08 January 2013

Orioles Should Pass on Potential Kubel Trade

by Matt Kremnitzer

The Diamondbacks have a surplus of outfielders, and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported on Saturday that the Diamondbacks “seek young pitchers” from the Orioles in exchange for Jason Kubel. Apparently, the O’s have balked so far at the Diamondbacks’ asking price, but they appear to at least be interested in the outfielder. But they shouldn’t be.

Kubel, 30, is a decent left-handed hitter with a career slash line of .268/.334/.467 (.344 wOBA). If you just look at that overall line, you’d think he could add a little pop to the O’s lineup. And maybe he could, if he’s used properly and depending on potential injuries. Kubel also destroys right-handed pitching, hitting .279/.343/.498 (.359 wOBA) for his career. But he doesn’t fare nearly as well against lefties: .238/.309/.383 (.306 wOBA).

He’s also a terrible corner outfielder with poor range who should be slotted at DH instead. For his career, he has a -46 UZR. He’s also not a fast runner.

Does Kubel’s skill set sound familiar? It should. The Orioles already have a DH-type player who can’t hit lefties: Wilson Betemit. Here are his splits:

Vs. RHP: .282/.349/.475, .354 wOBA
Vs. LHP: .228/.285/.352, .281 wOBA

Sure, Betemit is a switch-hitter, but that’s hardly helping him here – he actually hits lefties worse from the right side than Kubel does from the left.

There’s also the added benefit of the O’s already having Betemit locked up in 2013 for $1.75 million. (He also has a 2014 option of $3.2 million if he reaches 700 combined plate appearances in 2012 and 2013. He had 376 in 2012, so he needs 324 more, which is certainly within reach.) To acquire Kubel’s services, the O’s would need to ship at least a player or two to the Diamondbacks, and then they’d still owe Kubel $7.5 million in 2013. He also has a mutual 2014 option at the same amount with a $1 million buyout. The Diamondbacks could always send some cash to the O’s along with Kubel, but it probably wouldn’t be much. Either way, that’s a lot of money to commit to someone who wouldn’t add that much to the team and who really should be a part-time player.

Some fans believe Kubel could play some first base, but he’s never played the position at the major league level. Plus, he wouldn’t be much of an upgrade over Chris Davis, who, like Betemit, provides similar skills at the plate.

I’m not sure I completely buy the O’s interest in Kubel, and there’s nothing wrong with Dan Duquette exploring various trades. That is what he’s supposed to do, especially since it doesn’t seem like the O’s are going to spend a bunch of money this offseason. But then again, I didn’t believe the O’s would really trade multiple prospects last season for Dana Eveland and TaylorTeagarden, either. Duquette has made some smart moves, but he shouldn’t believe that trading for Kubel is one of them.

07 January 2013

Arrivals and Departures (1/7/2013)

A short primer on options was provided in an earlier post found here.  If you have any further questions about this issue or other baseball related issues, feel free to email us at CamdenDepot@gmail.com.

The Winter Meetings have been long done with very little movement on the Orioles' 40 man roster.  The team has reportedly discussed signing or trading for several players including but not limited to Joe Saunders, Matt Lindstrom, Lance Berkman, Michael Morse, Justin Smoak, Adam LaRoche, Rick Porcello, and Jason Kubel.  Nothing seems eminent.  The market still has some interesting players, but none that will dramatically improve the team.  Perhaps someone can offer to sign Kyle Lohse to a one year deal with an agreement not to offer arbitration as was done by the Dodgers with Orlando Hudson a few years back.  Anyway, one to the 40 man roster moves,

40 Man Transactions since 12/10/2012:
December 21, 2012 - Steve Pearce was designated for assignment and removed from the Orioles 40 man roster. Eduardo Encina noted that any addition would be a "kick the tires" sort of addition.
January 4, 2013 - Orioles claim catcher Luis Martinez off of waivers from the Texas Rangers who had to make room for their signing of relief pitcher Jason Frasor.
Luis Martinez is certainly a "kick the tires" sort of addition.  By my records, he has one more option remaining on his contract.  He has received accolades for his defense in the minors and has shown decent contact rate and a good understanding of the strike zone.  The major flaw in his game is a major lack of power.  He has a tendency to drive the ball into the ground when he makes contact.  That can work in the minors where fielding and fields are not ideal.  It typically does not work in the majors unless you have speed and can keep teams honest with a few gap shots.  That said, he does provide an option to Luis Exposito who has similar defensive capability, but has power instead of discipline.  Both have one option remaining and, if both stay on the 40 man roster, will provide Norfolk with some decent catching options.  I am unsure if this will impact Caleb Joseph's standing with the team.  If both of the Luis' make the organization and are sent to Norfolk, Joseph will likely begin his age 27 season in Bowie.

