31 July 2012

What "Going for it" would mean...

EDIT -- One important note about 2012 in particular that I omitted from the summary below -- the first round of the playoffs after the play-in game will be 2-3 format, so the wild-card team will host the first two games of the series. That means if Baltimore were to make the playoffs and win the play-in game, they would be guaranteed two home games and the accompanying revenue. Doesn't greatly change the calculus, but an important distinction for 2012 nonetheless.

Throughout the 2012 season Jon and I have been dubious of Baltimore's chances to compete for a playoff spot this year.  On July 31st, the last pre-waiver day for trades, we remain dubious.  But, because trades are generally fun fodder for the blogosphere and message boards, and because it is an interesting exercise in any event, I decided to play Devil's advocate this morning and come up with my "all in" approach to the trade deadline.

In truth, I can see a real argument for the below moves, as I think there is something to the idea that Baltimore has played well above its head over these first 100 or so games and they should make use of the "free wins" they've grabbed thus far.  However, the moves I advocate below really only work as a package, and even then require further financial investment come the free agent signing period in November.

Finally, the two trade partners I have targeted, San Diego and Miami, have the leverage to demand fairly significant overpayment for their talent, and Baltimore prospects such as Nicky Delmonico (1b, Class A Delmarva), Xavier Avery (of, Triple-A Norfolk), and Eduardo Rodriguez (rhp, Class A Delmarva) do not have the trade value that many Orioles fans wish/think they have. That is nothing to say of the fall in value we have seen from projectable righty Parker Bridwell (rhp, Class A Delmarva), whose stock as taken a significant enough tumble so as not to even be included in the two discussed moves.

So, what does "going for it" look like?

The trades...
Trade 1Baltimore Orioles receive
Chase Headley (3b, San Diego Padres)
2013 Draft Competitive Balance (1st pick following 2nd Rd)

San Diego Padres receive
Jake Arrieta (rhp, Triple-A Norfolk)
Jonathan Schoop (2b, Double-A Bowie)
Eduardo Rodriguez (rhp, Class A Delmarva)
Mike Wright (rhp, Double-A Bowie)

Trade 2
Baltimore Orioles receive
Josh Johnson (rhp, Miami Marlins)
Emilio Bonifacio (2b/of, Miami Marlins)

Miami Marlins receive
Manny Machado (ss, Double-A Bowie)
Nicky Delmonico (1b, Class A Delmarva)
Xavier Avery (of, Triple-A Norfolk)
Brian Matusz (lhp, Triple-A Norfolk)
2013 Draft Competitive Balance (4th pick following Supp-1st Rd)

Why it is necessary (and okay) to overpay
Josh Johnson is signed through 2013 and Chase Headley is signed through 2014. Emilio Bonifacio is under team control through 2014.  The bottom line is that neither Miami nor San Diego have to move these pieces now, as opposed to in the off-season or not at all.

As briefly mentioned above, making an aggressive move like this is an attempt to leverage the "free wins" Baltimore has grabbed this year -- loosely, the degree to which they have outperformed their talent and peripherals.  It is important to aggressively pursue the playoffs in 2012 particularly if you believe that as of July 31, 2012 Baltimore is in a better position to make the playoffs than they might be at any point next year based on true talent level, and taking into account off-season moves.

Finally, overpayment can be tolerable if you are dealing from redundancy or from pieces that are not essential for future success. More on this below.

What it means for 2012
Rotation - Johnson, Chen, Tillman, Britton, Gonzalez
It isn't the best rotation in the American League, but it does give Baltimore the big arm up top and bumps each of the other arms down the chain where their talent level fits more comfortably.  You lose minor league arms in Rodriguez, Wright, Arrieta and Matusz, but none of those are required contributors for 2012.

Order Bonifacio (2b), Markakis (rf), Headley (3b), Jones (cf) Davis (dh), Betemit/Reynolds (1b platoon), Hardy (ss) Wieters (c), Ford (lf)
Bonifacio gives you an on-base weapon and speed at the top of the order, while also providing much needed production at second base.  Additionally, he gives you versatility as a capable outfielder and middle-infielder.

