06 February 2012

Jason Hammel is Jeremy Guthrie

A 5 point ERA isn't good enough to be a competitive big league pitcher and we've got numerous pitchers on the roster in that area.
Dan Duquette said that in the presser that also announced that he traded Jeremy Guthrie for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom.  That statement was not in reference to Guthrie who crossed over the threshold to 5.04 in 2009.  It was likely a shot at Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, and Tommy Hunter.  It was also not likely in reference to the newly acquired Jason Hammel who has a career 4.99 ERA (h/t Mike Bonsiero).  However, that is just so much of a near coincidence that I had to mention it.

Although I do not believe they will perform equally, the main bet here is that Jason Hammel and Jeremy Guthrie are not all that different from each other.
                            rWAR         fWAR
Jason Hammel     5.5              8.8
Jeremy Guthrie   8.9              5.8
After seeing these numbers one might ask first: how are rWAR and fWAR different?  Well, rWAR uses total zone data and is based on the concept that the pitcher is responsible for BABIP.  The other method assumes that the way to measure pitching is by normalizing in the form of Defense Independent Pitching Statistics.  Using that frame of reference, fWAR probably hurts him due to Guthrie's tendency to give up fly balls and home runs while rWAR considers him to be responsible for generating a lower BABIP.  Hammel is benefited by fWAR for his K rate and low walks (last year through was not kind) while rWAR thinks he was a bit hittable.  If you are a staunch believer in pitchers controlling their BABIP fate (even in lieu of the strikeouts that typically relate to low BABIP) then you are likely to think that Guthrie is an above average pitcher who is worth 10MM.  If you are a fWAR guy, then you might think Guthrie is average to below average and worth about 7MM.  Strangely, that was basically the difference between the two arbitration values for Guthrie.  In the end, the Rockies signed him to a 8.2MM deal while the Orioles have Hammel and Lindstrom for 8.5MM.

I tend to lean more in the fWAR direction, but am open to the idea that we know very little about how pitchers affect how well balls are hit.  In other words, I see no issue in weighting rWAR and fWAR equally for pitchers.  This would suggest that, yes, Jason Hammel is worth as much as Jeremy Guthrie.  However, Hammel's 2011 gives me some pause and it probably would for anyone who fully embraces fWAR.  In 2009 and 2010, Hammel enjoyed 3.9 fWAR each year.  Last year, it dropped to 1.0.  Much of this was due to his strikeout rate dropping 30% and his walks jumping up 51%.  Meanwhile, rWAR zealots would not be too worried as a drop in BABIP compensated for those and netted him his best rWAR over the last three years with a 2.0.  Maybe it is a push.

If you take the above to heart and find Hammel and Guthrie equivalent then a second control year of Hammel and Matt Lindstrom are just gravy.  Lindstrom is a 96 mph four seamer and slider guy.  He has historically had some trouble with lefties, which makes sense based on the pitches he has.  Lindstrom is a solid back end arm and is also under team control for two years.

So...why do I not like the trade if it looks like a push in so many ways?

It kicks the talent can another year.  Guthrie's worth has been converted into Hammel and Lindstrom.  Hammel's peripherals last year concern me.  I am not certain that he all of a sudden gained an ability to depress BABIP rates.  I more believe that he has lost his ability to strike batters out.  In that regard, I do not see a Guthrie for Lindstrom trade being worthwhile as it places too much value in a somewhat hittable flame thrower.  I think this move runs counter to building this franchise into a winner.  Young, cost-controlled talent would be preferable even if that talent had a low probability of being a difference maker.

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Addendum

Dan Duquette mentioned that Jason Hammel pitched better away from Coors field and that would enable him to throw 200 IP instead of the 170 IP he has been hitting.

Has Hammel performed better away from Coors' Field?
              Home           Away
2009       5.73              3.13

2010       4.07              5.71

2011       5.20              4.28

05 February 2012

What does Manny Ramirez offer the Orioles?

Watching Manny hit his 500th HR off Chad Bradford
Manny's path has never appeared to make sense to others, but that path has been suggested as perhaps leading through Baltimore.  This has resulted in the expected gnashing of teeth.  Acquiring Manny would seem familiar with the moves the Orioles have made in the last decade, such as picking over the remains of Sammy Sosa, the second coming of Raffy, and Vladimir Guerrero.  All have had Hall of Fame quality careers, but there is not much reason to have thought any of them would be a game changer.  Additionally, Manny is Manny.  His actions often appear incredibly self-centered and aloof, such as the story of how he once left a game early, took all of the Dominican style food a teammate's mother had made for the team and then replaced it with Italian takeout.  That is a weird and wonderful story.  You could also go with the whole him refusing to play in 2007.  At first look, there does not seem to be much for the Orioles to be interested in him.

Performance Issues

Fifteen players since 1972 have played as designated hitters during their age 40 season with over 100 plate appearances.  They break into four easy categories.
Good
Dave Winfield (1992) - 3.7 rWAR
Edgar Martinez (2003) - 3.5 rWAR

Average
Brian Downing (1991) - 2.5 rWAR
Harold Baines (1999) - 2.3 rWAR

Role Player
Jim Thome (2011) - 1.4 rWAR
Paul Molitor (1997) - 1.4 rWAR
Reggie Jackson (1986) - 1.3 rWAR

Replacement Level and Below
Tony Perez (1982) - 0.3 rWAR
Frank Thomas (2008) - 0.0 rWAR
George Brett (1993) - -0.4 rWAR
Matt Stairs (2008) - -0.7 rWAR
Ken Griffey Jr (2010) - -0.8 rWAR
Eddie Murray (1998) - -0.8 rWAR
Hal McRae (1986) - -0.9 rWAR
Dave Parker (1991) - -1.4rWAR
What differs Manny from these players is that he did not see any significant time during his age 39 season with only 17 plate appearances over five games.  In fact, it is actually quite rare for any starting caliber player at 1B, LF, RF, or DH to log in less than 50 plate appearances in one season and then come back for another.  Since 1991, it has happened twice for players in their 30s.  Darren Daulton lost his 1996 season to injury.  His OPS+ in 1995 was 101 and it rose to 121 in 1997, which was his final season.  Xavier Nady is the other occurrence.  He slugged a 127 OPS+ in 2008 for the Pirates and Yankees, lost 2009 to injury, and then hit at a 75 OPS+ clip for the ChiSox in 2010.  That is a sample size of two with one doing quite well and the retiring while the other probably should be retired.  However, it should be mentioned that most players in their 30s who log less than 50 at bats do not come back the following year.

From the older player who missed a year perspective, Manny does not look like a good buy.  ZIPS projects Manny as a 241/342/363 hitter.  If such a hitter was able to spend a full 695 plate appearances at that level as a DH, he would have earned near a replacement level with a 0.5 WAR.  That is an upgrade from Vlad's 0.1 WAR over 591 plate appearances and 7.6MM.  Manny's last full three seasons also show some reason for concern when looking at isolated power (ISO):
2008: .270
2009: .241
2010: .162
That free fall is slightly worse than pre-Oriole Garrett Atkins (.185->.165->.116).  Anecdotally, I have rarely seen a three season free fall in ISO turn around 180 degrees.

With this performance history it is difficult to see how a team could offer anything more than a Minor League invite without any promises.  The Tampa Bay Rays looked at the same data set, minus the extra year of aging and not playing, and only gave Manny a 2MM MLB contract.  They apparently were the only ones interested in promising him a full salary.  Tampa Bay also did not have knowledge of the events that would transpire during the 2012 season.

The Suspension and Then it Got Worse

Most players in their 30s who play very little have injuries or performance issues as the cause for the reduction in playing time.  Manny's issue was for testing positive for an unnamed (as far as I am aware) performance enhancing drug.  It was the second time he had tested positive for a banned substance.  He had served a 50 game suspension with the Dodgers in 2009.  This being the second time, he was to serve 100 days.  Instead of serving that time, Manny retired and fled the lime light.  As it was reported, Manny's desire to evade any uncomfortable situations struck his teammates, the media, and the fans as him being extremely selfish and immature.  It is the meme that has followed him throughout his playing career. 

