AL East portion of their road trip with a 2-5 record against Toronto and New York. The Birds round out July without winning a single series and have now gone almost two months since winning a series against an AL opponent. They were outscored 33-10 in the Bronx.

Next up is Kansas City -- Alfredo Simon will toe the rubber opposite former Oriole Bruce Chen on Tuesday night in the opening game of a three-game set.

Of interest...
In addition to trading stopper Koji Uehara this past weekend, Derrek Lee was moved to Pittsburgh in exchange for first baseman Aaron Baker, a 23-year old org bat who has spent 2011 in the A-Advanced Florida State League. Baker has a tick above-average raw pop and a thick frame portending impressive batting practice displays. His bat speed is merely "okay", and it's unlikely he amounts to more than an organizational piece capable of playing a solid first base and providing average production until he runs into advanced arms.

While the return is nominal, no one really expected a haul for the veteran Lee, who has struggled through a disappointing 2011 posting a triple-slash line of .246/.302/.404 over 364 plate appearances. At the same time, Orioles fans have much to celebrate with this transaction. With a tip of the hat to Mr. Lee for serving his sentence in Charm City, and best wishes as he departs for a NL Central pennant race as the second newest member of the Bucs (Pittsburgh subsequently acquired Ryan Ludwick from the Padres), Baltimoreans can take away two big positives from the former All-Star's departure.

First and foremost, this signals that Andy MacPhail and the brain trust coordinating the personnel decisions appear to truly be dedicated to giving Chris Davis every chance to get comfortable and show what he has as a starting first baseman. This was a large concern following the Uehara deal, as noted in Part 1 of our Koji trade analysis, and it is terrific news that the organization is going to make at least a two month commitment to figuring out whether or not Davis looks like a future contributor.

Secondly, Baltimore should be saving a little over one million dollars once cash considerations on the Lee deal are taken into account. Hopefully we will see that saved money funneled into draft signings. It would be a nice chunk of change to tack on to the offer to Georgia commit Nicky Delmonico (3b, Farragut HS, Knoxville, Tenn.) or enough to sign TCU outfielder Jason Coats outright (with some jingle left over). Of course, it's possible that the freed-up cash is required to meet 1st Rounder Dylan Bundy's immense asking price, but with plenty of other troubles in Birdland we prefer to remain positive. Here's to looking back on August 16th and fondly remembering when Mr. MacPhail was able to move Derrek Lee for an org bat and an overslot signing or two.

Note: We will not be running a "possibilities" piece on the Lee deal. Baltimore achieved a solid salary dump -- little more needs to fleshed out here. We will discuss Koji a bit more today (promise) and will also share some thoughts on what, if any, other moves would have been nice to see prior to yesterday's 4pm Eastern trade deadline.

31 July 2011

2011 Trade Deadline: Koji Uehara, reality vs. possibility (Part 1)

In our last discussion of Koji Uehara we laid out some potential suitors and target packages we would expect attainable in exchange for one of the top relievers this summer. Between then and now, Koji was shipped off to the Texas Rangers for two reasonably young players ready to step in at the Major League level -- Chris Davis (cof/cif) and Tommy Hunter (rhp). Below we'll examine this return. This afternoon we will finish with our analysis as to what we would have liked to have seen done, as relates to Uehara.

Reality: Koji for Davis and Hunter
The trade package that Andy MacPhail landed ends up a very solid return from a value standpoint. Baltimore sold high on a mid-30s relief arm with one more year of control ready to vest ($4 million) and obtained two mid-20s talents with no need for any more time in the Minors. My assumption is that the deal was structured around Uehara for Hunter, with Baltimore pushing for Davis's inclusion and Texas agreeing in exchange for the O's picking-up $2 million of Koji's 2012 salary. The $2 million is not insignificant in this context, but even as a fringe-average ML bat Davis will be worth more than that over his next four seasons under control.

