14 September 2015

Which Offseason Path Will The Orioles Take?

By now, you know who the Orioles' impending free agents are. And thanks to a disappointing, hard-to-watch second half, it's a topic most fans have turned their attention to instead of the nearly impossible task of this team competing for a playoff spot.

Some may be clinging to the idea that the Orioles will spend a huge sum of money this offseason to replace (or keep some of) their free agents. They'll spend, but not as much as many hope. The Orioles are a mid-market team, and they spend like a mid-market team. All fans want their teams to spend more and acquire skilled players who can hit the ball farther and throw the ball harder. And yes, we get it; it's not your money, after all (which is a foolish argument). Fans can't control how much an owner spends, and it's fine to not be OK with that and to want more. But the best hope is for a team to spend wisely; spending more helps, but it does not guarantee success.

As Jon noted a couple months ago, the Orioles do not have the cheap talent in their minor league system to replace those who leave; they barely spend in the international market; and many of their team-controlled players will see their salaries rise the next few years. Popular or not, the Orioles have stuck to a budget, and there's no reason to think they won't do so going forward (no, not even the MASN court decision).

Heading into next season, the O's could be in the market for one or two starting pitchers, one or two corner outfielders, a first baseman, a backup catcher, a designated hitter, and a couple relievers. That's a lot of positions to fill. Do you have faith in Mike Wright or Tyler Wilson? What about Dariel Alvarez, Henry Urrutia, or Christian Walker? Depending on the amount of money Dan Duquette has to work with, he may not have many options other than leaning on some of the team's unproven, low-ceiling minor leaguers. Since his arrival, Duquette has thrived on bringing in an assortment of fringe players and then seeing what Buck Showalter can do with them (I'm sure you're familiar with the chicken salad expression). That strategy exceeded all expectations -- until this season. Most of the team's marginal major leaguers played that way, and even some of the club's functional players struggled from the get-go (Alejandro De Aza, Bud Norris, Steve Pearce).

The Orioles are going to lose multiple, significant pieces, and they must find a way to add talent to a core of Manny Machado, Adam Jones, and Jonathan Schoop. Can they figure out a strategy to do that without exceeding Jones's contract (the largest in O's franchise history) or Ubaldo Jimenez's deal (the most money the team has ever paid a free agent pitcher)? It's possible, but it won't be easy. Even if they hand out a hefty contract, the rest of the spending will be limited.

The Orioles need a rational plan, and they need to execute it flawlessly. They could blow the whole thing up and bring in a bunch of new players, but that's unlikely. It's more realistic that they'll reshuffle the deck by plugging a few holes, making a minor trade or two, and inking one or two notable players. But there isn't one path to success, and the club's unconventional tendencies have played a vital part in their winning ways. Do you trust Duquette to thrive under these different circumstances? A surplus of spare parts won't be enough this time.


Anonymous said...

