21 January 2015

With Aoki and Rasmus Off the Board, O's Outfielder Search Continues

With the Dan Duquette situation unresolved and causing confusion, the Orioles still are not doing anything. Not that they have to, necessarily. But if one of the Orioles' annual routines is to target value in the free agent market, then it seems odd that they were content to let Nori Aoki sign with the Giants for somewhere between 50-75 cents on the dollar, depending on who does the evaluating. Last week, Aoki signed a one-year, $4.7 million contract with the Giants. Aoki's base salary for 2015 is $4 million, and the deal comes with a $5.5 million club option for 2016 (with a $0.7 million buyout). He could also earn more with various performance bonuses. Aoki was predicted to get a two- or three-year deal worth at least $7 or $8 million per season, so the Giants clearly got a bargain.

It sure seems that Aoki provided the Giants with a sizable discount. According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, "A source familiar with Aoki's search said geography and the ability to play for a contender ultimately helped sway him toward San Francisco." So perhaps the Orioles never had a chance, especially if Aoki wanted to play on the West Coast for the defending World Series champions. And perhaps he wasn't willing to sign a one-year deal with any other club.

But the Orioles only seemed to have lukewarm interest in Aoki from the beginning. They were frequently linked to him because, well, it made sense. He's a corner outfielder who gets on base and would not have been overly expensive, and the Orioles just lost Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis to other teams. There was a fit.

There was also a fit with Colby Rasmus, who the O's clearly preferred, but he won't be playing in Baltimore, either. Rasmus has agreed to a one-year deal with the Astros for $8 million That's also far from unreasonable, especially for a one-year deal.

Roch Kubatko offered a reason for why the O's were fine with Rasmus signing elsewhere:
So does this tweet from Buster Olney:
This jibes with the notion that the O's do indeed have a plan. And maybe they do. It's obvious that the Orioles are doing what they can to eliminate much risk in free agent signings. They surely aren't happy after the poor results from the first year of Ubaldo Jimenez's contract. But you can't eliminate all risk. And you probably can't just get by signing minor league free agents and four-A players, especially when teams like the Red Sox and Blue Jays have upgraded their rosters. That's not a vote for the just do something camp, but Aoki and Rasmus both signed more-than-reasonable deals (particularly Aoki) for a single year. Not wanting to ink Markakis and Cruz for multiple years and big dollars makes sense. But drawing such rigid lines for one-year deals? That's a tougher sell. It's not as if the Astros blew that $7 million mark out of the water; an extra million on a one-year deal for a 28-year-old isn't exactly a bridge too far.

Players sign one-year deals because they have flaws. More often than not, they are not fantastic players. Everyone signing a one-year deal is not going to perform like Cruz. It's foolish to think that way. Aoki (career 106 wRC+) and Rasmus (career 103 wRC+) are far from stars or great players, though they certainly are useful. And the O's could very well be just fine with Steve Pearce, Alejandro De Aza, and David Lough playing a majority of the corner outfield innings. But Pearce's talent level is uncertain. De Aza can't hit left-handed pitching. And Lough is superb defensively, but his offensive skills appear to be limited. The O's are high on Dariel Alvarez and his name keeps being mentioned as a corner outfield possibility. But he's also routinely absent in top prospect lists and is of course unproven. It would be odd for the O's, with a talented and competitive roster, to head into the 2015 season relying on anything substantial from Alvarez.

It would be dramatic and silly to believe an Aoki or Rasmus signing would have been the key to a winning season for the O's. But each player would have helped. And with the Duquette cloud hanging over everything, it's perfectly rational at this point to be worried. Buck Showalter and Duquette probably do have a plan of action. But Duquette's future in Baltimore is uncertain, and if the Orioles are looking for value in the open market, it didn't make sense to not be more interested in Aoki.

But have no fear. The Orioles have already moved on to... Nate Schierholtz? Is anyone else ready for this offseason to end?

Photos via Keith Allison


Mike Bonsiero said...

The Orioles don't bid on players. I'm not saying that as either a compliment or a complaint, but they just don't. They make an evaluation on what they think a player is worth, and they don't go a penny beyond that, even if that player fills a glaring need.

There's a saying that if you spend $75,000 on a $60,000 car, you overspent, but at least you have a nice car. The Orioles are the opposite of that. They'd rather walk to work than spend $100 on a $95 used bike.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I respect that. But then, if someone like Nate Schierholtz ends up playing meaningful innings or you're counting on Dariel Alvarez to be average or even above average, it doesn't really make sense, especially while Matt Wieters and Chris Davis could be spending their last year with the Orioles.

Mike Bonsiero said...

Yes, that's when it becomes a problem. The car example breaks down because there's a huge variety of differently priced cars someone can buy to meet their needs and fit their budget. There's a finite number of outfielders/pitchers/second basemen etc who are good enough to start for a contending MLB team, so setting a hard line on the price could very well mean you don't have one of them.

I guess the question ultimately is, do you make a bad or risky long term decision in order to take a shot and win in a short-term window. When they were four wins from the World Series, the fan in me wants to scream "YES, DO IT!". But I understand the business side as well. It's just very frustrating.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

The weird thing is, even though we aren't talking about star players, the O's had a chance to improve the team without offering a long-term deal. Even if you end up overpaying a bit for a one-year deal, it doesn't matter that much.

Unknown said...

I pretty much agree with all of this. While the Orioles didn't have big holes to fill, and I'm not asking $200 million for Scherzer, but I would have liked them to do more to find complementary pieces to make the club better. Those are the types of moves that have been valuable to the O's these past few season. It just doesn't seem like they've even made those this offseason though. It seems like it's too late for a lot of free agents, but I hope they can still swing a trade to improve the team. They were so close last year.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I've followed the logic, at least, of what the O's have done the last few seasons. I haven't agreed with everything, but I can see it. But if they go into the season planning to rely on Dariel Alvarez, well, I'm not on board with that.