It got worse in September.  Police in Weston, Florida were called to Manny's home.  His wife had called and claimed that they were having an argument.  That argument resulted in allegedly slapping her, causing her to fall and hit her head on the headboard of their bed.  Upon arrival, she told the deputy that she called the police because she feared the situation would escalate.  Manny was arrested on the charge of domestic battery.  He entered a not guilty plea at a hearing in October.  His next court date is schedule March 28.

Conclusion
The Orioles do not have much to gain or lose here.  Manny could come to Spring Training, go to court at the end, and do whatever he may plea to while serving out a 50 game suspension (MLB and MLBPA compromise) as technically a minor leaguer.  He would then spend a couple weeks in the minors trying to work off the rust.  You could expect him in an Oriole uniform in mid-June.  That would give him six weeks to show off any hitting ability that could reward the Orioles with a fringe prospect.  Again, the best case scenario is that Manny plays six weeks, earns about 300-500k, and nets you a fringe prospect.  The worst case scenario is that Manny is awful, but stays on the straight and narrow.  This would force the Orioles to cut him and swallow 1-1.5MM.

Signing Manny should not cause a gnashing of teeth.  This move would be a far cry from MacPhail's eagerness to send replacement level veterans off with a retirement package.  However, I do not see much point in signing a 40 year old who took off last season, is in a downward trajectory, has alienated many of his previous teammates, and has an open court case on the charges of domestic battery.  

04 February 2012

Brian Roberts is Not a Sunk Cost

When I start to write about Brian Roberts I think about the article I wrote when he signed his extension.  I initially used an aging model I created based on the aging patterns of second basemen.  It projected Roberts to be replacement level in 2012 and then performing in 2013 at such a level that he would have had to have been released.  That model was run right after his 2008 season in which he performed at an All Star level and could have been considered one of the top second basemen in the game.  I hesitated and decided instead to use a model based on middle infield aging.  I pulled a punch.  The article still stated that Roberts' extension was a poor idea, but it irritates me that I wrote more what I felt than what I thought.  Whether good or bad, tick off three years on the clock and it no longer is a concern for me.  Well, it is not as much of a concern because part of me still feels bad writing this.  I think I have become more hardened as evidence by what I wrote last March on him.  I like Brian Roberts.  I also think he should be removed from the 40 man roster.

Sunk Cost

Sunk cost is an economic concept that is much ballyhooed and much misunderstood.  You may have seen such players as Vernon Wells, A.J. Burnett, or Barry Zito referred to as sunk costs.  This is an incorrect application of the term.  Off the bat, their contracts would be the sunk cost, not them.  Second, the term refers to making a payment that cannot be recovered.  The sunk cost fallacy refers to a situation where someone feels too invested having made a sunk cost and throws more money into the effort.  Throwing good money after bad idea is considered irrational.  Here is an example:
Lets say you bought tickets to take your eleven year old kid or maybe a niece to see Disney Princesses on Ice.  Somehow in the few months between buying those tickets and the date of the show, your young blood relative realizes that going to this show will bring about teasing from her friends.  At this point, the money has been spent and nothing good will come from it.
Now, that is almost a sunk cost.  That example is similar to that of Wells', Burnett's, and Zito's contracts.  What would make the above example a true sunk cost is if Disney folds with no show and no refunds.  That is a true sunk cost.

The above example is not quite like the Brian Roberts contract situation.  More accurately:
Lets say that your niece and maybe even you being nostalgic are looking forward to the Disney on Ice show.  You buy your tickets, you eagerly await for the date of the show, you get to the arena, buy your favorite junk food and maybe a souvenir or two, and sit down for the show.  Fifteen minutes in to the show both you and your niece realize that this is the opposite of fun and you both are miserable.  
This is a sunk cost.  You cannot scalp the tickets.  What comes next is the interesting part.  Having spent money on the show, do you sit and watch the show even though it is not enjoyable?  Based on a plethora of studies over the past 20 years, two thirds of you will likely stay put and have a horrible night.  The other third will go get ice cream or fudge a couple blocks away at the inner harbor and call it a decent night.  Why will the majority stay put?  Emotional attachment to cost allocation.  This is the Brian Roberts Contract Scenario.

The Man

Brian Roberts has been Mr. Oriole for the 2000s.  He shifted from shortstop to second, fought off the more acclaimed Jerry Hairston Jr. (who was then traded for Sammy Sosa), and gave the Orioles the solid kind of lead off hitting that the 1990s Orioles enjoyed from Brady Anderson (minus a little bit of power).  His 2005 and 2008 seasons were at very good starting all-star level years.  He was exciting on the base paths and always seemed to start a rally with a double in the gap.  Roberts has been solid.  So solid and so much identified with the Orioles that Andy MacPhail's team extended Roberts a year prior to his free agency to a four year, 40 MM extension.  It was a contract that overshadowed the one Orlando Hudson, who slashed 305/367/450 in 2008, signed within a few weeks.  That one was for one year and at 3.3MM.  During the same period (2010-2013), Hudson will be paid 22MM vs Roberts' 40MM.

While Hudson's skills at second base have deteriorated, he has managed to appear in 245 games over the past two seasons and is expected to be manning second base for the Padres for the next two years.  Brian Roberts has been less fortunate.  In 2010, the fate of second base aging began to materialize for Roberts.  Roberts had issues in Spring Training with abdominal muscle strains and a bad back.  These issues continued throughout the season and left him with 59 appearances where he kept up his typical offensive performance.  However, his defense looked shaky.  This was the first year of his four year extension.  In 2011, illness, his back, and concussion symptoms led him to having a choppy Spring Training and only 39 appearances.  He was shut down in the middle of May.  His issues with concussions have been so bad that he was unable to make it to the 2012 Orioles FanFest.  For a player who has done so much for the community, it was surprising he was unable to attend.  To expect someone who cannot make a flight and deal with the chaotic nature of FanFest . . . to expect that person to play at a professional level is quite optimistic.  Sadly, I think it is clear that Brian Roberts' contract is a sunk cost.

Conceptual Value for a 40th Man

During the off season there is no 60 day disabled list.  Roberts must stay on the 40 man roster which effectively makes it a 39 man roster.  This issue is relative.  The 40th man on any roster is not likely to be of great use to a team, but it does prevent a team from potentially getting looks at certain fringe players in Spring Training.  There is benefit to that.  There is benefit to having Pedro Florimon Jr on the team.  There is benefit to having Kyle Hudson on the team.  There is benefit to having Rick VandenHurk on the team.  One thing is clear, the team is not losing anyone of great significance.  None of these guys will take you anywhere, but the first two provide depth in case of injury.  VandenHurk may provide you with a decent enough arm if the Spring proves treacherous for the Orioles' pitchers.  Additionally, sometimes a player just sort of figures things out.  Simply put, the 40th man is a low probability, low ceiling player. 

The difference between Roberts and the 40th man is that the 40th man can actually stand out on the field and potentially do one or two things adequately.  Roberts cannot lace up.  A year in and still suffering from concussion symptoms is not a promising thing.  In baseball, we've seen how concussions have ended Ryan Church's career and have severely impacted Justin Morneau's.  In hockey, we have seen what Sydney Crosby is going through.  In football, the data is coming out that is yielding more evidence that teams do not adequately protect players from the effects of concussions.  This past year, we have even seen reports showing that high school soccer players show some concussion effects in relation to simply heading a ball.  It has been truly an amazing and terrifying time these past few years with understanding the chronic effects of these kind of brain injuries.

That said, the comparison between Roberts and a 40th man is not truly a fair comparison.  The more fair comparison would the 40th man vs. a MiL invite who becomes the 40th man.  The difference between those two is not truly great.  They are likely the same person.  Pedro Florimon, Jr. was put on waivers, claimed by the Twins, put on waivers, passed through, and is now in the Twins' minor league system.  Kyle Hudson is a non-roster invite to the Rangers' camp.  Rick VandenHurk is likely to find something similar somewhere.  It appears that the idea that Roberts is preventing roster flexibility is likely one that is true in conceptual terms, but not in true application.

Brian Roberts is Not a Sunk Cost

My analytical side is informing me that Brian Roberts' contract is a sunk cost that does not affect the team to a significant degree (meaning significant in an abstract way).  However, even though the contract is a sunk cost, Brian Roberts is not.  Roberts has value to this organization in other potential capacities.  The problem I see with the current situation is that Roberts is a great person who has done wonderful things for the organization and the community.  The contract is an unfair burden to place on him because it carries with it the expectation that he needs to get back in shape to play.  The best thing I can see doing would be to buy him out and give him a place in Brady Anderson's chain of command in player development.  From all accounts, Roberts is has a strong work ethic when it comes to fitness, he comes from a committed baseball family, and he seems to enjoy Baltimore.  It would be solid to keep him in the organization.