Headley is a legit number three hitter on a first tier team and interjects a good overall bat between Markakis and Jones.  Again, it isn't the best in the American League, but it does represent the potential for a big improvement with a minimal number of moves.  If you haven't yet read Jon's piece on the potential upgrade provided by inserting a legit third baseman into the order and having Reynolds/Betemit split duties at first base, you should check it out here -- great work.

What it means for 2013-14
Rotation - Johnson, Chen, Hammel, Britton, Tillman
This is a solid rotation that could be further improved through trade or free agency.  My preference would be to invest heavily on the offensive side, relying on Johnson to lead the staff in 2013 and Dylan Bundy (rhp, Class A-Adv. Frederick) to contribute in some form in 2013 with Kevin Gausman (rhp, unassigned) following in early 2014.  Bobby Bundy (rhp, Double-A Bowie) could be ready to provide some value at some point next year once he has addressed the bone spurs that appear to have slowed his development some this year.

Order - Bonifacio (2b), Markakis (rf), Headley (3b), Jones (cf), Davis (dh), Betemit (1b), Hardy (ss), Wieters (c), Hoes (lf)
Again, this is a solid collection that could potentially be upgraded to top notch with a significant financial investment.  Since we are operating under the assumption that the Orioles have maintained fan interest throughout 2012 and seen an influx in season ticket money, you go big here.

Mike Napoli (c/1b) could rotate between first base and designated hitter, while giving Showalter an option behind the plate that allows him to actually rest Wieters as he should be rested (another discussion to be had...).  The Wieters/Napoli/Betemit/Davis combo would provide plenty of pop between catcher/first base/designated hitter.

The obvious "homerun" is to take the plunge and throw a truckload of money at Josh Hamilton (cf), shifting him over to left field.  Baltimore is currently committed to under $60 million for next year.  Adding salaries for Johnson, Headley, Napoli and Hamilton could be a $50 million investment, meaning Baltimore has to be willing to spike their payroll in order to keep momentum moving forward.  This is a huge hurdle, but I think necessary if you are putting together a "go for it now" plan. The result is this lineup:

Betemit (2b), Markakis (rf), Headley (3b), Hamilton (lf), Jones (cf), Napoli (1b), Davis/Betemit (dh), Wieters (c), Hardy (ss)

This is a huge risk, both in potential future value traded and increased financial investment in payroll. All of that, and it is far from a guarantee that Baltimore will realize a playoff appearance in 2012 or 2013.

What this type of "all in" approach does is attempt to make use of a 2012 performance that has thus far been well beyond the Orioles' talent level without sacrificing the ability for the team to put together a competitive squad in 2013 and the further near term.   It should hold fan interest through end of season and attempts to build season ticket influx with a strong finish, the addition of known names such as Josh Johnson and Chase Headley, and signing of a couple more known names in Napoli and Hamilton.

I began this piece with a note that this was me playing Devil's advocate.  I continue to believe that this type of approach requires too much luck, as well as an aggressive off-season to sustain success, and further development of some stalled prospects in order to help the farm system bounce back.

The prudent course of action is probably a small move to try and hold the team together in 2012 as best as possible, while hoping for continued development from Machado and Schoop, as well as the brothers Bundy.  Gausman should be a nice addition, as well, and there is of course a chance that someone like Delmonico or Rodriguez ultimately develops into a legit above-average contributor.

2012 has been exciting in a lot of ways, as the Orioles have won more than they have lost and they continue to play meaningful games as we head into August.  At the same time, the minor league system has not had a good summer, while several AL East systems have taken steps forward.  The stark reality may be that, while this is not the right time for the Orioles to cash in prospects and push their chips into the center of the table, it may be the closest they come to a shot at a playoff spot before 2014, at which point, if everything breaks right, they will have Machado, Schoop, Gausman and the Bundys contributing.

Of course, Orioles fans are well aware of the dangers of counting on the cavalry...


Matt P said...

It's somewhere between paying way too much or ridiculously too much.

I heard that the Padres asked for Arrieta, Bridwell, Delmonico and Rodriguez for Headley. What you're proposing is considerably more than that. I'd like to pay slightly less than the above deal for Headley(either replace Bridwell or Rodriguez with Hoes) but that's within reason.