Chris Davis (corner infield/corner outfield)
Most prospect enthusiasts are well aware that Davis's calling card is his elite raw power, which grades as a 75/80 on the scouting scale. The issue comes in trying to get that raw power to manifest in Major League game action, as he's long to contact with a max effort swing. This forces Davis to commit early to pitches and has lead to far too many empty swings chasing off-speed pitches at the Big League level. If Davis can make some adjustments and shorten his swing, he should see a decrease in strikeouts, which in turn should give him extra contact opportunities to get his power involved. There is Mark Reynolds upside, but it is going to take just short of an overhaul in approach and swing. As a secondary piece to the deal, this is a fine risk, but the odds are against Davis until he proves he has the ability to start making adjustments.

Defensively, Davis has soft hands at first base, and enough athleticism to fill in at a corner outfield spot or even at third. While his athleticism gives him enough flexibility to move around some, his best fit is at the three spot, and it seems unlikely he tops out at more than a fringe average defender in the other three corners.

Tommy Hunter (rhp)
Hunter is an established back-end starter with five more years of control before he can leave via free agency. Not a bad start, eh? In fact, that alone is certain "enough" return on Koji to make this a smart deal. Hunter is a big, durable body with an easy arm and uncomplicated motion. His fastball lives in the 89-92 range, but can bump as high as 96 mph when he's reaching back for it. He'll drop an upper-70s breaker for a different look, he commands the solid average pitch well enough. His change-up is also a legit average Major League offering, and when he turns it over he gets some fade.

While Hunter boasts a true average arsenal and commands each of his three offerings, his ceiling is limited due to his lack of a true out pitch and a corresponding inability to miss bats. Baltimore is hoping for a durable innings-eater that consistently will get them 6 or 7 innings a start. With continued growth we could see Hunter put together a season or two of legit #3 production, placing him on par with the likes of Jake Arrieta from a "value" standpoint. All-in-all a nice arm to have under control for the next four seasons, and someone that will hopefully provide some stability at the #4 spot while Baltimore waits for Matusz, Britton and perhaps Tillman and Arrieta to take a step forward.

Final thoughts
It is impossible to look at the deal and consider it a loss for the O's. In return for a relief arm with no real role in the club's future, Baltimore landed two 25 year olds -- one with a bit of upside and not a lot of probability, and the other likely to be a solid contributor but not much more than that. Further, adding $2 million to the deal is a no brainer if it gets you back Davis. It is another strong value package landed by MacPhail and another feather in his "good trade" hat.

The biggest challenge for Baltimore is going to be not falling into bad habits moving forward. While the return for the deal is solid, much of it is negated if Baltimore turns around and commits another $5-7 million per year on a two or three year deal for more relief pitching this off-season. Further, the Orioles can't approach developing Davis the same way that they have Nolan Reimold. Davis needs to play and the Orioles need to see what they have in the once promising slugger. Considering the monster year Davis has had at Triple-A Round Rock, it would behoove Buck Showalter to slide Davis right into the recently vacated hole at first base (discussion of the Derreck Lee trade to follow) and see where things stand come October.

Our preferred return for Koji would have been a more forward thinking package, sacrificing some proximity to the Majors for additional upside. One of Davis or Hunter and one higher upside talent, further away, would have been a boon. The same, this is hardly a package to be disappointed in. Hopefully the pro scouts pushing for Davis have identified what they would like fixed, and the Orioles end-up with two two 30-35 homerun run bats at the infield corners in 2012.

In a bit we'll post our suggested trade packages for Koji and provide some more info on the players we were hoping to see come back to the Birds.

Cup of jO's: Felix Pie's Celebration Technique

We do have some trade deadline perspective to share, but first . . . I noticed from an Orioles' message board that Felix Pie celebrates home runs in a strange way.

Click on the image and watch the helmet.
 My guess is that is Pie lost a bet at some point this season and has to chase down helmets.

Anyone have a better guess?