In terms of a buyout, you can go two ways.  Pay him now in a lump sum or convert it over to a long term deferred deal.  If he trusts his investment team, you could probably buy him out now for 18MM instead of 20MM over two years.  That appears somewhat marginal in terms of cost cutting.  A long term deferred deal could look like 3MM/year over ten years or 2MM/year over twenty years.  The long term deal would be useful to the club in the near term, saving the team 7-8MM a season.  That is money that could be well spent on player development or even an average player.  I think this is a solution that would benefit both parties.

Of course, this discussion is unimportant if while on the disabled list with concussion issues the insurance plan the team has on him is favorable.  If insurance is paying the club anything more than 20% if Roberts' salary then it makes sense just to keep him on the 40 man roster.  The terms of such an arrangement may be so that Roberts cannot do other things that would be helpful such as instructing players or scouting.  If that is the case, then a buyout between the Orioles, Roberts, and an insurance company would make it far more difficult. 

03 February 2012

Orioles sign Jeff Larish

According to a tweet from Oakland Athletics beat reporter Jane Lee, former A's first basemen and DH, Jeff Larish, 29 years old, has signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles.

Larish, who hasn't played in the majors since 2010, has batted a career .224/.308/.380 with  in three seasons with the Detroit Tigers and the A's. 

Lee mentioned in her tweet that Larish announced his signing with the Orioles via his Facebook page.

Editor - 
He has played 331 games at AAA with a slash of 269/359/475.  Last year, Larish played half a season at Lehigh, the AAA affiliate for the Phillies.  In July 2011, Larish broke his leg and tore several ligaments in his ankle while trying to score from second.

30 January 2012

In what cities could MLB expand?

Previously, I touted the New York metro area and Connecticut as expansion areas.  Those arguments relied on a few difficult to foresee events: (1) the New York and Boston teams agreeing with new encroachment, (2) a multi-stadium home format would work until a real stadium could be built, and (3) proper infrastructure exists to support a new stadium.  The main problem with that idea was that there is not an overwhleming demand of locals to bring more baseball into those areas.  That means that no one could mount enough of a cause to get ballot measures passed to appropriate money to build a stadium.  Even if private funds were put in place, public funds would need to be tapped to put improvements on infrastructure to get people in and out of games.  Infrastructure is the main issue that is killing the Rays down in Tampa.  It is just so difficult to get to their stadium if you live in Tampa.  Connecticut and upper New Jersey have similar issues.

If those funds could not be put in place then MLB would wind up having teams that floated around the existing baseball stadiums as well as barnstorming AAA and AA stadiums in a sort of boutique fashion.  That idea might be too different for some people.   Think of it this way, if the Bowie Baysox stadium was dressed up with a 10 MM renovation, would you pay $50-150 instead of the normal $8-75 you pay at Camden Yards?  Would that level of intimacy work?  It would be a major risk.

In light of that, I decided to look at more traditional locations for expansion.  The following list was devised based on what cities were previously entertained with expansion and relocation opportunities.  For statistics, I will be using the same method I used when suggesting that you actually can argue the Orioles are a small market team.

Charlotte
TV Market - 25th
Radio Market - 24th
Population - 731k; 18th in US
GDP - 103MM; 2.6% growth

Charlotte has several things going for it as a potential MLB city.  First and foremost, it has a modern stadium in Bank of America Stadium, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars.  This provides a large capacity structure where a team could eek out a few seasons before a sufficient stadium could be constructed.  Not all stadiums can house a football team, I am assuming this one can.  Second, Charlotte has a corporate culture.  Seven fortune five hundred companies call Charlotte their home.  This includes Bank of America (134.2B revenue; 9th overall), Nucor (15.8B; 157th), Duke Energy (14.3B; 173rd), Goodrich (7.0B; 337th), Sonic Automotive (6.9B; 339th), SPX (4.9B; 460th), and Ruddick (4.4B; 498th).  Additionally, 50th ranked Lowe's (48.8B) is a half hour up I-77 in Mooresville, NC and Family Dollar (7.9B; 302nd) is 20 minutes away in Matthews, NC.  This means that there is a strong corporate base to buy season tickets in the area.  Charlotte's TV and radio market is better than five current MLB teams each.  It has a strong population that is steadily growing and a growing GDP.

Indianapolis
TV Market - 26th
Radio Market - 40th
Population - 820k; 12th in US
GDP - 92.8MM; 3.6% growth

Indianapolis share a few things in common with Charlotte.  It has a similar TV Market, a slightly larger population, a similar growth in commercial products, and a football stadium that should be able to be converted into a temporary home for a baseball club.  However, there have been yearly cries by the ownership of the Colts about how Indianapolis is a not a cash flush area.  It may just be ownership looking for a better deal similar to what Irsay did when he took the Colts out of Baltimore (or when Modell took the Browns out of Cleveland for that matter).  One difference between Charlotte and Indianapolis is corporate presence.  Indianapolis has two Fortune 500 companies bringing in a revenue of 81.9B within the city limits: WellPoint (58.8B; 42nd) and Eli Lilly (23.1B; 115th).  Cummins (13.2B; 186th) is located an hour away in Columbus, IN.  Charlotte has corporations headquartered around the city that pull in 2.5 times as much revenue as the ones around Indianapolis.  That reduced foundation makes for Indianapolis to be a potentially worthwhile MLB city, but with poorer footing than Charlotte.

Las Vegas
TV Market - 40th
Radio Market - 32nd
Population - 584k; 30th in US
GDP - 80.2B; -1.9% growth

Las Vegas is commonly mentioned as a location for an MLB team either by expansion or relocation.  In fact, Bud Selig considered Las Vegas a finalist when determining where to move the Montreal Expos.  It sounds like a good idea.  Vegas was going through a period of rapid growth until smacked down by the recent economic crush.  Lots of tourists with free time visit the city and may be interested in watching a game.  The concerns were that the city has a high level of flux, which would make it difficult for a baseball team to take root and there was some concern over the need for gambling establishments to take a major investment in the franchise.  Why gambling establishments?  There is not much else there in Las Vegas.  The city can claim three Fortune 500 corporations: Caesars (8.8B, 277th), Las Vegas Sands (6.9B, 342nd), and MGM Resorts (6.0B, 380th).  In addition to a poor corporate presence, Vegas would have the worst TV Market in the game, which is where a lot of the money is at, contracting GDP, and no suitable stadium for a team to begin play.  There just is not enough money in the city to prime the pump for a MLB team to move in.

Orlando
TV Market - 19th
Radio Market - 34th
Population - 238k; 79th
GDP - 94.2B; 2.4% growth

Orlando has a few things going for it and a few reasons why it hasn't been tapped for a team.  It has a solid low second tier TV Market and the region is rather prosperous.  What has hurt the city is that much of the money is in entertainment in the form of all of the amusement parks in the area.  As has been shown countless times, baseball teams do not make money for the city as opposed to merely pushing it around a little bit.  With the city already being a pilgrimage of the Mouse...there just is not likely to be a major buy in from those group.  The only Fortune 500 company headquartered there is Darden Restaurants (7.1B; 332nd).  The Citrus Bowl is likely to be the only stadium to be able to be used for baseball until a new one could be built.  Finally, Florida seems to be home to two baseball clubs that are not exacting pinnacles of business success.  Putting in a third one, two hours from the Tampa Bay Rays may not be the best of ideas.

Portland
TV Market - 21s
Radio Market - 23rd
Population - 584k; 29th
GDP - 121.7B; 4.7% growth

Portland appears like an obvious location for a MLB to sprout up.  It has a long history with AAA baseball.  It has had a rapidly growing GDP.  It is a decent size city with a respectable standard of living.  A corporate presence is on the low side, but it does have Precision Castparts (5.5B; 409th) and Nike (19.0B; 135th; 15 minutes away in Beaverton) call it home.  Even with this presence, AAA baseball has left the city twice in the past 30 years.  That is not a great record.  However, I would put it ahead of Orlando and Las Vegas.  With Indianapolis it is a question how whether one believes more in corporations and population or media markets and GDP.