As for Johnson - sure he's worth Machado. And he's worth a package starting with Matusz and Delmonico. But he ain't worth both.
Which doesn't mean you're wrong about how much it would take. Just that it's way too much.

Bret said...

This is insane. Despite the Yankees woes at this time the O's are playing for the chance at 1 wild card game most likely on the road and almost certainly against a much better starting pitcher (Weaver, Verlander maybe etc.) I'm not giving up prospects for a chance at 1 game so idiotic uninformed fans who also thought signing Vlad Guerrero was a great idea can have a one day sugar high. Manny Machado is the next superstar player, how about the Angels give up Mike Trout for Jason Vargas? Does that sound fair also?

Secondly if Chase Headley plays 3rd where does Machado play? I like JJ Hardy at short the next couple years. He makes every play and sometimes he even gets hits. Machado should be brought in at 3rd to start with, we don't need another year of Betemit.

O's pitching is not a problem, they have #1 prospect, #1 pitcher taken this year, Hammel, Chen, plenty of inventory that could be more (Gonzalez, Tillman, Britton, Arrieta, Matusz, Steve Johnson). Josh Johnson is not so much better than what they have the next few years to be giving up the farm.

Why can't we just try building a team the right way? The organic way? After 15 years we finally have a solid system with Hoes, Delmonico, Schoop looking like MLB regulars at minimum plus the two stars plus Gausman. No reason to mortgage the future at all. I want 7-8 years of success once the worm turns and there is no reason short of idiotic decisions for it not to happen.

Nick J Faleris said...


Generally, I don't disagree with you. I know what the rumors are regarding Headley -- I will say as someone who does evaluations for a MLB team that the general view of Bridwell's, Rodriguez's and Delmonico's value among Orioles fans is more to significantly more than the value that would likely be assigned by a pro evaluator.

That said 1) San Diego may simply like one or all of those players enough for valuations to match, and 2) Bridwell/Arrieta have lower "now" values than their upside would generally portend.

The Padres deal I proposed is definitely worth more than the deal you heard was proposed. In the deal above, Baltimore also gets a draft pick, which I equated to slightly less value than Rodriguez (I know Kevin Goldstein quoted someone who said Rodriguez is the equivalent of a first rounder -- fans should view that quote as an outlier and not a benchmark for setting ERod's value).

I also generally agree re: Johnson. I think the fact that the Marlins and Padres aren't under the gun to force a trade, in that there will be significant interest in Johnson/Headley come the winter, increases leverage against Baltimore and drives up the price. Further, Bonifacio is a good get in the deal, and is generally worth Avery+.

Overall, it is absolutely and ton of potential to give up. I think, realistically, you are only giving up maybe a couple of everyday to impact major league talents, but there is certainly the chance that you end up looking like Atlanta after the Teixeira trade.

Thanks for reading and for the comments -- good take on the matter.

Nick J Faleris said...


I have no issue building from within. As I stated at the open, this is just me playing Devil's advocate.

That said, I think you probably are overstating the impact that these various prospects will ultimately have on the Baltimore club.

There is a chance that each of these guys, or even many of these guys, turn into productive big leaguers.

But your Trout for Vargas comparison indicates you misunderstand Machado's value, even at his peak, and are probably a little light on the value that Johnson/Bonifacio hold as established and productive big leaguers.

Overall, I do think your ideals are the right ones to have -- build from within with cheap talent. The trick for a front office, and in particular for a front office in Baltimore's shoes, is to correctly identify now talent and project future talent in order to bring in outside pieces at the right time.

As I said in the piece, I am certainly not convinced this is "the right time" for big moves. But it is also not clear to me that Baltimore has enough on the farm to focus on building from within.

There is a real chance that even if Baltimore hits on all three, Machado/Schoop/Bundy won't really be productive Major Leaguers until 2014. Toronto, Boston and Tampa appear to be well positioned for 2014, as well. So the question becomes how to close that gap in a financially reasonable manner.