27 July 2011

Colby Rasmus and the Orioles

In a series of trades between three teams, Colby Rasmus wound up with the Blue Jays.  Unlike last year, the Jays used pieces that the Orioles have as well.  This differs from last year when the Jays acquired the allegedly troublesome Yunel Escobar for Alex Gonzalez.  The Orioles did not have a cheap "proven" veteran at shortstop to offer, so I had little to write about that.  However, the Jays used the following players to get Colby Rasmus and some most likely forgettable bullpen arms:

RHSP Edwin Jackson (acquired from ChiSox)
RHRP Octavio Dotel (can be bought out at end of season)
LHRP Mark Rzepczynski
OF Corey Patterson
3 players to be named or cash

It boils down to a good, but not great starting pitcher; a right handed relief pitcher having a great season; a good young relief pitcher, a lower rung outfielder who can play every position, and a bunch of organizational guys or money.  I'd say that here are the corresponding players from the Orioles organization:

RHSP Jeremy Guthrie (extra year of control)
RHRP Koji Uehara (extra year of control)
RHRP Jim Johnson
OF Felix Pie
3 relatively unimportant players or cash

I would put Guthrie ahead of Edwin Jackson here by a nudge.  Guthrie playing for a solid team should see his wins bump up, which means he should be a relative good deal this fall during arbitration and potentially a solid type B level free agent the following season.  Koji Uehara costs about the same as Octavio Dotel and is likely to be a type A free agent in a little over a year (though the compensation might not be as good as it will be at the end of this season, so that might be a push).  Jim Johnson is not a lefty, but is probably a better pitcher than Rzep.  The rest is about the same.  I think these are pretty similar packages.

Of course, we have to ask: would the Orioles benefit from having Colby Rasmus?

The Orioles' outfield next year would look like this:
Colby Rasmus LF 260/340/450 20hr
Adam Jones CF 280/330/470 20hr
Nick Markakis RF 300/350/420 15hr

That may not look like much, but those numbers are a vast improvement over this year.  Orioles' left fielders have a collective projected WAR of -2.0 while the above projected line would be about 3.5 WAR.  That would be a swing of about 5 wins for the outfield alone.  Guthrie alone is likely a loss of 3-4 WAR with Koji and Johnson account for about 2-3 WAR.  The Cardinals should make out in the short term.  The Orioles would like break even in 2013 and then take the lead in 2014, Rasmus' last controlled year.  It looks like a fair and useful deal to both sides.  The Cardinals get good performance cheaply over a couple years while the Orioles try to develop an all star potential.

With free agency, the loss of Guthrie and Koji/Johnson may not be as significant.  Similar production might be gained by signing either Edwin Jackson or Mark Buehrle as a starter and someone like Jon Rauch, Jason Frasor, or Octavio Dotel.  That will require an additional expenditure of around 5-8 MM more next year with the difference between the two sets of players. 

Oh well.  Maybe MacPhail has something up his sleeve.

Cup of jO's (July 27, 2011): Delay

Apologies for the delay in content. We will be up and running again by this evening. Emergencies at the "full time" gig are pushing things back some. We appreciate your patience; feel free to hit up me and Jon on Twitter (@CamdenDepot or @NickJFaleris) and we'll make sure to carve out some time to answer trade deadline questions there until we are back up on the blog.


26 July 2011

Cup of jO's (July 26, 2011): Trading Koji Uehara

Game wrap
No game.

Travel day last night, so we skip the game comments for today. Here's the link for STATS LLC's preview of the opening game of the Baltimore/Toronto series.

Of interest...

All week we'll be using the morning "Cup of jO's" space to explore the trades we think make sense for the O's as the tradeline approaches. To recap, Jon and I have reached the conclusion that this team needs to refresh it's store of young, price controlled players. It isn't time for a "tear it down and build it up" approach yet, but there needs to be an infusion of cheaper talent or the team is simply going to run out of payroll space before they can push their overall talent level pass the low-80s win mark.

Today we look at Koji Uehara. Last week Jon gave a nice synopsis of the pros and cons of trading Koji, and the type of return he would need in order to pull the trigger. Koji's contract includes a reasonable option that will kick in at some point in August, giving the acquiring team another year of cheap performance. Jon takes a sensible approach to figuring out the variables in play in determining expected return:

He is certainly always a risk to be injured, but if the tradeoff is a marginal B level prospect now vs a marginal B level prospect next year or free agent compensation... it makes some sense to delay a deal until the next trade deadline. Added to this, there sure are a lot of right handed relievers on the market right now. You will need a team that has blinders on and focus solely on Koji or the team is going to take in something of little value.