San Antonio
TV Market - 36th
Radio Market - 28th (Cinci, Clev
Population - 1.327 MM 7th in US
GDP - 73.6B; 3.0% growth

San Antonio is a promising option, but with a drawback.  First with the good news, San Antonio has an immense population that is being poorly served by top tier professional sports.  The media market is not great, but has good long term prospects.  This region has been a hotbed of growth even during the economic struggles the rest of the United States was facing.  San Antonio also has a major corporate presence.  The city is home to Valero Energy (86.0B; 24th), Tesoro (20.3B; 128th), United Services Automobile (17.9B; 145th), CC Media Holdings (5.9B; 391st), and NuStar Energy (4.4B; 497th).  That is a good group that would help buy up seats and luxury suites.  The problem is though that the main stadium available, the Alamodome, was built without the ability to store a MLB field.  The structure cannot be retrofitted to accommodate a team either.  This means a club would need to have a new stadium waiting for it.  The Arizona Diamondbacks accomplished that feat.  The Colorado Rockies, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins, and Washington Nationals required an existing stadium.  Before them, Seattle and Toronto used preexisting stadiums.  Point being, it is uncommon to have everyone in order for a MLB to show up on your doorstep.

Vancouver
TV Market - ~20th
Radio Market - ~42nd
Population - 590k; ~29th
GDP - 83B; 3.0% growth

I have argued before that baseball should move up north again.  I think baseball could work in Montreal, but I don't think that will happen any time soon.  That city is no longer MLB ready anymore.  Vancouver is.  Of all of the cities, Vancouver would be the easiest one to move into because of BC Place.  BC Place was originally built with the intent of luring a baseball team.  That was unsuccessful, but the building has been renovated and is a fairly modern stadium with proper infrastructure in place.  It hearkens back to the Tropicana except that it has an excellent location and the stadium has been kept up.  Vancouver also boasts a few corporations who would appear on the Fortune 500 if they were in America: Telus (9.6B; 257th), Teck Resources (8.8B; 277th), Jim Pattinson (7.1B; 331st), and Best Buy Canada (5.6B; 404th).  That is not a stellar corporate presence, but it is stronger than Portland, Orlando, and Las Vegas.  It has a second tier TV market, a third tier population, and a growing economy.

Conclusion

Of these cities, Charlotte is an obvious front runner for an expansion team.  San Antonio has a strong foundation, but would need to get enough capital in place to not only buy a franchise, but also develop land for a stadium for the team to play in on day one.  That is logistically difficult.  Indianapolis has supposedly had issues with the Colts pulling in enough cash, making them threaten to look elsewhere.  Portland is an old school favorite, but their difficulties in keeping their AAA clubs cast some doubt and they need a stadium immediately.  Orlando and Las Vegas are simply poor fits.  Vancouver looks like a decent third tier location with a great stadium situation.

I would probably award Charlotte and Vancouver the teams.  I would bump out Vancouver if San Antonio could promise a stadium.

Also of note, with Constellation Energy appearing to be falling under Exelon, Baltimore will have no Fortune 500 companies.  Washington DC has seventeen.

28 January 2012

Circle the Bases with Peace

Here at Camden Depot we understand during the week you are busy with work, school, taking the kids to hockey practice, or just don't have time to get to a computer. So at the end of each week we will do a recap  and update of the latest Orioles news items.

Early in the week the Orioles went out and addressed their DH position by signing switch hitting utility infielder Wilson Betemit to a multi year deal. As a result of the move the Orioles DFA'd relief pitcher Rick Vandenhurk to make room for Betemit on the 40-man roster.

The Orioles avoided arbitration with utility infielder Robert Andino and signed the Red Sox slayer to a one year deal.

The ball club announced the minor league coaching staffs of all seven Oriole affiliates. Ron Johnson from the Red Sox organization will be the manager of the Norfolk Tides. Johnson as a minor league manager has a record of 1,261-1,262 in 18 seasons. Pitching coach Mike Griffin is back with the Tides for his fifth consecutive season in the organization. Hitting coach will be Denny Walling who was a roving instructor for six seasons. Mike Shires will be the athletic trainer.

Former Tides manager Gary Allenson has been sent down to manage the short-season Class A squad the Aberdeen Ironbirds. Allenson spent five seasons as the skipper for the Tides. The Ironbirds bring in a blast from the past as former Orioles pitcher Alan Mills will be the pitching coach. (Good thing Darryl Strawberry doesn't manage in the Penn League.)

The Bowie Baysox skipper Gary Kendall  is back for his second season and his 13th in the system. Field coach Denny Hockling, pitching coach Kennie Steenstra and trainer Aaron Scott will be back for the Baysox.

Class A Frederick and Delmarva return both managers Orlando Gomez and Ryan Minor for their third consecutive seasons.

The Gulf Coast League Orioles return Ramon Sambo for his fifth season as the GCL Birds manager. nd finally Elvis Morel will manage the Dominican Summer League squad.

MASN's Roch Kubatko reported this week that the Orioles will send several representatives from the organization down to the Dominican Republic next week to watch Cuban star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes play. The report also mentioned the O's will take a look at the other Cuban star Jorge Soler.

Kubatko also announced the Orioles signed 18 year old Guatemalan outfielder Andres Aguilar.

And Finally, reports came out this week from local and national reporters that the Orioles would be willing to offer a multi-year deal to free agent starting pitcher Edwin Jackson. Baltimore Sun beat writer Eduardo Encina tweeted on Saturday the O's probably wouldn't go four years with Jackson but would opt to do a three year deal with an option. Jackson, 28, went 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA and 1.44 WHIP last season between the White Sox and the Cardinals.

P.S. Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson sustained a fractured clavicle Friday night when he fell from a stage at a benefit at the Seminole Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla. Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post reported the story. Robinson was accepting an award where he fell backwards, six feet to the ground. The report says Robinson was scheduled to attend a charity game today benefiting the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital but spent the night in the hospital.

27 January 2012

O's Kim Sung-min in Dan Duquette's version of Rashomon

Kim Tebow
Kim Sung-min was signed by the Orioles.  That is pretty much all we know for sure.  In an apparent ode to Kurosawa's Rashomon we have a South Korean paper, a Baltimore Sun beat reporter, and a national baseball talent writer giving somewhat different accounts of the player.

South Korean Paper
I do not read Korean and the Google translator is confused by a few words.  I assume "maximum strength fat guts" means something equivalent to having nerves of steel.  I don't know.  What we can glean from the article is the outline of a pretty impressive talent.  Sung-min is a high school left handed pitcher who has a 89.5 mph fastball.  He also has a curve and a "remarkable" circle change.  He is listed as 5'10.5 and weighing in at 181 lbs.  There is no information on the financials.

The Baltimore Beat
The Sun's Eduardo Encina talked to a team source and came up with the following pitcher.  Sung-min at 17 is the best left handed high school pitching prospect in South Korea (which is similar to being the best high school left handed pitching prospect in Rhode Island--that can be quite good and it could be quite poor).  He is 5'10 and 180 lbs with a high 80s fastball, an above average 12-to-6 curveball, and an above average change up.  They expect him to become 6'1.  These pitches are expected to progress as he ages (this means that all three pitches will be plus pitches).  He will play a few weeks at the academy in Los Angeles before heading over to the Orioles' facility in Florida.

The National Writer
Keith Law reminds me of Frau BlΓΌcher.  You mention his name in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area and you will surely hear some snorting and gnashing of teeth.  That certainly was the case when the following was written from his twitter account:
The O's gave $550K to a 5'9" Korean HS lefty throwing 80-83 with no feel for a breaking ball. Nice use of savings from cutting pro scouting.
 With respect to the Orioles projection of Sung-min growing a few more inches, Law wrote in a chat:
Predicting body development is a big part of scouts' jobs, although it's usually about a frame filling out more than a player growing three freaking inches after his 18th birthday, which is pretty rare. A scout would also want to meet the parents and see how tall they are, how broad, how heavy, etc. I'm much more comfortable looking at a 17-year-old Tyler Skaggs and telling you he'll add velocity because he's tall and thin with broad shoulders rather than looking at a 17-year-old Jarrod Parker and telling you he'll grow from 6' to 6'3" because I like his fastball.
I agree with Law on this last point.  Final height determinations are quite difficult and are often guesswork even when you understand family genetics and have a long term growth pattern documented from the player.  You could get even more exact with more invasive medicals procedures, but that seems an unlikely scenario for an upstart operation in South Korea.  I really do not know if anyone is using that approach.