Philip said...

This is highly unlikely, and of course can't be substantiated, but is it possible that Dan is actually deliberately doing nothing to make Angelos more willing to let him go?

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I seriously doubt it. You would think Major League Baseball would be able to do something about this, or at least prevent a situation like this from happening.

Phil said...

Yeah, because MLB is so eager to assist the O's.

Even Dave C. at FG put it as the first possible reason for the O's completely quiet offseason and something that needs to be remedied. It's too glaring of a conflict to think all is going to proceed as normal.

Duquette is a professional and needs to maintain his reputation, so he isn't going to deliberately tank the team, but doing as little as necessary and not even attempting to stretch a little for a 1 year deal just stinks of complete lack of interest in next season.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

It's certainly possible. This type of situation is basically unprecedented.

Philip said...

To continue my premise, it is much easier to sabotage by doing nothing then it is to sabotage by doing something.
Duquette can damage the team by making no moves it all which would be much more subtle than damaging the team by making a notorious trade or signing a notorious free agent.
It might be easily compared to a "slowdown" or "sit in"
And seems extremely likely to me, even giving past offseasons during which little was done.
However, because the Orioles have refused permission to hire Dan, that should be the end of it.
It certainly was in Chicago, where it returns to business as usual.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe with the Orioles increasing payroll again...there simply is not much money to throw around.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Also possible/more likely. But it's way more fun to talk about sabotage (not really).

Anonymous said...

Except two years ago Dan Duquette did nothing except Nate Mcclouth and I think the passivity cost us.

Last year, you almost wish he had done nothing (Ubaldo) and he did it late. Was that the plan? Sign Ubaldo late and sign N Cruz after everyone said no. Hope not.

Yeah, I know N Cruz. Well if we were so smart why didnt we sign him to more years. The only reason we signed him was we already ate the draft pick on UJ. We also picked up B Webb (yawn). As Peter Schmuck states you cant count on 4A types turning into stars every year. If there is a N Cruz lurking he is on someone else's roster.

So I cant really buy the sabotage inactivity angle. I have complained that the O's have been to passive for three years and dont seem to have an off season plan except to wait and see what falls in their lap-kind of like Tampa Bay. Which burns me up.

We are content to be good but have no plan or passion from ownership to be better except hope that everything goes right with everything.

Which still doesnt answer how much longer this DD dance with Toronto goes on and if the resulting compensation will be the club's "offseason moves".

I think reading the Fan Graphs article on our system that the O's are probably going to have to pony up some pitching (not Bundy or Harvey) for someone like Blackmon on Colorado. Boston might move Victorino in spring training, SD has outfielders and I would not take Dominic Brown or Travis Snider off the table.

Anonymous said...

After next year Matt, Chris, Chen and some others are gone and payroll should shrink without other moves. Plus if Washington can pay Max then I just dont want to hear we cant absorb some payroll expense for a year.

Dont want to hear it.

Anonymous said...

Sure but you cannot replace all those guys with the money coming off the table.

Anonymous said...

You are right. I think without significant signings we will have less payroll next year so if you go over a little this year you can wash the two years. Takes ownership to sign off but those are the decisions they can make. Plus, we know baseball revenues per team are way up so its really hard to know what the line in the sand is for a budget versus profit or more important cashflow.

I like that we are fiscally responsible and I accept it and rather embrace this as long as we are smart on player development, international signings, waiver signings and converting departing players into assets before they leave when applicable. In the long run, it should leave you competitive every year. But an entire off season of whooping up on our rule five picks leaves me cold.

Anonymous said...

How do we not know that lady year was an overspend and we are now using playoff cash to pay arbitration?

Eric said...

I hate to say it, but am I the only one who thinks our window may have closed and the O's realized it. After this year Weiters and Davis are gone, and with how we have rebuilt the last few years we have not been replacing parts that we lose long term. Yes the OF crop of FAs next year is good, so we may be waiting for then, but that leaves us with 2 more holes after that (plus maybe in the rotations depending on how things play out with Chen, Gonzo, and how Bundy looks). I just feel they may have punted on this team after a 3 year run that came close, and are waiting for the next round of young guys. You always see teams having short windows before a slight rebuild (besides the big exception), so maybe that is what the plan is...

Matt Kremnitzer said...

If the O's think their window is closed, wouldn't they trade Wieters and Davis before the season? Would they have re-signed Hardy? It's possible that they'll trade Wieters/Davis at the trade deadline, but that's hardly the same thing as giving up or realizing they missed their chance.

Unknown said...

I'm going out on a limb here but I don't think it's that far out there to consider.

I believe Dan Duquette is going to the Blue Jays and in turn we get OF Michael Saunders and Pitcher Aaron Sanchez or Marcus Stroman.

Dan wants to be the "Chief" in Toronto and will sign a big cash deal. However Peter Angelos doesn't want him to leave before his contract is up.

So comes the challenge if Dan can pull off this compensation package for Baltimore he can leave with the approval of both Angelos and his son.

Also Dan loves the Orioles and won't leave Buck high and dry.

So I think Dan makes the deal happen by getting the Jays to give away players he knows the Orioles want and need. Yet won't handcuff his "new" team. Win/Win situation.

tom porter said...

you cannot get big league players for a GM, only for a manager. The best we can get will be minor league prospects.

Anonymous said...

Any chance Angelos has shut DD down?