With the exception of a truly elite talent, I'm strongly in favor of moving relief arms when you think they have hit the apex of their value. We are there with Koji. Accordingly, what we are targeting here is one B/B+ prospect and perhaps a throw-in C/C- prospect. But I'm not walking away if it's simply a 1-for-1 resulting in a solid future regular. Using Jon's suggested target teams, and a couple more I think are in play, these are the potential returns I'd be looking for:

Detroit Tigers
1. Chance Ruffin (rhp, Tigers - ML) Ruffin was just promoted and got roughed up in his debut. He's a possible future set-up man who we'll explore in more detail this evening.

2. Andy Oliver (lhp, Toledo - AAA) Oliver has logged some Major League time but has yet to stick upon promotion. He's a potential mid-rotation starter or lefty set-up man, depending on how his development rounds out.

3. Drew Smyly (lhp, Lakeland - A+) Smyly is a projectable lefty with a chance for three average or better offerings. Another potential mid-rotation arm.

Because the Tigers are also shopping for starters, we will be discussing a couple more players both in the context of a Jeremy Guthrie trade, and our "expanded trade" talk at the end of the week.

Suggested Package: Andy Oliver/Chance Ruffin and Drew Smyly

Texas Rangers
1. Michael Olt (3b, Myrtle Beach - A+) Olt has made strides over the past 12 months to both improve his defense and his contact ability at the plate. His calling card is big power, a big need for the O's, but his stock may be rising too quickly for Baltimore to land him in a Koji deal.

2. Jordan Akins (of, Rangers - Rookie) Akins is enjoying a nice year with the Rangers Arizona League Rookie squad. He's a raw but promising four tool player with an excellent chance to stay in center due to his athleticism, foot speed and arm strength. He'll require development, but would be a nice get as part of a 2-for-1.

3. Justin Grimm (rhp, Myrtle Beach - A+) Grimm was an overslot signing in the fifth round of last year's draft, showing mixed results at Myrtle Beach after cruising through the Sally League to start the year. He's being developed as a starter, and has the repertoire and size for it, but might ultimately fit best in a late inning role.

4. Andrew Clark (1b, Hickory - A) Clark, as noted by Jon, is old for the league but doing what he needs to to continue to move up the system. He's a second piece target, but one that should be attainable considering Texas has not yet invested much in him -- monetarily or developmentally.

5. Robbie Erlin (lhp, Frisco - AA) Erlin hasn't found a consistent grove at Frisco, but the stuff is still there. It could be a long shot, but if Baltimore can pry Erlin away he could give the O's solid mid-rotation production from the left side. Most importantly, he could be a much needed strike thrower for the Birds.

Jon mentioned Tanner Scheppers in his piece, but back issues have limited Schep to just 20 IP this year between AA and AAA, and it isn't a risk I'd be willing to take on at this point. There is a nice mix of talent here from which to piece together a deal. The availability of some higher profile arms (such as Heath Bell and Mike Adams) could leave Texas reticent to move their more valuable pieces.

Suggested Package: Robbie Erlin; Mike Olt; Jordan Akins and Justin Grimm

Philadelphia Phillies
1. Jonathan Singleton (1b/of, Clearwater - A+) This seems like a big stretch, but we'll pay it lip service since he was rumored to be available for relief help. Singleton had a breakout year last year before backsliding some here in 2011. He's a potential corner power bat that Baltimore would likely slide back to first base (he's currently in left due to the Ryan Howard contract).

2. Brody Colvin (rhp, Clearwater - A+) A Camden Depot favorite (and part of our "Shadow System"), Colvin missed time this year due to some back troubles not considered to be serious. He is a power arm that would pair up with Bobby Bundy to form a nice 1-2 at Bowie next year.

There is not much I see Philly parting with for Koji, but we will be revisiting the system later this week when we discuss our "expanded trade" talk.

Suggested Package: Jonathan Singleton or Brody Colvin

Pittsburgh Pirates
1. Starling Marte (of, Altoona - AA) Marte has held his own in Double-A, but continues to swing through too many pitches to make full use of his plus-plus foot speed. With McCutchen handling center field at the Major League level, Pittsburgh might be willing to part with the high upside, high risk Marte. His arm, reads and routes should make him an above-average defender in center, long term, and a useful fourth outfielder at minimum.

