29 July 2014

Orioles Asking About Pitchers: Or An Obsession With Deck Chairs

As the trade deadline comes upon Major League Baseball, we are left with a strange obsession concerning the Orioles.  They supposedly have been ringing teams up, such as the Rockies, and inquiring on second tier pitchers, such as Jorge De La Rosa.  This would make sense for a club that was hamstrung with four starting pitchers and a carousel in the five slot.  The Orioles are not that club.  Assuming good health and a quick return for Ubaldo Jimenez, they have six starters.

Of course, none of those incumbent pitchers are especially talented.  Depending on your point of view, they pretty much all fit into the fringe middle rotation for a first division club.  There is nothing top tier about any of them.  Add that to the second tier nature of the trade items they have inquired upon, and it seems the team is very much obsessed with adding depth with more of the same.

In other words, they are trying to acquire more deck chairs in order to rearrange them.  Perhaps the idea is to push existing starting pitchers into positions in the bullpen in order to strengthen that side while collecting arms that can slide into the rotation.  There is some sense to that, but one should expect a premium to be spent on any starting pitcher that can, well, start.  That is a very valuable skill.

Below, you can see how much value can be expected from each of the Orioles' starters based on ZiPS.  These numbers assumed a full slate of games for each of them.

ZiPS remaining fWAR
Chris Tillman 0.5
Miguel Gonzalez 0.4
Wei-Yin Chen 0.6
Ubaldo Jimenez 0.7
Bud Norris 0.6
Kevin Gausman 0.7

ZiPS still projects Jimenez to do well.  It knows what he has done this season, but recognizes that he can switch on like a light bulb.  The pitchers who ZiPS dislikes most are Tillman and Gonzalez, who are both pitchers who do not do well under fWAR.  The reason for this is that they both tend to vastly outperform FIP, which fWAR relies upon in their methodology.  With that in mind, their values probably rise up to the others in the rotation mix.

When you look at the available second tier arms, there is not much that is exceptional:

ZiPS remaining WAR pr 2014 Future
Ian Kennedy 0.7 2 MM Arb-3
Bartolo Colon 0.7 3.3 MM 10 MM
John Lackey 0.9 5.1 MM 0.5 MM option
AJ Burnett 0.5 5 MM 15 MM (m) option
Roberto Hernandez -0.2 1.5 MM FA
Kyle Kendrick 0.2 2.6 MM FA
Kevin Correia 0.2 1.6 MM FA
Jorge De La Rosa 0.5 3.5 MM FA
Scott Feldman 0.3 4 MM 2yr 18 MM
Erik Bedard 0.2 0.35 MM FA
John Danks 0.2 4 MM 2yr 28.5 MM
Justin Masterson 0.8 3.4 MM FA
Colby Lewis 0.4 0.35 MM FA
Edwin Jackson 0.6 3.7 MM 2yr 22MM

Of that batch of arms, the only one that looks very interesting is John Lackey due to his 0.5 MM salary next year.  Beyond him, maybe a pitcher like Ian Kennedy (if healthy) who has another year left to his deal or someone like Colby Lewis who has some time as a reliever in place.  Supposedly, that is the draw on Jorge De La Rosa.  The club has been leaked as being interested in him as a lefty out of the pen, but that would mean some juggling in the pen and it would put him in a position that he had not performed in since he was with the Brewers.

As it stands, perhaps a target such as Kennedy, Colon, Lackey, Masterson, or even Jackson would enable the club to take one of their cost controlled pitchers and turn them into a useful piece at second base where there is room for considerable improvement.  One could imagine that being able to acquire someone like Jorge De La Rosa would enable the club to package Miguel Gonzalez or Wei-Yin Chen for a bigger piece at second.  At least, that would be what I would be looking into.


Anonymous said...

Jon Lester is not a deck chair.

Jon Shepherd said...

Anon...this is about their interest in second tier pitching. Jon Lester is another approach.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

That also depends on whether you think they'd actually give up the pieces to acquire Lester. I'm not so sure about that.

pfholden said...

I don't think they'd give up the pieces to get Lester. That being said, I'd much rather give up the pieces required to get Lester than give up the pieces required for a deck chair.

Michael Wallace said...

They aren't going to send Bundy/Gausman/Harvey to Boston for two months of Lester. Not only would you be losing a top tier prospect for a rental, but you'd be giving seven years of control of that top prospect to a divisional rival.

Anonymous said...

Concerning my Lester remark from July 29, 2014 at 3:56 PM:

I know it was about second-tier starters, but was steering the conversation to someone who would be a serious difference maker in the stretch run.

Of course, the obvious problem with Lester, as as been in a few of the replies here, is that he's also a difference maker in the negative in terms of what the Orioles would need to give up along with his rental status.

I wasn't really advocating him as the answer, just sort of a reminder that there are difference maker sort of starters out there to be had. I should have spelled it out more.

One guy whose name has very recently come up as someone the Oriolesl are looking at is Dallas Keuchel of the Astros. I'd love to see them land that lefty, even if they need to give up someone like a Bundy or Harvey. He not a power arm, but his 99 Ks still would lead the O's

Keuchel has an impressive K/BB to ratio of 99/30 in 127.1 IP., has only given up 6 homers all year, and is known as an extreme ground ball pitcher, which is just what the O's want with their defense.

And the best part is he's only 26, and isn't eligible for arbitration until 2016 and free agency until 2019.

Ms. Barnes said...

I really like that dallas deal, if for no other reason than it would be outside the division

Anonymous said...

The O's rotation has been DOMINANT of late, I could care less about all the gobbledygook numbers you always churn out
on this site. Baseball is as much about art and chemistry as stats, something super left brained numbers geeks fail to grasp. The only result that matters is wins and since June first this staff is getting the job done. This " mediocre " staff as gone out and beat the Angles and Mariners 2 " ace " pitchers in the past 4 games. It would have been down right foolish to pick up Masterson, someone who has a below 500 win % in his A .L. Career with a + 4 era. I have little doubt you were on the Trout over Cabrera MVP debate a few years ago which just defied real world logic. Only 1 stat really matters WINS and our guys are getting the job done with GREAT chemistry. Oh wait you can't put that in a stat equations, I guess then it does not matter.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Yes, I'm sure a team like the Cardinals is foolish for picking up Masterson. You know, a winning team. And if you truly cared about the art and chemistry of baseball, you'd realize that there's more to the game than just hitting, and that failing to do so robs you of the greatness that is Mike Trout. Defense matters. Speed matters. Those things lead to more WINS.

Jon Shepherd said...

I heard Pablo Picasso had an absurd slow curve.