These are incredibly complex questions, and while I think Duquette has one of the coolest jobs in the biz, I don't envy to decisions he is going to have to make. The honest truth is that, barring some luck and some very astute team building, the Orioles are most likely to be around a .500 team that is just shy of playoff caliber over the next few years.

Bret said...

I'm fine with waiting until 2014. 2014-2020 will be the Camelot years if the team doesn't mess up a free meal. I was joking on Trout/Vargas but Machado is going to be a superstar and is going to be under team control for 6 years. It is going to take a heck of a lot more than Josh Johnson, a pitcher who has never pitched in the AL and who has had major arm issues to pry him away.

I think O's play out the string and maybe they get lucky, but 59 games is too small of a sample for any one player, particularly a pitcher to make much difference. Especially when you have 7 games to make up to get more than a 1 game postseason guarantee.

Nick J Faleris said...


Good points all around. I'd say I differ in that I'd call Machado a good bet to be a Major Leaguer with a solid shot at having some impact. Obviously the potential is there for even more.

Small sample size can cut both ways. You could get average/typical production from Headley/Johnson, or you could get an amazing 2-month stretch for either or both of them. You really don't know what the production will look like, which is the "lotto" aspect of the deadline that often times doesn't get enough media play (though it is absolutely discussed among evaluators/decision makers).

Waiting to 2014 may be the most prudent path, and given the options it may be what I'd personally do were it my decision. But as we often say here at Camden Depot, Baltimore has to figure out how to do things better than New York, Boston, Tampa and Toronto.

That means even if they play out the string and rely primarily on in-house talent, they likely need to make some creative moves between now and 2014 in order for any of it to matter.

The Oriole Way said...

I really have no problem with the Orioles dealing some of their fallen arms, and even Jonathan Schoop. Swapping out Manny Machado would be a really, really tough pill to swallow, though - I don't know how dealing a Top 5 overall prospect for a, say, 50% chance at playing a wild card game on the road is a good deal for a team in the Orioles' situation, even if Johnson is under contract for next year. I'm a firm believer that the Orioles need to strive to build a team capable of winning 95+ games. Machado does that; Johnson for '12 and '13 does not.

Nick J Faleris said...

The Orioles Way,

Arguing the opposite point, Baltimore will be constrained by payroll moving forward. So, it is worth considering whether an arm like Johnson will 1) be obtainable, and 2) affordable, via free agency or trade.

Johnson could arguably be a cheaper get than Grienke or the like in FA this winter, and would serve as a bridge to 2014, at which point (hopefully) some of Baltimore's homegrown talent is capable of producing at a front-end level.

I do not think Machado is necessarily a top 5 talent in the minors, but that is a small distinction and probably not entirely relevant to the larger discussion. Still, it is worth keeping in mind only to the extent that it reminds us that our perception of the value of "our team's" prospects is likely inflated as compared to the opinions of other teams.

Matt P said...

Thanks for responding.

I agree on Delmonico, Avery, Rodriguez, Hoes and Bridwell. I prefer guys like Rodriguez and Bridwell to Avery and Hoes because I'd rather have the higher ceiling as opposed to the higher floor.

I'm surprised at how highly you rank the Padres pick. With a slot of 800k, that means it's worth slightly more than Adrian Marin. Do you just think that Rodriguez is a BOR guy at best?

If this team is willing to spend the money in free agency (one of your conditions), then why not make the Arrieta, Delmonico, Bridwell, Rodriguez trade for Headley and go after a top starting pitcher in FA?

I don't think the Marlins have so much leverage. Sure, Johnson is under team control for another year but he's injury prone. If they keep him for another year, there's a high chance he gets injured and they get nothing for him. After their sell off, they're not good enough to compete in 2013. With the possible exception of the Royals, which team will be interested in him in the offseason that isn't now?

Of course, I also recognize it doesn't matter what I think. I think they think they can compete in 2013. I know they would rather keep him. I also think they'll regret it. I wouldn't bail them out by making a bad trade.

What makes Boston well positioned for 2014? I thought 2015 is the season that they're in good shape for(Lackey and Beckett contracts expire).

Nick J Faleris said...