Current 40 Man Roster with Options:

Options Remaining

* 3 2 1

Jake Arrieta 
7/6/2012 O O
Luis Ayala 
Mike Belfiore 
Zach Britton 
7/9/2011 6/6/2012 O
Dylan Bundy  3/11/2012 O O O
Wei-Yin Chen 
| | |
Zach Clark 
Miguel Gonzalez 
Jason Hammel 
Tommy Hunter 
8/16/2008 4/1/2009 5/7/2012
Jim Johnson 
6/3/2006 3/12/2007 5/1/2010
Steve Johnson 
6/3/2012 O O
Brian Matusz  3/14/2009 6/30/2011 7/1/2012 O
TJ McFarland
1/5/1900 1/5/1900 Rule 5
Darren O'Day 
5/13/2008 O O
Troy Patton 
3/14/2009 3/15/2010 3/11/2011
Pedro Strop 
3/10/2008 3/24/2010 5/4/2011
Chris Tillman 
3/30/2010 5/29/2011 3/31/2012
Tsuyoshi Wada 
| | |

Luis Exposito 
3/17/2011 3/23/2012 O
Luis Martinez
3/11/2011 3/31/2012 O
Taylor Teagarden 
7/21/2008 4/27/2010 3/29/2011
Matt Wieters 

Wilson Betemit 
Alexi Casilla 
3/23/2007 3/14/2008 5/6/2009
Chris Davis 
7/6/2009 4/23/2010 3/29/2011
Ryan Flaherty 
J.J. Hardy 
Manny Machado 
Yamaico Navarro 
3/17/2011 5/29/2012 O
Brian Roberts 
Jonathan Schoop 
Danny Valencia 
3/19/2010 5/9/2012 O

Xavier Avery 
5/29/2012 O O
L.J. Hoes 
Adam Jones 
Nick Markakis 
Nate McLouth
Nolan Reimold 
3/20/2009 5/12/2010 3/28/2011
Trayvon Robinson 
3/18/2010 3/14/2011 3/17/2012

A | denotes my understanding that there is an agreement in place that the specific player cannot be sent to the minors except on injury rehabilitation or through a mutual agreement.

A Rule 5 designation means that the player cannot be sent to the minors unless the Orioles make a trade with the player's former parent club.

06 January 2013

Sunday Comics: Cold Stove

Seriously, Duquette, at least make some sort of moves so I actually have some material to work with as a cartoonist.

05 January 2013

L.J. Hoes Vs. Xavier Avery

Two of Baseball America's Orioles top ten prospects spent most of 2012 at Norfolk. L.J. Hoes (#6) and Xavier Avery (#7) are outfielders who made their AAA debuts in 2012, are two months apart in age, and whose prospect status is driven by projection rather than performance. During a rain delay in a Tides game, the discussion in the press box turned to the question of which one you'd rather have, Hoes or Avery. At the time, my answer was Avery; but now I think my answer would be Hoes.

I first chose Avery because I believed Avery had both the higher ceiling and the higher floor. Avery is the superior athlete with more speed and defensive value than Hoes. So far, Avery has also shown improving strike-zone judgement, and more power potential than Hoes. If Avery develops to his full potential — admittedly a longshot — his ceiling is minor star. On the other hand, even if Avery doesn't develop any further at all, his floor is still pinch-runner/ defensive replacement/ September callup. While I thought L.J. Hoes would probably turn out to be a better player than Avery, I also thought Hoes' ceiling would be lower than Avery's and that Hoes lacked Avery's specialist floor.