Conclusion
Like Rashomon, I do not know what the reality is.  I am drawn into Encina's article as something I want to be true.  Sung-min, a player on a well covered Junior national team, somehow slips through the cracks even though he is a lefty with potentially three plus pitches.  Typically, a player like that would be followed by many teams and would be worth a couple million.  The South Korean paper appears more tame, but we don't really know if the papers used the same source.  Many aspects are similar between the two players with the Baltimore account having a greater eye to the future and what Sung-min could become.  Law's account is a dousing of cold water.

In all honesty, all three could be accurate.  Law's information could have come from an earlier outing or on one of the player's bad days.  The Korean article may be an account from an Orioles' scout highlighting the performance when everything was clicking.  The Baltimore Sun account may be a summation of the high points and a focus on the top 1% outcome.  When he reports to Florida, we will likely have much of this progressing toward some answers.

Right now, I would not put too much stock in any of these evaluations.  How could you?

25 January 2012

Os Pitchers, Option Years, and Cuts

Note: Vandenhurk was on the 40 man roster when this post was written.  He was DFA'd for Wilson Betemit.

For this article, I used the information collected by this poster and filling in where I see holes (such as Dana Eveland's absence). I have yet to find a good resource on the internet to figure these things out.  However, it appears for the time being that Tom Peace will be working with us at the Depot and providing us transaction information news.  We are happy to have him on board and quite happy to more fully cover the Orioles.

I have not compared this year's 40 man roster heading into Spring Training to any other year's, but it feels as if there is a great deal of roster inflexibility this year.  This post is to run down the current stable of arms and try to determine how many spots on the team are actually up for competition, who that competition is, and who is most certainly going to be placed on waivers.

Players with Three Options
Jake Arrieta RHP
Arrieta on first glance did not have an incredibly impressive season, but his peripherals look good.  Also, if the bone spurs in his arm were hampering him then we may be able to expect even more from him.  I do think even though he would be an excellent late inning arm, if he does not earn a spot in the rotation then he is going to Norfolk.

Zach Britton LHP
I cannot imagine Britton not starting with Baltimore in their rotation.

Dylan Bundy RHP
Bundy signed a major league deal at the signing deadline last August.  He actually has four options due to signing that deal as an amateur and will use the first of those this season.  He is at least two years away from the parent club.

Oliver Drake RHP
Drake was placed on the 40 man roster this past fall to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.  He faces long odds breaking camp with the Orioles, but he may see some time in Baltimore this year as the season drags on and players are demoted, released, or injured.

Two Options
Jason Berken RHP
Berken was on the Scott Garceau Show the other day and mentioned that he feels strong and ready for Spring Training.  I could see him breaking camp in Baltimore.

Brian Matusz LHP
Matusz has two options left and he is certainly fighting for a spot in the rotation this Spring whereas last year he was merely working on a few minor things.  Unless he finds where his lost 2 mph went, then he will likely break the year in Norfolk.

One Option
Darren O'Day RHP
O'Day amazingly still has an option left according the link above.  Plagued with injuries of late, he might need more time to get himself in order to perform well in the majors.  He is certainly one of the pitchers on the bubble.

Zach Phillips LHP
Phillips is another player I was surprised as having another option year left.  He is another player on the bubble as he has shown to be effective as a lefty in the pen.

Pedro Strop RHP (edit: Strop has no options left, he was optioned once by Colorado)
Strop came over to the Orioles in the Mike Gonzalez deal with Texas last year.  At the time, Nick wrote a brief scouting review on Strop.  He looked good in a short cup of coffee last year.

Chris Tillman RHP
Tillman is another pitcher who has lost some velocity as well.  When the Bedard trade went down, Tillman had another 4 mph to his fastball.  As that velocity decreased, so have expectations.  Tillman could help out in the pen, but with an option left he is going to AAA again.

Unoptionable
Brad Bergesen RHP
Bergesen may be able to benefit from the Peterson Pitching Lab.  He has flashed moments of very good-ness, but if he loses his command he becomes quite hittable.  It appears that his best fit would be as a reliever, so that the team could protect him from left handed batters.  It would surprise me to see him DFA'd.

Wei-Yin Chen LHP
Chen should have three options left, but I imagine his contract prevents him from being optioned similar to what most star Japanese players sign.  Chen also was likely promised an opportunity to start, which will narrow things down for the club.


Dana Eveland LHP
Eveland has enticed and disappointed many teams over his career.  He is now without options.  The Orioles gave up minimal talent to acquire him, but that effort probably means that he would have to completely fall apart to not break with the team.


Kevin Gregg RHP
"Proven" closer Kevin Gregg cannot be optioned and will be sticking with the club in some capacity.


Jeremy Guthrie RHP
Guthrie is the dependable veteran hand and, by default, the ace of the team.  Unless dealt, he will break with the club.  His value takes a dramatic downward turn once the season begins because players dealt during the season no longer qualify for free agent compensation.

Tommy Hunter RHP
I am fairly confidant that Hunter is a Buck Showalter player.  However, I just do not see much there worthwhile in him starting.  He will likely start in the pen and will almost certainly break camp with Baltimore.

Jim Johnson RHP
Is he a reliever or a starter?  It really does not matter.  He will be in Baltimore.

Troy Patton LHP
Patton was the major piece in the first Tejada deal (as opposed to Luke Scott).  He was very impressive last year in Baltimore over 30 IP with a 3.00 ERA.  His peripherals looked solid as well.  I am thinking he has earned himself a trip past the Potomac as well.

Clay Rapada LHP
Rapada kills lefties.  He outright kills them.  Righties outright kill Rapada.  They kill him.  Does the team have space for a true LOOGY?

Alfredo Simon RHP
Simon is a fringe player.  He has good velocity in his fastball, but is generally inconsistent.  He has flashed some hope as a starter and a closer, but has ultimately disappointed in both roles.  My guess is that with his law troubles over, he will be dealt to an NL team for a low ceiling B level minor leaguer or a low probability slightly higher ceiling low minors player.

Rick Vandenhurk RHP
Vandenhurk is a shade below Simon.  Simon having been able to show his abilities at the MLB level while Vandenhurk is caught more as someone who does quite well at AAA.  I think the market for him is less than that for Simon.  Vandenhurk will likely be DFA'd at the end of camp.  I would not be surprised if he heads back to the Marlins.


Tsuyoshi Wada LHP
Like Chen, Wada probably has two elements in his contract that limit opportunity for others: (1) he cannot be optioned without his permission and (2) he was likely promised a starting rotation job to being the season.

Starting Rotation
Sure Bets: Guthrie, Britton, Chen, Wada
Competition: Arrieta, Matusz, Tillman, Bergesen, Eveland, Hunter, Simon, VandenHurk
I think the first four slots have been filled.  I also think the competition will really be between Arrieta, Eveland, and Hunter.  For Arrieta, it will be the rotation or Norfolk.  For Eveland and Hunter, it will be the rotation or bullpen.  I cannot see either of them being released.  Matusz is the main wildcard here.  He has the potential to be a very solid 2 slot pitcher on a first division team.  His loss of velocity last year was quite concerning.  If better conditioning improves things, he will secure that fifth slot.  However, it would also not be surprising if we learn this year that he is suffering from an injury.  I also suspect that Simon and Vandenhurk will not be with the club when they break.

Bullpen
Sure Bets: Kevin Gregg, Jim Johnson
Competition: Berken, O'Day, Phillips, Strop, Patton, Rapada, Simon, Vandenhurk
Assuming there is a thirteen man pen, Gregg, Johnson, and perhaps Eveland and Hunter means that there are four slots remaining.  Under competition, the Orioles have eight pitchers competing for four slots (this does not include MiL contracts with Spring Training invites).  Eveland would be the only lefty in that group.  I see Patton in the pen along with the winner of the Phillips/Rapada competition.  For the other two slots, I think Strop and O'Day make it, but that Berken or Simon has a decent chance to displace O'Day due to their ability to eat up innings.