Regarding Johnson, I would think any number of teams could be interested in one year of a front-end starter at $13 MM. Assuming health, the receiving team will almost certainly offer him the requisite amount in arbitration to be worth a pick, as could Florida, so there is more value here than there might be in other trade targets.

Regarding Boston, they have drafted very well the last two drafts and have made some solid international moves. Now, they are starting to see the fruits of those efforts in the form of a number of coveted prospects.

Just as Hanley was flipped for Beckett, Boston has a couple of chips that could serve to headline a big off-season deal for a talent like Upton. Conversely, many of these players could be making their way to the bigs by 2014, serving as cost effective replacements.

Nothing is guaranteed, but it was a strong year for Boston, as relates to assets of the organization.

Regarding the value of the Padres' pick after the second round: 1) I think Rodriguez has the chance to grow into a #3, but signs currently point to #4/#5 production, and 2) I don't think Marin was worth an early 3rd Rd pick. For what it's worth, I know I am not alone in thinking Rodriguez is a limited ceiling arm. This is, of course, different that me saying "I know I am right" -- but my quasi-informed guess would be that Rodriguez is viewed more uniformly in the same light as I view him than he is in the light that Goldstein's scout views him.

Bret said...

Regarding Boston and NY, Carl Crawford and Arod in 2017 don't worry me too much. Both teams have little talent at AA or AAA
and need to get to 189 million or below by 2014. For NY to keep Granderson and Cano that year it will be over 100 mill to 5 players leaving them unable to manuever much. Boston is tied into 6 guys for 90 mill or so that year including Lackey and Beckett who may contribute zero.

Mason Williams and Gary Sanchez won't be ready until 2015 at earliest, Jackie Bradley jr will have to replace Ellsbury's production and age will start to creep on Pedroia, Ortiz if still there etc.

Unlike those two, O's have prospects at top levels, and young already solid players at MLB level (Wieters, Jones, Markakis, every pitcher except Hammel) all have at least 5 good years left. Plus they have no albatross contracts long term. They are in great shape if they just stay the course, much more worried about Tor and TB than I am NY and Bos because they have prospects and intelligent management.

Matt P said...

Fair enough. Looks like it's not going to happen in any event. It will be interesting to see what Johnson gets in the offseason if he's traded.

Thanks for chatting.

ptcello said...

Now that the smoke has cleared, and we know what DID happen, instead of what might have happened, a question:
1) Your article didn't mention Miguel Gonzalez in any significant capacity, Do you consider him a non-factor, and if so, why? He's only 28, and youth alone should give him a chance.


Anonymous said...

BRIDWELL will have a very good MLB career. You can take that to the bank.

Nick J Faleris said...

Bret, I certainly hope the future unfolds as you predict, but I am not holding my breath. Thanks for your thoughts and for the chat.

Matt, thanks for the chat, as well.

ptcello, I think he has a position at minimum as an up-and-down guy capable of filling a rotation spot when needed or serving as a #4/#5 type, potentially. I plan on doing a more in depth piece on Gonzalez in August.

Anonymous, a bounceback from Bridwell would be huge for the system -- we are certainly pulling for our Class A-SS 2011 Player of the Year.

Liam said...

I really enjoyed reading this piece, probably the most purely entertaining post I've ever read on here. I just couldn't stomach the idea of losing machado, arrieta and matusz, so as GM I wouldnt have the cajones to pull this off. Especially, as one poster said, for a shot at one wildcard game this year. From another team's point of view, these trades dont seem outrageous, and I'd bet Padres fans would be upset that they gave up so much for arrieta and a few mid level prospects.

Going forward, I actually trust DD to make intelligent moves in the offseason and beyond. He showed this year he can be creative in finding both frontline talent (chen, hammel) and quality depth (Pierce, Gonzalez, Betemit etc). Some of the work the org is going with the young pitchers (video analysis, strength & conditioning) that has lead to Tillman's resurgence amongst other things also makes me optimistic for the future. If I wasn't convinced that the Orioles were no longer operating in the dark ages, I'd probably want these trades to be made now.

Nick J Faleris said...

Thanks, Liam! I agree, there are certainly reasons to be cautiously optimistic. We should have a much better sense of this front office, and the revamped scouting department, at this time next year.