2. Zach Von Rosenberg (rhp, West Virginia - A) Von Rosenberg is currently teamed up with top Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon at West Virginia, and he may be off the table if Pittsburgh is committed to bringing these two arms along together. But if the Pirates are looking to try and pry open their window of competitiveness a year early, they may be willing to sacrifice one of their low-Minors arms in order to solidify the back-end of their pen for the next 1.5 years. Von Rosenberg is the obvious choice, with more tied to his projectability than "now" stuff, and more highly touted Stetson Allie and Nick Kingham following close behind at short-season State College.

3. Jeff Locke (rhp, Altoona - AA) Locke is a back-end arm as a starter, but could be useful in the pen in short order, due to a deceptive motion and running two-seamer. He's a toss-in piece, and with his development as a starter stuttering the Pirates shouldn't have an issue providing him with a fresh start somewhere else.

4. Brooks Pounders (rhp, West Virginia - A) Pounders is another promising young arm at West Virginia, pitching primarily out of the pen this year. He has potential as a mid-rotation to back-end arm down the line off the strength of his secondaries and workhorse build.

The Pirates aren't likely to mortgage the future in order to add a relief arm -- even one as impressive as Uehara this year. Still, there is a chance for Baltimore to take a stab at some upside talent here. Von Rosenberg is unlikely to be moved, but considering the depth of arms being grown in the Pirates system, maybe they bite.

Suggested Packages: Zach Von Rosenberg; Starling Marte and Brooks Pounders/Jeff Locke

We will touch on our suggested packages later tonight, with more in-depth scouting reports on our targeted acquisitions. Additionally, we'll discuss Uehara again later this weeke in the context of potential larger deals with St. Louis, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta and Arizona, in our "expanded trade" posts.

25 July 2011

Dempsey's Army Presents: Last Week in Chats (June 18 - July 25, 2011)

Monday afternoons Heath from Dempsey's Army will recount all things Baltimore Orioles from the previous week's chats.  It is a convenient way to learn what national writers think about specific issues that relate to the Orioles.

Jonah Keri, FanGraphs.com

4:39 Comment From Oriole Bird
I'm a little surprised that Hardy didn't test the offseason free-agent waters. He took 3 years / $22+ million from the O's. Thoughts?

4:39 Jonah Keri:
Good deal for both sides. Hardy isn't young and has fought injuries in the past, would be pretty cavalier to spit on $22M, considering he and his descendants would then be set for life.

David Schoenfiled, ESPN

Peter (Baltimore)
Curious as to your thoughts regarding the JJ Hardy extension.

David Schoenfield (1:10 PM)
I wrote a quick blog on it yesterday. Thought it was a solid deal for the Orioles, didn't really overpay. Hardy's health history makes it a little risky but there aren't many decent shortstops right now. Hardy will hold down the fort until Manny Machado is ready.

John (NY)
Hey David, I thought the Orioles did kind of overpay for Hardy. Yunel Escobar just got 2 years and 10 million and he's arguably the superior SS. In my mind, Baltimore would have been better served trading Hardy to potentially speed up their rebuilding process.

David Schoenfield (1:27 PM)
Yeah, I didn't think it was a great deal or anything. TBut players aren't directly comparable since Escobar wasn't being paid for his free agent years. If Escobar was a FA, he'd get more than $7 million per year.

Joey (Catonsville)
The O's are sellers, but have nothing to sell. Do Koji and D. Lee get moved?

David Schoenfield (2:19 PM)
I think Koji and Guthrie are the only guys they can sell and get something in return. Maybe Scott if he comes of the DL and shows he's healthy, but he hasn't hit much this year. Lee and Vlad won't much more than a C prospect.

Jack Moore, FanGraphs.com

12:38 Comment From frozendesert
Adam Jones... good? Great? Worth a Teheran or Vizcaino/Salcedo?

12:40 Jack Moore:
I'd stick with good. Love the bat, the glove doesn't appear to be that great in center field right now, and it's the third straight year UZR has graded him poorly. This time DRS is in on it too. Still not the end-all be-all, of course, and if his defense in CF is as-advertised, he is great. I'm just not sure on that front.