Spring Training Invites
Willie Eyre RHP, Dennys Reyes LHP, Oscar Villareal RHP, Armando Galarraga RHP (I hear he signed)
I would be surprised if any of these pitchers are able to push the players in front of them out of the way.  Eyre depends on getting outs on batted balls.  I think we could see him later in the year, but not in April.  Reyes fell apart last year.  I do not know exactly what happened to him, but I see no evidence that he played past the spring.  He has the ability to push Phillips and Rapada for a spot.  I do not believe in Villareal.  He only has a couple good seasons and last pitched in 2008.  Galarraga has always appeared to be a better pitcher than he really was.  I have a hard time seeing him contributing in a substantial way for a MLB club.


Offseason Not Over
There have been some rumblings that the Orioles have interest in acquiring another pitcher.  The two names mentioned are Francisco Cordero who would come in an close or Luis Ayala who would be another rightie in the pen.  I think the former allows Johnson to stay in a late inning setup role while the latter supposedly solidifies the late inning work and permits Johnson to close out games.  In either of those circumstances, I think it weakens the chances for Strop, O'Day, Berken, and Simon to make the roster.

My Bet
SP: Guthrie, Britton, Chen, Wada, Arrieta
RP: Johnson, Gregg, Patton, Reyes, Eveland, Hunter, Strop, and O'Day

24 January 2012

O's make roster moves and what not to do on Twitter

Monday was a productive day for the Baltimore Orioles as the ballclub decided to release outfielder Kyle Hudson. Hudson, 25, was a fourth round pick in the 2008 draft out of Illinois. The young outfielder was designated for assignment to make room for recently acquired pitcher from Taiwan, Wei-Yin Chen. The Orioles had to trade or release Hudson. The team can attempt to resign Hudson, but he wont be able to play for the ballclub before May 15. In three minor league seasons Hudson put up some decent stats, .296/.375/.336 in 119 games.

The Baltimore Sun reported that the Orioles and free agent switch hitting utility infielder Wilson Betemit have agreed on a 2 year +1 deal, pending a physical. Betemit, who played for the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals last season, will provide the Orioles with some infield depth along with the additions of Ryan Flaherty and Matt Antonelli. Betemit for his career has a stat line of .296/.336/.448 with 63 homers and 243 RBIs in 1,742 plate appearances. Last season between the Tigers and the Royals Betemit went a combined .285/.343./.452 with 22 doubles, four triples, eight long balls and 46 RBIs in 97 games. The signing would be considered an On-Base percentage aisle type signing for EVBOP Dan Duquette. The O's will need to remove a player from the 40-man roster  to make room for Betemit. 

Twitter has become a way to deliver the news whether it be entertainment, sports, or even the weather. News can be distributed so fast on twitter, its hard to keep up with whats current and what is old news. The speed of the news though creates some drawbacks and people will try to boost their credibility on social network sites by reporting false or made up information in hopes of making a name for themselves.
(Everybody wants to be the next Roch Kubatko, who doesn't?)

Recently, Scott Swaim who claims to have ties to MLB, tweeted that top free agent Prince Fielder was close to signing a 8 year deal with the Washington Nationals. None of the reliable and trustworthy news outlets, such as MLB, ESPN, Jon Heyman or Ken Rosenthal followed with confirmation on the Swaims news.

Former Nationals GM and ESPN Radio personality Jim Bowden did some investigating and eventually tweeted the report was untrue and that Prince Fielder hadn't nearly signed a deal with the Nats. My grandfather always told me when breaking news happens to always wait and read everything and to see what the true facts are before making a judgement on something. My guess is Swaim, was trying to stir up the hot stove and get people talking about the top free agent left on the market. I mean what else is there to do on a cold January night? Swaim even has it on his twitter that he was the one who broke the Albert Pujols to the Angels story. We live in a world where its not important that the story is accurate or not, its more important and sexy to just report the story first without any resources to back up what you are reporting. Whatever helps you get more followers and more pats on the back by your friends more power to you. But please think before you post, because when your story comes back and bites you and no one is coming to back you up, you look less credible then you already did. 


23 January 2012

Are O's Still Looking for a Left-Handed Batter?

Note: This column is now outdated with Betemit signing.


Dan Duquette has mentioned in the past he is looking to add a left handed bat to the team.  He has also expressed a desire to add someone with a ".380 on base percentage."  Those two things are a tough combination to find a free agent whether at the beginning or end of free agency.  At it stands, the only player who immediately appears as a fit is Prince Fielder.  Fielder has been a good, but not elite first baseman.  He tends to have on and off seasons that run the inverse of the infamous Star Trek rule (Fielder's odd years have been better than his even ones 17.1 fWAR vs. 6.4 fWAR).  I think over the next eight years or so that Fielder will be a cheaper and better deal than Albert Pujols, but that he is not a great first baseman.  It is on par with players like Mark Grace, Kent Hrbek, and Glenn Davis.  Very good, but not great players.  As such, it is difficult making a good argument that Fielder is worth 25 MM a year.

However, there are other options than Fielder.  These options are not as flashy or dependable as the production that Fielder will provide.  Additionally many of these second/third/fourth choices have issues with them which may explain why they are available at this late date.

Nine Potential Options:

The First Basemen
This position is one of several where the Orioles lack prime production.  The current plan is to open the season with Chris Davis at first base.  Davis, the long time Ranger who had his moments in Arlington, will try to make a home there, but will need to improve upon his contact rate to an acceptable level (producing a .280 to .300 batting average) to be useful to the team.  The only other option there that could lead to league average or above production would be to shift Mark Reynolds back to first base.  As it stands now, Davis is a left handed batter and an additional left handed batter makes little sense with respect to a platoon.  Davis, however, could be a good offensive backup corner infielder.

Russell Branyan
36 years old
1B/DH/fringe 3B
Branyan has been an extreme platoon hitter with a career +.105 OPS favoring his bat against right handed hitters.  His career has been one where teams have seemed to have difficulty fitting him in as he is a solid defensive 1B who was above average against righties and replacement level against lefties.  Such a player is difficult to find a spot on the bench as his role is limited to 1B and DH as well as being a target for a relief switch late in the game.  In 2009 and 2010, Branyan hit quite well against right handed pitching with 905 and 874 OPS in Seattle and Cleveland.  In 2011, the wheels feel off and had a line of 198/293/388 in 133 plate appearances.  Optimism can be found for this year as his BABIP was 50 points below his normal level.  BABIP tends to regress to a player's average BABIP.  The cause for concern though that I see is that Branyan also saw a collapse in his ISO.  He would be worth a Minor League invite.

Casey Kotchman
29 years old
1B
Kotchman has had high expectations placed up him, placing in the top 100 prospects for Baseball America in 2002 (22nd), 2003 (13th), 2004 (15th), and 2005 (6th).  He was known for plus contact, plus discipline, and plus defense.  The hope was that his gap power would play up as he matured.  After a solid rookie year, his hitting sputtered out.  The Angels eventually gave up on him and he moved around to Atlanta, Boston, and Seattle.  Last year, everything came together again playing for the Rays.  He showed a good hit rate (potentially inflated by a high BABIP) and played good defense.  The Rays apparently did not believe his performance last season was in line with his talent level and chose to pay Carlos Pena instead.  Kotchman would probably be a good play if the team did not already have Davis.  I find him an improvement on Davis, but not remarkably so.

The Third Baseman
It is a matter of discussion when trying to determine whether Mark Reynolds is going back to third base because he is best suited there due to his skills or Chris Davis' shoulder.  A platoon might work here with the left handed third baseman taking third and pushing Reynolds to first or DH when facing a right handed starting pitcher.

Wilson Betemit
30 years old
INF/DH
Betemit is likely looking for a starting gig.  He has predominantly played third base and he has defensively played that position quite poorly.  Betemit keeps himself in lineups because he has keep his 800 or above OPS.  He actually profiles as an extremely good platoon player with a career long 817 OPS against right handers and a 684 OPS against left handers.  His defense is no worse than Reynolds', so he might be a decent choice as a 3B or DH against right handers and a left handed bat off the bench in cross handed matchups.  He could also stand in at 2B or 1B in a pinch.  He has never played the outfield.

