27 May 2012

Adam Jones' extension and the Orioles competing in 2012 and 2013

In the wake of the Adam Jones signing, I think back to the column I wrote back in January.  In that column, I came up with the following values for his 2012-2014 seasons based on players with similar numbers:
85th: 308/369/520; 18 WAR; ~80MM
50th: 278/334/451; 11 WAR; ~50MM
15th: 248/300/382; 4.5 WAR; ~21MM
Those values were assuming market value, so really only the final season would really fall under market value.  This season Jones is making 6.15MM.  Next year he will make 10.5MM when you include his signing bonus and then 13MM for a total of almost 30MM over these next three seasons.  By signing Jones, the club has probably saved somewhere between 2-5MM in 2014.  I did not run my analysis beyond those 2015 to 2018 dates to determine the value there.  I have him worth about 50MM over 2015 to 2018 based on my own approximation with 2017 and 2018 with him in left field.

To line them up, the Orioles are paying 85.5MM over 2013 to 2018.  I have Jones' mid-range projection over that period being worth 80MM.  If Jones hits the 85th percentile from that January column, then you are looking at a worth of about 134MM.  Simply put, I think the Orioles are probably going to get even value for Jones, maybe a little more depending on how free agency money shifts with the introduction of new TV money flooding several markets.

On a side note, it is nice to see how these projections come close to what the Orioles wind up doing.  Back in 2008, I came up with Nick Markakis earning an extension of 6 years at 66.01MM.  He wound up with a 6 year deal at 66.1MM.  That one has not worked out so well.  The Orioles from 2009 to 2011 got out of Markakis' arbitration years by paying him 21.05MM while his arbitration adjusted cost came to 18.72MM.  There is a decent chance he provides at cost return, but also a good shot at a subpar performance level.

This leads me to think about the team in general, the rest of this season, and next year.  With a payroll remarkably below what the Red Sox and Yankees have, the Orioles need to either get great value when they commit to a player or have solid 0-3 year player production.  A market value team need a total WAR of about 42 wins above replacement to be competitive and to get that solely at market value would cost roughly 210MM.  With that in mind the Orioles need to find some good cheap players or find an undervalue piece in the market.

The three weakest areas of the team are left field, first base, third base, and starting pitching (who doesn't have a weakness at starting pitching).  What I mean by weakest is that these are the areas where the greatest improvement could be found. 

Left fielders have been producing offensively at a level about 15% below league average.  Much of that can be put at the feet of Endy Chavez who was supposed to compensate that with plus defense.  Instead, the Orioles have delivered with league average defense according to UZR (blah blah blah small sample size, but I think having looked out there that defense has not been a strong suit in left field no matter who has played there).  Currently, Xavier Avery is picking up with promise of being a useful left fielder, but he looks more like a 4th outfielder to me still.  He is still learning how to play and if he figures it out he could be an above average starter.  His approach at the plate looks defensive and he tends to wander around in the field.  Nolan Reimold is another player who has shown promise, but it is difficult to truly rely on him.  He flashes above average potential, but gets into severe injury ridden ruts.  He is 28 and has never had a season where he was not dealing with a nagging injury and only two seasons where he managed to play almost a full season (2008 and 2009).

The players I immediately think of as short term guys for left field who could greatly improve the team would be the following:
Free Agents at the End of This Year
Melky Cabrera, Giants - The Giants are sitting second in the NL West so it will be a while before they consider breaking down the team.  However, Cabrera is a player to keep your eye on.  He is capable of playing left and right field as well as fill in for center.  Cabrera might be a concern as he let himself get out of shape before getting serious with conditioning, but he could be a solid target and make for a good player to extend for four years or so.  He probably adds about one to two wins on top of the team's in house options.
Nick Swisher, Yankees - Swisher is not going anywhere within the season, but he may be an option once the season concludes.  He has struggled so far this year, but has been relatively consistent.  He plays an average left and right field as well as can man first base.  His ability to take a walk may make him an early target of Duquette's.
Andre Either, Dodgers - Either has had some disagreements with the Dodger front brass, but he too will certainly not be dealt as the Dodgers are enjoying great success.  He is more of a stander than a fielder, but his bat could prove to be quite useful for the Orioles in left or as a DH in 2013.
Free Agents at the End of Next Year
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox - It will be difficult to see how the BoSox will let him walk.  It is also hard to see exactly how he and Adam Jones would figure out who stays in center field.  It looks unlikely that a fit could be made here if there is an opportunity to be had.
Hunter Pence, Phillies - Hunter Pence is a solid hitter with below average defense.  He will not be dealt and he is the type of player whose future is shaky if he cannot remain out in the field.  I think he will be given big money by someone...maybe the Phillies.
As it stands, it seems that the best direction for this team is to run the season out with Avery and Reimold.  In the off season, the team could look toward a player like Melky Cabrera who is versatile and has shown a solid bat over the past year and a quarter.

At first base, Chris Davis is making an interesting case for himself as a long term solution.  He is not the excellent defensive first baseman that seemed to be shoved in force during the off season.  He is an extremely streaky hitter who is enjoy his best stint since his rookie year.  He could serve the team as an average solution there.  I do not see him as a 300/335/500, but I could see him sustaining a 270/310/480 line.  That would be decent enough for him to be an everyday role player.  In a worst case scenario, you could keep most of his at bats against righties.  Davis as a long term solution is probably a good thing as the alternatives outside of the organization are limited.  I simply do not see a useful, star target available this or next year.