Hoes is limited to left field. When I made my first decision, I believed that, although Hoes had a chance to be a consistent .300 hitter, Hoes wouldn't have the power to be a major-league left fielder. And because Hoes was defensively limited to left field, it was hard to see Hoes as a bench player. I believed that Hoes would be nothing more than a 4-A player, a Triple-A star not quite good enough for the majors. So, even though I believed that Hoes would ultimately turn out to be better than Avery overall, I would rather have Avery.

But after watching Hoes for three months, I've changed my mind. I started by thinking about players who were comparable to Avery and Hoes. An obvious comp to Avery is Felix Pie. Both are athletic, left-handed hitting center fielders with unrefined skills. Although Pie has been a major-league bench player for a few seasons, he also was a consistent .300 hitter in the minor leagues, which Avery has not been. It was harder to come up with a comp for Hoes, a consistent .300 hitter with doubles power and limited defensive skills. The best I could come up with Martin Prado, a second baseman in the minors but has moved positions in the majors, first to left field and now likely to third base. Prado has had three strong seasons, with one top-10 and one top-20 MVP finish. If Prado can be a major-league regular for a contending team, so too can Hoes.

But there's more. There's always been a hope that Hoes will develop more power as he matures. And there's a positive example for that — Ryne Sandberg. Here's a crude comparison of Sandberg and Hoes:

AgeLevelTriple CrownOBPSP
19Low A.247-4-47.328.334
AgeLevelTriple CrownOBPSP
19Low A.260-2-47.299.318
20SS/High A/AA.290-4-50.383.397
21High A/AA.285-9-71.354.390

Hoes and Sandberg were similar types of offensive players, granting that Sandberg was generally one level ahead of Hoes at the same age and had an extremely good age-20 season. At age 24 Sandberg exploded with an MVP 1984, marked by an increase in power. His slugging percentage jumped from .351 to .520, and from 1984-1992 Sandberg had six seasons with slugging percentages of .480 or greater. This gives me reason to believe that Hoes, too, may develop enough power to be a viable regular in left field.

Sandberg is in the Hall of Fame, in large part because his offense was supported by Gold-Glove caliber defense at second base. I'm not claiming that Hoes will be a Hall of Famer or a consistent MVP candidate; he doesn't have Sandberg's glove. But Ryne Sandberg's bat was good enough to be an all-star left fielder. Hoes' bat doesn't have to develop as much as Sandberg's for Hoes to be a viable left-field regular. I now think there's reason to believe that Hoes might develop enough to be a solid left fielder.

And that's why I now would rather have L.J. Hoes than Xavier Avery.

04 January 2013

Orioles Depend on Nats to Improve TV Deal

It was reported this past fall that the Nationals requested their annual payment from MASN be increased from 29 MM a year to 100 MM a year.  Supposedly, the powers that be at MASN countered with 37 MM.  That set in motion MLB trying to broker a deal with Fox to purchase MASN with, again supposedly, the goal of splitting the markets from each other.  This is not the first time or second or probably third time a group came forward to purchase MASN, but this is the first time that I am aware that MLB was involved.

Below is a graph devised from Wendy Thrum's work at FanGraphs as well as a couple things I have been told.  I was unable to find anyone who could give a decent approximation of the Giants deal.

It is actually interesting to think that perhaps the Orioles depend on the Nationals to increase their own payroll by having to match whatever is allotted for the annual TV payout.  It would not be surprising if the total value of this region is about 120-140 MM with more of the money leaning to the DC Market.

03 January 2013

Turning the Orioles into a 2013 Contender (Strain)

While it seems to be the minority opinion, I actually believe in quite a bit of the Orioles 2012 team, and I think there will be some natural additions assuming health, that they didn't have last year which should make them a little better in 2013. As has been beaten to death around here, I am a believer that Nate McLouth isn't a couple month fluke, that he is back to being healthy and you will see closer to his normal lines than the 2010-2011 lines that people want to assume are just part of his game. A healthy Nick Markakis will have a big impact on this team which won't have to trot guys like Lew Ford out on a nightly basis. Nolan Reimold might have the most productive bat on the team, if he can only stay healthy enough to prove it. Second base should be greatly improved, either through Alexi Casilla's speed and defensive contribution, or just from the assumption that it can't be as bad as it was last season. Third base solidified by Manny Machado for a full season should have a major impact defensively, which during the sub-par play of 2012, was a major reason for poor results in the first half. Hammel being healthy for the full season would have a stabilizing influence on the young rotation.