The Left Fielders
Left Field is another area of some instability for the Orioles.  They have seemed relatively unconvinced that Nolan Reimold was an appropriate solution for the past several years.  The team has tried to play Felix Pie, Corey Patterson, Kyle Hudson, Matt Angle, and now perhaps Endy Chavez instead of using Reimold.  Chavez, a lefty, has been rumored as being used as a platoon player, but lacks the bat to be effectively used.  It may benefit the team more by relegating Chavez to being a backup centerfielder and use a more legitimate bat to pair up with Reimold.

Johnny Damon
38 years old
DH/LF
Damon was signed on the cheap by the Rays last year and was thrust into the lineup as a full timer.  He showed himself to be unable to play the field and that his bat had deteriorated.  The Orioles have been tied to him, but he would likely be an inflexible player who would be a detriment offensively.

Carlos Guillen
36 years old
DH/LF/1B/fringe INF
Guillen has not been a major contributor in the past three seasons.  He still shows a powerful bat and a decent eye, but he no longer appears able to make enough contact.  Pitchers appear to be going after him more directly than they use to.  However, he does show more flexibility than Damon and that means Guillen can stand around poorly defending more positions than Damon.

Raul Ibanez
40 years old
DH/LF
Ibanez is not a adequate defender.  He hasn't been for years.  For the Phillies, he had a good half season and the rest went to pot.  Ibanez still does relatively well against right handed batters.  He is the type of player I imagine that the old Andy MacPhail regime would be interested in.  Ibanez had a down year last year and someone might take a chance that he could find his stroke again.  I doubt he can though.  He just does not have the bat speed anymore.


J.D. Drew
36 years old
RF/LF/DH
Drew suffered from a shoulder impingement and a fractured finger which resulted in an awful season last year.  He has said that he would continue playing only if he found the right, winning situation.  Many players waiting for contracts have said that and it remains to be seen what Drew will do.  If his shoulder is fixed, then it would be an easy decision to sign him and slot him in left field.  Without looking at his medicals, he appears to me as a great buy low candidate.  I would not want to spend more than 3-4 MM on him and would not wish to promise him a starting slot.  The latter contingency may be difficult in convincing him.

Kosuke Fukudome
35 years old
RF/LF/DH
When the Cubs signed Fukudome they expected a superstar.  What they got was a very good season, two average ones, and a mess of a final season.  His numbers in Japan actually translated quite well with a high OBP.  Somehow the frenzy of a top notch foreign player coming to the US escalated the cost beyond reason.  Although he did not perform according to expectations, that does not make Fukudome a worthless player.  Even last year's evaporation of any sense of power, Fukudome maintained an OBP over .350 against lefties.  He could be useful as a 5th outfielder and an OBP focused platoon player against righties.

The Designated Hitter
One thing has remained the same even though there was a regime change: the expressed desire to keep DH duties open to give players rest.  In the MacPhail era, this often unraveled into reserving the DH position to full time players like Aubrey Huff, Luke Scott, and Vladimir Guerrero.  As the Duquette era begins, does he go out and sign a full time DH?  Damon, Guillen, and Ibanez likely would qualify as that.  So would our last option.

Hideki Matsui
38 years old
DH
The Athletics have tried for the past several seasons to take advantage of a cheap way to improve offensive production: strict DH bats.  This included Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas, Jack Cust, and then Hideki Matsui.  This approach has not exactly gone well for the Athletics.  The poor success rate is likely a reason why it is relatively cheap to use this approach.  Before last year, Matsui was a 850 OPS performer against right handed pitching.  Last year, he was at 654.  I don't see him bouncing back.


Conclusion
I see J.D. Drew, Wilson Betemit, or Casey Kotchman as the three targets that would be ideal.  They are players with good reason for optimism and an outside chance of being useful in a deal that would bring back a B level player.  That said, if the sole play is for a B level prospect then the cost at hand should be no more than 5 MM.  Adjust for the probability of these players being tradable and I would be comfortable offering 3 MM with incentives.  The only other one of these eight that I would be OK with offering a MLB contract would be Kosuke Fukudome.  I could see offering him a base pay of 1.5 MM with incentives.  There really are not a lot of great choices.

Arrivals and Departures: Peace and the 40 Man Roster

I have finally found a forum and a website that has given me the opportunity to speak my mind about the Baltimore Orioles. For so long, I have been searching various Oriole message boards and blogs for a place to contribute to the daily news surrounding the ball club and Camden Depot has graciously given me the space to do that. First let me introduce myself, I'm born and raised in Baltimore and have been an Orioles fan since Cal Ripken Jr. made the winning catch in the World Series in 1983. I have been in the radio business for the last ten years working as a producer and reporter for CBS Radio. Throughout my time as a reporter I have covered the Orioles, Ravens, Maryland Terps Basketball and Football for 105.7 The Fan and ESPN Radio 1300AM.

My desire to write about sports began two years ago when I took a fun writing course in college and ever since I have been helping out with writing about Lacrosse for ESPNHS.com and have covered high school sports for The Carroll County Times

I have always wanted to write about the Orioles. I occasionally will go over and chime in on the message boards at Orioleshangout.com. But adding posts and creating threads can get fun for only so long. My passion is to cover the team and bring the latest news coming out of the warehouse to you the reader. With my experience as a reporter and the love I have for the Orioles I feel we will have a lot of fun here on Camden Depot.

----

So lets dive in to what has been going on so far this offseason for the Birds. Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations (wow that is a long title to type out, would you be cool if I called Dan the EVPBO?) Dan Duquette has stepped into Andy MacPhail's role and has made some significant changes to the front office. Since taking the role as the EVPBO, Duquette has brought his own people in from his days when he was with the Boston Red Sox and the Montreal Expos. Its pretty impressive what Duquette has been able to do with the changes in the front office and the scouting department considering the fact that GM candidate Tony LaCava said he wasn't allowed to mess with the cupboard. The hires in particular that stand out to me so far are Rick Peterson, who will be the Director of Pitcher Development and has a lengthy track record of helping pitchers and former Orioles centerfielder Brady Anderson who will be Duquette's special assistant and will oversee the conditioning and fitness of the ball club. Both moves I see will be beneficial for the ball club and have been needed in the organization for a long time. 

But moving along, the Orioles have also made some changes to the 40 man roster and Duquette has made it no secret that he wants to shop in the pitchers aisle and the high on-base percentage aisle. And with the moves so far you can tell he is not leaving a stone unturned. Even though the additions have been made it is also interesting to take into account with the 2012 season approaching, where everyone on the 40-man roster stands with the option years. Orioleshangout poster CrazySilver did a nice breakdown, provided by COTS, on how the options work and where each player stands.

Options
An option (optional assignment) allows a club to move a player on its 40-man roster to and from the minor-leagues without exposing him to the other 29 teams.

After 4 or 5 years as a professional, a player must be added to his club's 40-man roster or exposed to the 29 other clubs in the Rule 5 draft. (A club has 5 years to evaluate a player who signs his first pro contract at 18 years old or younger, but only 4 years to decide on a player who signs at age 19.) For purposes of calculating years as a pro, the counting begins the day a player signs his first pro contract, not the season he begins to play.

When a player is added to the 40-man roster, his club has three options, or three separate seasons during which the club may to move him to and from the minor leagues without exposing him to other clubs. A player on the 40-man roster playing in the minors is on optional assignment, and within an option season, there is no limit on the number of times a club may demote and recall a player. However, a player optioned to the minor leagues may not be recalled for at least 10 days, unless the club places a Major League player on the disabled list during the 10-day window.

After three options are exhausted, the player is out of options. Beginning with the next season, he must clear waivers before he may be sent to the minors again. See Waivers. Additionally, a player with 5 years of Major League service may not be sent to the minor leagues on an optional assignment without his consent.

Counting option years
- If a player is not sent to the minors during a year, an option is not used.
- If a player is on the 40-man roster in spring training but optioned to the minors before the season begins, an option is used.
- If a player's optional assignment(s) to the minors total less than 20 days in one season, an option is not used.
- A player may be eligible for a fourth option year if he has been optioned in three seasons but does not yet have five full seasons of professional experience. A full season is defined as being on an active pro roster for at least 90 days in a season. (If a player is put on the disabled list after earning 60 or more days of service in a single season, his time on the DL is counted.) The 90-day requirement means short-season leagues (New-York Penn, Northwest, Pioneer, Appalachian, Gulf Coast, Arizona Rookie, Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues) do not count as full seasons for the purposes of determining eligibility for a fourth option.