12:53 Comment From Dan
From your Hardy article...isn't it a bit naive to say the Orioles have no chance at being competitve within the next 3 years? Couldn't the same have been said about the Pirates before this year and the Padres before last year. 3 years is a long time...

12:55 Jack Moore: Well I used the words "don't appear to have legitimate aspirations..." I don't think too many people thought the Pirates had legitimate aspirations this year, right? Obviously, anything's possible. I was more trying to refute the argument that Hardy doesn't make sense for a non-contender, though.

Jim Callis, Baseball America

Shoshana (Boston):
Any prospects for O's fans to get excited about (already in the system) besides Schoop and Machado?

Jim Callis:
If you can wait until Aug. 15, Dylan Bundy. Machado and Schoop are the clear current standouts.

Keith Law, ESPN

Joshua (Annapolis, MD)
Jon Schoop's been struggling since his promotion, you're the one guy out there I see hyping him. What are you seeing that others must be missing?

Klaw (2:34 PM)
He's 19 in high-A - and the approach is fine. I'm talking about him because the tools point to potential stardom, not because of performance.

Ian (Boston)
What do you think is the most likely cause (realizing it most likely is a combination of factors) for the Orioles problems getting productivity from their prospects? Al East, Org issues, bad luck?

Klaw (3:08 PM)
Put it this way: If I took over as GM tomorrow, the first order of business would be to assume this was the organization's fault and to identify the cause(s). You can't move forward until that happens.

Matt Eddy, Baseball America

Dylan Bundy (OK):
No love for my brother's CG this week?

Matthew Eddy:
Hard to argue against High-A RHP Bobby Bundy's gem: 9 innings, 3 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts. He's part of the Hot Sheet extended family.

Wendy (Miami):
If you had to choose between Machado and Profar as the SS for your fantasy team, who wins and why?

Matthew Eddy:
With all due respect to Profar, I give the nod to Machado at this point because I think the offensive upside is higher. He could hit in the vicinity of .300 with 20 homers, though nobody seems to think he'll be anything more than average on defense.

Mike Ferrin, Baseball Prospectus

Dennis (LA):
How much do you think getting bullpen help would help the Angels make the post-season this year? They've already said they don't want to pay for the top-tier guys like Adams or Bell. What other relievers are out there that might make a difference? Koji Uehara?

Mike Ferrin:
Uehara or maybe Jim Johnson. I mean, there are about 424 available right handed relievers, and most of those are second tier guys. Thing about relievers is, let's say you get a Chad Qualls. Qualls could go out for 20IP and give up 2ER or Give up 14ER. It's too tough to predict with the less than elite players, of which there are very few. So, you bring in someone(s) with good stuff who's pitching well & you cross your fingers and pray.

Jayson Stark, ESPN

Adam (charm city)
can you please just say one thing about baltimore in this chat?

Jayson Stark (1:59 PM)
Sure. Great town. Great ballpark. And they're going to find a taker for Uehara. That's three things!

Cup of jO's (July 25, 2011): Trade Deadline Agenda

Game Wrap
Angels 9, Orioles 3
Box Score / Play-by-Play / AP Recap

Baltimore has not won a series since taking two of three from Cincinnati during the final week of June, and have dropped nine of their last eleven series (splitting the most recent four game set with Cleveland, in addition to the series win against the Reds). Baltimore hits the road next, with three games in Toronto, four in New York and three in Kansas City. Today is a travel day for the Birds -- tomorrow Jake Arrieta matches-up against Brandon Marrow and the Jays.

Of Interest...
It's that time of year where fans of first place and last place teams alike can get excited. Contenders are looking to add that last piece or two to help with the final push to the playoffs. Those out of contention have a chance to move short terms assets in exchange for players more likely to be contributors over the long haul. Baltimore, of course, falls into the latter category and should be looking to move pieces of value in order to help build up competitive core over the next season or two. However, we are going to think outside of the box a little and suggest a couple of "buyer" moves that we hope would speed up the re-stock (can't bring myself to type "rebuild" again).

Here is our tentative schedule for the week -- each morning we will introduce a potential trade partner, and later that day we'll dig into the trade possibilities (including scouting reports on trade targets we've had an opportunity to take a more in depth look at).