Of course all of these things are assuming best cases and hoping that everything aligns just like 2012 did as well. While there were a ton of things that went right last season, there were still a good number of things that went wrong as I noted above, that in a normal year should have an improvement on the team as a whole. That being said, this would be a rather boring post if I said they shouldn't change a thing and hope for the best, so with that in mind, I think they should:

1. Sign 1B/DH Lance Berkman. I know it's a long shot, as he's thinking about retiring and spending more time at home, but could be a great insurance policy for Chris Davis at a low commitment level. A one year deal splitting time at 1B/DH for $6-8m could be a boom or bust signing with him coming off an injury, but the upside of a guy that can still put up an .800+ OPS and give you great OBP is probably worth it at this point. Won't take the commitment LaRoche would, but could give similar production if he's healthy. I would give him 2 years if that is what it took, but wouldn't go more than that as it ties up your DH spot.While I can't say I'm the biggest fan of the O's approach of adding cheap depth and hoping, but if they are going to do it anyway, this isn't a bad way to go.

2. Play the game.

Yes, I know a lot of people will laugh and say there is no way this team competes this year taking last year's team and swapping Berkman for Mark Reynolds, but I don't know that I can clearly say that, and I think they should be given a chance to prove they can't do it instead of making them prove that they can. I think in a down year in the division, with two WC spots, that this team could contend in 2013. There are a lot of question marks, but there are question marks with all the contenders right now. Toronto looks great on paper, but has had a major overhaul and has some injury concerns in the rotation. TB has some of the best pitching in the game, but the offense is lagging behind. NYY is old and is tightening the purse strings, and BOS is trying to retool. BAL has questions more along the lines of can players repeat last season and are these young players truly developing or was last year a fluke?

1. Markakis- RF
2. McLouth/Reimold- LF
3. Jones- CF
4. Berkman- DH
5. Wieters-C
6. Davis- 1B
7. Machado- 3B
8. Hardy- SS
9. Casilla- 2B

Teagarden- C
Flaherty/Valencia- INF
Roberts- 2B*
Reimold/McLouth- OF
Betemit- DH

That's a slightly more balanced lineup from last year, assuming health.
 The pitching staff is more fluid


With guys like Hunter/Arrieta/Matusz/S.Johnson and Bundy waiting their turn or working out of the pen.  With an average player age around 27.5, there is still room for development in a lot of these players, so I can see this seeing going really well or really poorly based on development of key young players. Gonzalez, Tillman, Wieters, Machado Britton, Bundy and Reimold are very important to the team this year, and health and development needs to be on track for them to compete.

As for the basis of this series, I think they can compete in 2013 by adding one more solid veteran bat to the middle of the lineup and by staying healthy. I also happen to feel like the sexy move, to build a package around Bundy, Schoop and the rest of the farm system for Stanton would help the team of course, but I expect Bundy to make a significant contribution to the rotation this year and the trade of what we would gain in Stanton over a healthy Reimold in the OF is less than what we would lose from Bundy after he makes it up in May or June. I also feel that Britton back and healthy will produce more than a veteran pending FA stop gap and is better use of money than spending for a Saunders or Lohse, since I don't think either would do very well in the AL East over a full season. This approach will also leave payroll space to make a move during the season if injury or poor performance warrants one.

02 January 2013

Relying on Reimold

by Matt Kremnitzer

The Orioles have not made a major acquisition this offseason, and it’s not likely that they’re going to. They’ve been frequently mentioned as a potential landing spot for free agents, such as Nick Swisher, Adam LaRoche, and a few others. But for whatever reason, they haven’t landed a marquee free agent. In fact, their only notable free agent signing was simply bringing back Nate McLouth for one year and $2 million.