The following is the 40 man roster as it stands.  Again, this list is largely informed by the work mentioned above.

Adams, Ryan
Options Remaining: 2/3
Reason: Adams was brought up to replace Brian Roberts in May 2011. He was optioned after only getting a handful of starts.

Andino, Robert
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: The Marlins purchased his contract on 9/2/2005. He was optioned for the first time on 3/25/2006. He was optioned for a second time on 3/23/2007. He was optioned for a third and final time on 5/25/2008. Andino was sent outright to AAA Norfolk at the end of Spring Training 2010 with the acquisition of Julio Lugo from the St. Louis Cardinals. He was later added back to the 40 man roster in September 2010 and remained on the roster over the winter.

Angle, Matt
Options Remaining: 2/3
Reason: Angle was added to the 40 man roster in November 2010. Angle was optioned at the end of ST 2011.


Antonelli, Matt
Options Remaining: 1/3
Reason: Contract purchased 9/1/2008 and optioned on 3/23/2009 and 3/28/2010.


Arrieta, Jake
Options Remaining: 3/3
Reason: Arrieta's contract was purchased on June 11th 2010 to make his major debut against the New York Yankees.

Bell, Josh
Options Remaining: 1/3
Reason: Bell had his contract purchased in November 2009. He was optioned for the first time following Spring Training 2010. He was optioned for the second time following Spring Training 2011.

Bergesen, Brad
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: The Orioles purchased his contract on 11/18/2008 to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He was optioned to the minors for the first time on 3/21/2009. Bergesen was sent to the minors on 4/20/2010 but was recalled on 5/1/2010. Bergesen was optioned to the minors again on 6/14/2010 and remained in the minors for more than 20 days throughout the season. Bergesen was optioned to the minors for four days in 2011, from 4/9 to 4/13 before being recalled for an injured starter. He was later optioned on 5/29/11.

Berken, Jason
Options Remaining: 2/3
Reason: The Orioles purchased his contract on May 26th 2009. Berken was optioned to Norfolk on 5/26/2011 to help him work on his command.

Britton, Zach
Options Remaining: 3/3
Reason: Britton was added to the 40 man roster in November 2010. Britton was optioned on 3/29/2011 but was recalled on 4/3/2011 so an option year was not used.


Bundy, Dylan
Options Remaining: 4/4
Reason: Bundy was added to the 40 man roster upon signing in August 2011.


Chavez, Endy
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Chavez no longer qualifies for options.


Chen, Wei-Yin
Options Remaining: 3/3
Reason: Signed by Baltimore as a Free Agent on 1/10/2012.


Davis, Chris
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Contract purchased on 6/26/2008 and optioned on 7/6/2009, 4/23/2010, and 3/29/2011.


Drake, Oliver
Options Remaining: 3/3
Reason: Drake was added to the 40 man roster in November 2011. 


Eveland, Dana
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Eveland was acquired via trade in December 2011 and is without options.


Gregg, Kevin
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Gregg is in the last year of his free agent contract.


Guthrie, Jeremy
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: With the Cleveland Indians, Guthrie exhausted all of his option years.


Flaherty, Ryan
Options Remaining: 3/3 (Rule 5 draftee, cannot use options in 2012)
Reason: Flaherty was drafted in Rule 5 draft in December 2011.


Hardy, J.J.
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Hardy has signed an extension and no longer qualifies for options.


Hunter, Tommy
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Rangers purchased his contract in 2008 and was optioned in each season subsequently.


Johnson, Jim
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: The Orioles purchased Johnson's contract on 11/18/2005. The Orioles optioned Johnson to the minors for the first time on 3/16/2006. On 3/12/2007, the Orioles optioned Johnson to the minors for a second time. The Orioles optioned Johnson to the minors in March of 2008, but he spent less than 20 days in the minors so his optional assignment is withdrawn. Johnson was optioned to Norfolk on 5/1/2010 to make room for the returning Brad Bergesen on the major league roster. Johnson was recalled on 5/28/2010 and placed on the major league DL, unfortunately, the final option was used.


Jones, Adam
Options Remaining: 1/3
Reason: Contract was purchased on 7/14/2006 and optioned on 8/22/2006 and 4/1/2007.


Mahoney, Joe
Options Remaining: 2/3
Reason: Mahoney was added to the 40 man roster in November 2010. Mahoney was optioned to the minors for the first time during Spring Training 2011.


Markakis, Nick
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: No longer qualifies.


Matusz, Brian
Options Remaining: 2/4
Reason: Matusz signed a MLB out of the draft with options used on 3/14/2009 and 6/30/2011.


Miller, Jai
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Contract purchased on 11/20/2007 and optioned on 3/10/2008, 3/13/2009, and 4/8/2010.


O'Day, Darren
Options Remaining: 1/3
Reason: Contract was purchased on 3/29/2008.  Options were used on 5/13/2008 and on 7/14/2011.


Patton, Troy
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: On 8/25/2007, Patton had his contract purchased by the Astros after completing his fourth season in the minors. Patton remained with the Astros throughout September of 2007. Patton was optioned in Spring Training 2009 and 2010. Patton was optioned for a final time during Spring Training 2011.


Phillips, Zach
Options Remaining: 1/3
Reason: Contract was purchased on 11/19/2009 with options executed on 3/17/2010 and 3/12/2011.


Rapada, Clay
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Contract was purchased in 11/20/2006 with options executed on 3/12/2007, 3/30/2008, and 4/1/2009


Reimold, Nolan
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Reimold had his contract purchased on 11/18/2008 to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He was optioned for the first time during Spring Training 2009. After opening up with a horrendous beginning to his 2010 season, Reimold was sent to Norfolk to work out some of his issues in May and has remained in Norfolk. Reimold was optioned for a final time at the end of ST 2011.


Reynolds, Mark
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: No longer qualifies for options.


Roberts, Brian
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: No longer qualifies for options.


Simon, Alfredo
Options Remaining: 0/3
Story: Had his contract purchased by the Phillies on 11/19/2003. He was optioned for the first time on 3/13/2004 by the Phillies. Upon being traded to the Giants during the 2004 season, he was optioned for a 2nd time on 3/14/2005. He was optioned for a 3rd and final time on 3/13/2006. He was sent outright to the minors on 7/29/2006.


Strop, Pedro
Options Remaining: 1/3
Reason: Contract purchased on 8/27/2009 and optioned on 3/24/2010 and 5/4/2011.


Teagarden, Taylor
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Contract purchased 7/18/2008 and optioned on 7/21/2008, 4/27/2010, and 3/29/2011.


Tillman, Chris
Options Remaining: 1/3
Reason: The Orioles purchased his contract on 7/29/2009 to make his major league debut against Kansas City. Tillman was optioned to the minors for the first time during Spring Training 2010. Tillman was optioned to the minors on 5/29/2011.


VandenHurk, Rick
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reasons: The Marlins optioned Vandenhurk in 2008, 2009, and 2010. He was acquired by the Orioles for Will Ohman at the trade deadline in 2010 and was consequently sent down to Norfolk.


Wada, Tsuyoshi
Options Remaining: 3/3
Reason: Wada was signed as a free agent on 12/14/2011.


Wieters, Matt
Options Remaining: 3/3
Reason: Contract purchased on 5/29/2009.
 


Four Options Remaining:
D.Bundy 

Three Options Remaining:
J. Arrieta, Z. Britton, O. Drake, M. Wieters

Two Options Remaining:
R. Adams, M. Angle, B. Matusz, J. Mahoney 

One Option Remaining:  
J. Bell, A. Jones, D. O'Day, Z. Phillips, P. Strop, C. Tillman

Zero Options Remaining:
R. Andino, B. Bergesen, E. Chavez, W. Chen, C. Davis, D. Eveland, K. Gregg, J. Guthrie, R. Flaherty, J. Hardy, T. Hunter, J. Johnson, N. Markakis, J. Miller, T. Patton, C. Rapada, N. Reimold, M. Reynolds, B. Roberts, A. Simon, T. Teagarden, R. Vandenhurk, T. Wada


We will be following the option year process with each player throughout the season.