Andy MacPhail thought he solved the third base situation by trading David Hernandez and Kam Mikolio for Mark Reynolds.  It would be nice to have David Hernandez in the pen right now.  Reynolds work on his fielding did not pay any dividends, Wilson Betemit's fielding is what we thought it was going to be, and the random mix of players has resulted in the 5th worst defense at third if you think UZR is accurate at this point in the season.  Regardless, the defense has not been good and you really do not need a metric to tell you this.  There has been some talk of shifting Robert Andino to third and try Roberts out at second.  In the next few years with Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop making noise...there may be less need to force the issue here.

However, there is an option or two outside of the organization:
David Wright, Mets - Wright is having a little rebirth of a year and is crushing the ball.  His defense still looks shaky and has looked shaky for three years straight now.  With the Mets in a talent acquisition mode, it is plausible that they could jettison the 17MM for 2013 Wright in exchange for prospects.  The Orioles are light on prospects, but might be able to put something together.  I would think the Mets would be interested in a combination of players like Jonathan Schoop, Nicky Delmonico, Parker Bridwell, and L.J. Hoes.  That cuts the minors deep, but if you think Wright is a solution at third for the next three to four years then you have to go for it and secure an extension for Wright.  He would probably add a couple wins for this season and be somewhere around a 3-5 WAR player for the team.  That written, I have not heard him as being on the market.
Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox - With Will Middlebrooks making noise and the Sox potentially in need of more roster flexibility, Youkilis might be a target in the off season.  His bat has looked poor this season, he is not the defender he use to be, and he has injury issues.
If you believe in this team then I think you have to check in with the Mets and see what they are asking or if Wright is even on the block.  I think the Orioles have to hold on to Machado and Dylan Bundy, but no other player should be nailed down.  With the doubt surrounding Youkilis, I'd like to see him as a free agent or someone I would not have to give anything of significance.

As for starting pitchers, any time you can knock the fifth starter out of the rotation with an ace, it will be worth a 4-5 win shift.  That would send Brian Matusz or Tommy Hunter to the pen or Norfolk.  Here are how the options run:
Free Agents at the End of This Year
Zach Grienke, Brewers - Grienke will probably be dealt if the Brewers cannot bounce back into being an elite team.  He will likely require a package similar to what I described above for Wright.  It also seems likely that there will be more interest in Grienke with teams offering higher upside prospects than the Orioles can offer, assuming Bundy and Machado are off limits.  Any deal would be accompanied with the expectation that the team will need to offer a 20+/yr extension.
Cole Hamels, Phillies - The Phillies will likely ride their squad to the end of the season, making Hamels an off season target.  There is some question as to whether the Phillies can afford another big money contract.  There will likely be a great deal of competition for his services this off season.  I could see a 5 year, 120MM deal for him.  It will be difficult for the Orioles to fit him in their payroll.
Edwin Jackson, Nationals - Jackson is a pitcher whose stuff suggests he should be better than his result, but his results really are rather solid.  The Orioles will not be able to get him mid-season, but could target him as a player that would cost 60% what Grienke or Hamels will cost while providing 75% of the performance.
Colby Lewis, Rangers - Lewis also would not be available mid-season, but also represents a player who likely will provide above average performance at a reduced rate in comparison to elite arms.
Roy Oswalt, Free Agent - Oswalt went down last year with a back injury in June as a 3.00 ERA pitcher.  He came back for the final two months as more of 4.50 ERA pitcher.  This explains the tepid response to his free agency this past off season.  There is a good chance he would be more useful than Hunter or Matusz, but no one should expect him to be an elite arm anymore.
Oswalt or bust is the likely way things will go during the season for the Orioles.  The off season may prove more interesting.

So what does it all mean?
If you think the Orioles are for real, then this season matters a great deal.  You can target guys like Melky Cabrera and one of David Wright or Zach Grienke with an eye toward extending them as part of the team's core.  If Wright is a target, then you go hard after Oswalt as well.  If you have doubt in this squad, then waiting for the off season to upgrade will be ideal, but Oswalt should still be in play if the money is there to burn.  It certainly is excellent to be able to ask this question.  My perspective is that if you can acquire Wright for pieces that are not apparently tied to our future success, then you make that move and expand payroll some more.  I also think a move this off season for Melky Cabrera would better solidify this outfield.  Finally, an off season push for a solid number two or three in Jackson or Lewis would be something that would be financially feasible and work toward the team's success.

So, what do you think?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hey Jon,

I love this blog and website! Please keep up the great work. Its refreshing to read good cerebral analysis about the orioles, instead of the ramblings of Pete Schmuck and company over at the sun.

What I like about this team and 2012's chances is that 1- the giants of the division are hurting (Yankees and Red Sox both with early key injuries) and 2- (as you write) the current orioles have 2-3 positions that clearly need upgrading.

I really hesitate to think of Brian Roberts being a meaningful contributor this year. I love B-rob, but Andino has proved himself a great replacement. Albiet Roberts was technically hurt in the beginning of last season, he still only put up a 220 avg before trotting off to recover from his concussions. Hopefully he tears it up and is the clear starter when I finishes his rehab.

I look at left field and at least see some defense and depth organizationally. In the here and now I feel 3B is the biggest need. Wright is intriguing, especially since he plays for a cash strapped team in the NL.

I'm surprised you do not discuss DH. While I agree 3B and LF is a more glarring concern, the Orioles have long lacked a power hitting DH. I know the trend in the AL over the past few years has been to increasingly value defense and more view the DH as a way to rest players. But don't you think a playoff run would make the Orioles re-evaluate their current approach to DH? This would probably be a relatively easy trade (compared to a defensive/ offensive 3B pick up.)