Similarly to last year, Dan Duquette and the O’s have made several minor moves. They claimed Alexi Casilla off waivers from the Twins. They traded Robert Andino to the Mariners for outfielder Trayvon Robinson. They acquired Danny Valencia from the Red Sox for cash considerations. And they also signed a bunch of minor league and Independent League free agents, including Daniel McCutchen, Conor Jackson, Daniel Schlereth, and Travis Ishikawa. Meanwhile, the O’s also non-tendered Mark Reynolds, who later signed a one-year deal with Cleveland.

There is still time for the O’s to make a free agent signing or two, or to put together a trade in which they package some of their young pitching for some offensive help, but it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that that’s going to happen. So instead, the O’s are moving forward with mostly the same team. Some fans are just fine with that strategy, and some are not. I’m not in favor of simply making a move just to make one, but I also thought the O’s could have upgraded their roster without necessarily breaking the bank. But that is a post for a later time.

More than any other position, I’m intrigued by what the O’s did (and did not do) in left field. They could have signed Swisher or dealt for another outfielder, but they brought McLouth back. And while McLouth may end up playing every day (which I hope doesn’t happen), one of the reasons I think they re-signed him is because of Nolan Reimold.

Reimold, 29, first debuted with the Orioles in 2009, but he’s been unable to stay healthy since. In 104 games in 2009, Reimold posted a .279/.365/.466 batting line that showcased his ability to both get on base and hit for power. His 11.4 walk percentage that season was also the best he’s posted in the majors. Unfortunately, he was sidelined in September with an Achilles tendon injury that required surgery. That Achilles injury affected Reimold into the beginning of the 2010 season, when he hit .205/.302/.337 before being demoted to Norfolk in the middle of May. He returned in September but wasn’t much better, and his final 2010 batting line was .207/.282/.328 in 131 plate appearances.

After an injury to Luke Scott and Felix Pie playing like Felix Pie, Reimold got another shot in 2011. He first appeared that season in May and stayed relatively injury-free, playing in 87 games and hitting .247/.328/.453. He rode that momentum (sort of) into the 2012 season when he started in left field on opening day. In 16 games and 69 plate appearances in April, Reimold batted .313/.333/.627 and managed to homer five times in six games in a stretch from April 13 to April 20. But yet again, Reimold had an injury concern. He was eventually diagnosed with a herniated disk and needed surgery to repair the problem. He didn’t play again in 2012 after April 30.

Reimold has power (career .455 slugging percentage), and while his career .338 on-base percentage isn’t great, he will take walks (9.7 BB%). He also has pretty good speed, which is something useful for a relatively slow team like the Orioles. He’s not a very good outfielder though (-10.6 career UZR) and sometimes struggles to get proper reads on fly balls. But, still, there’s never been any secret that most of Reimold’s value comes from his bat, and that’s what the Orioles need from him the most.

Reimold’s ideal spot on this team may be designated hitter, but it may not be possible to simply slot him there every day with Wilson Betemit and Chris Davis around. Both of those guys may get some time at first base (primarily Davis), but they’ll almost certainly DH some, too. Matt Wieters will also occasionally DH, as will Brian Roberts if he’s able to stay healthy and resemble the kind of player he was a couple seasons ago. And there’s nothing wrong with having some extra lineup flexibility (something the 2011 Orioles didn’t have with Vladimir Guerrero).

It’s also worth noting that unlike McLouth, Reimold doesn’t have any drastic platoon issue:

Reimold vs. RHP: .263/.339/.465 (595 plate appearances)
Reimold vs. LHP: .258/.336/.438 (321 plate appearances)

Here are McLouth’s splits:

McLouth vs. RHP: .257/.346/.447 (2220 plate appearances)
McLouth vs. LHP: .223/.303/.346 (762 plate appearances)

That’s a big difference. Platooning Reimold with McLouth in left field – obviously, Reimold vs. left-handed pitching and McLouth vs. right-handed pitching – while also giving Reimold a shot to DH as well at times, might be the best way to utilize both their talents (McLouth is the better left fielder with a career -1.4 UZR in LF) and keep Reimold healthy.

The O’s (so far) have opted not to significantly upgrade the lineup. If Reimold is able to stay on the field and off the disabled list, that will be a big help. But there is no guarantee he’ll be able to do that, and having McLouth as the full-time left fielder is far from ideal.