MON - Framing our moves, what we hope to accomplish
TUE - Potential trades with the Reds
WED - Potential trades with the Cardinals
THU - Potential trades with the Twins and Tigers
FRI - Potential trades with the Padres and Rockies

24 July 2011

The Science of Baseball: July 24, 2011 (just SLAP tears)

Today I am only writing about SLAP tears in honor of Chorye Spoone.

Labrum Tear
Chorye Spoone was designated for assignment this past week.  He was a fringe prospect when he emerged as a potential up and comer with a solid season at Frederick in 2007.  However, after a handful of games in Bowie the following season he was diagnosed with a type II SLAP tear and had surgery to repair.  As most of us baseball folk are aware, there is a great fear of a busted labrum.  After his surgery, Spoone never returned to the promised he once showed.  That is the common result.  The hope is for a Chris Carpenter moment.  He suffered a torn labrum and underwent surgery in 2002.  To say his success is a rarity is a hyperbole full of hope.  The study highlighted today focuses on SLAP tear recovery after surgery.

Results of arthroscopic repair of type II superior labral anterior posterior lesions in overhead athletes.
BJ Neuman et al.
American Journal of Sports Medicine
In Press

In the study above, Neuman and his co-authors focused on how athletes performed in their respective sports several years after undergoing surgery for a type II SLAP tear.  The athletes were all overhand athletes ranging from baseball to javelin.  The mean follow up of these athletes was 3.5 years and athletes were put through basic and surveys to determine their satisfaction with the procedure as well as their ability to once again compete at a high level.  Although the surgery was shown to permit the injured athletes to return to their normal day to day lives, it was difficult for them to return to their elite level of throwing.  The paper reports a return of 79.5% of individuals returning to pre-injury ability for baseball and softball players.  That seems awfully high to me as I understand the data being reported.  I imagine that utilizing something other than a questionnaire would find that far fewer athletes return from this surgery as strong as they were before the injury.  We just have too many examples of ruined careers to point toward.  However, 79.5% is about the same level as has been reported in more short term studies like Ides et al 2005 (75%).

Here is my incomplete list of labrum tears and results:
Kurt Ainsworth - 2005, career ender
Alberto Arias - 2009, looks like a career ender
Jose Ascaino - 2009, does not look good
Erik Bedard - 2009, very good but cannot stay healthy
Joaquin Benoit - 2009, successful comeback somewhat
John Van Benschoten - 2005, never returned to his former level
Kris Benson - 2007, career ender
Travis Blackley - 2005, never the same level of performance though disputable
Jung Bong - 2004, career tapered off (short recovery maybe a minor labrum issue)
Boof Bonser - 2009, arguably a career ender
Bryan Bullington - 2005, never the same stuff that he had before
Chris Carpenter - 2002, success
Matt Clement - 2006, career ender
Omat Daal - 2004, arguably a career ender
Scott Elarton - 2008, career ender
Kelvim Escobar - 2008, career ender
Jeff Francis - 2009, lower peripherals but similar results (arguably having his worst season)
Travis Harper - 2007, career ender
Dirk Hayhurst - 2010, looks about the same
Matt Hensley - 2005, career ender
Luke Hudson - 2003, basically returned
Eric Hurley - 2008, arguably career ender but recent skull fracture might be more so
Casey Jannsen - 2008, came back
Steve Karsay - 2004, career ender
Brian Lawrence - 2006, career ender
Curt Leskanic - 2002, returned to normal
Dustin McGowan - 2008, starting to pitch again
Gil Meche - 2001, he came back
Joe Nelson - 2007, kind of came back
Rob Nenn - 2004, career ender
Troy Patton - 2008, not the same pitcher
Mark Prior - 2006, career ender
Luke Prokopec - 2002, career ender
Aaron Rakers - 2006, career ender
Ricardo Rincon - 2006, career ender
Jason Schmidt - 2007, career ender
Mike Sirotka - 2000, career ender
Brandon Webb - 2009, career ender
Paul Wilson - 2005, career ender

I have 39 pitchers there.  I count 10 players who have come back and provided some worth.  The return rate would be 25.6% using that population above.  That is quite different from an 80% return rate somewhat suggested in the article above.  It may be that my group above includes a large number of type III tears (complete tears).