I think Chris Davis has to be a priority. Frankly, he is just an irreplaceable player. Can you name one player in baseball who brings what he brings to the table from the left side of the plate? Maybe Carlos Gonzalez, Bryce Harper, or Anthony Rizzo. But IMO, none of those are very good comps. I think Davis ultimately has the most raw power, and definitely doesn't have as good of an approach as Harper or Rizzo. Digressing a little bit, I think the idea of measuring a hitter's power by home run distance is pretty foolish. When you're looking at Chris Davis, the special thing about him is that he manages to muscle bad pitches (that other hitters couldn't drive) out of the park. Recall the Pat Venditte incident, or the homer against Furbush a year or two ago. Whatever though. I can't even find the current avg home run distance stats.
Davis and Schoop are killing the average fly ball distance leader-board. It's on baseballheatmaps. Stanton is first with 322.96, Davis second with 316.55, Schoop third with 315.48. So there's that.
Idk, I've digressed a ton, but Chris Davis is special and we need to re-sign him. There, I said it.
anyway, say we have 30 million or so left after signing Davis. I think our next priority needs to be Brett Anderson. So Camden Yards is a great park for lefty power. The Orioles have probably the best infield defense in baseball. So a lefty pitcher with a 66.7 groundball % (!!!!!!) is literally a perfect fit. It would be inexplicable to me if the Orioles somehow decided to prioritize a lefty like Chen over Anderson. I guess the main factor in a decision like that would be durability/injury risk. That's fair. Still, I can only imagine how beneficial this environment would be to Anderson. Oh and if it wasn't clear, he's a lefty pitching against same side hitters who benefit the most from Camden yards. His splits aren't that different in batting average. But righties hit 14 of the 15 home runs this year. So it follows that lefties would struggle against him in Camden Yards, where they traditionally thrive.
Say he gets something like 12-14 AAV. That basically leaves money to sign a mid-level corner outfielder, maybe Parra, maybe someone else. Zobrist would be awesome but probably unlikely. Span doesn't fit the Orioles mould IMO. Alex Gordon is probably too expensive. I wouldn't mind us re-signing Steve Pearce, the eye test tells me he's made some late-season adjustments. If Jimmy Paredes could learn and OF position in winter league and improve his batting eye that would be useful. There's no denying his bat speed. We definitely need to spend a good chunk of that remaining money on a consistent outfielder.
I'm not worried about our bullpen. I guess given the slim chance Britton moved to the rotation, then maybe we invest 7-8 aav for O'day.
There's my thoughts, clearly this offseason is huge, we don't have chips to trade so we basically have to spend money. There are some interesting international options like Maeda and Park but I can pretty much guarantee we won't be involved in those markets. Kang worked out pretty well though, and he recently said Park is a better power hitter than him.

tony2302 said...

curious to know IF they don't re-sign Davis. which i agree with Anon there they should. who do you see as the #1 contender to signing him? i still wonder also how Cruz and Davis hitting back to back would have any difference for the team this uear.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Maybe the Mariners? Astros? Any team that has money to spend and wants to add power.

Jon Shepherd said...

My thought is that the Red Sox are able to rid themselves of Hanley Ramirez and go after Davis. Beyond that? As Matt mentioned, the Mariners. Nationals would like to, but Zimmerman mucks that up. That probably is the market.

It probably knocks down Davis' value, but I doubt by much. You might be able to get him to agree to a 6/120 deal with an opt out after 3 years, which would probably be to the benefit of both parties.

Beyond that...if you think conservatively, they must now rely on fringe guys to fill out the roster. If you think extravagantly, then there is room for a mid to second tier guy and one or two fringe guys.

Personally, I would be more interested in Jason Heyward and Justin Upton if I was relieving myself of a lot of money.

Anonymous said...

I really think the Astros would be the #1 Davis contender aside from the O's. They need a first baseman, left handed power, and Davis is from Texas.
Maybe I just really really hate the idea of him going to Boston. I think that would be much worse for the Orioles fan base than losing Cruz to Seattle or Markakis to Atlanta.
Yeah, that would be really really bad for the Orioles organization. I bet that would legitimately lose the Orioles a bunch of fans.

Jon Shepherd said...

Maybe...historically, fan bases leave due to wins and losses as opposed to specific players. Same is true about long term ticket sales. A marquee name does not really increase long term sales unless winning comes with it.

Anonymous said...

I guess it would take some significant research to support that point. I wonder what some good historical comps would be. Being someone who reads comment sections of sports blog, I know the direct response to Boston signing Davis would be, "Boston is more committed to winning than the Orioles". That point is certainly arguable, but I know many fans would feel that way, or at least be tempted to feel that way.
And that would just compound the sting of totally falling apart during the second half of the season, which is a W-L issue.
I would be very wary of the ramifications if I was a member of the Orioles FO.
That being said, letting the fan base impact contract decisions is a dicey game, to say the least.

philip said...

Dan Duquette, apparently, has one and only one MO: buy cheap, and buy late.
he doesnt target specific guys and go get them. Rather, he waits til the market has played out and then attempts to get remaining players cheaply. He especially loves failed first-round picks(parmelee) or guys who had a good run and are now doing badly, like Cabrera or a host of other names. Once in a while, those guys do well, but only once in a while.
Dan doesn't seem to value drafts, as evidenced by trading away draft picks and slot money.
Signing Cruz was a stroke of great luck, but signing Ubaldo was ridiculous.
IIRC, there was also a major attempt to get Matt Kemp... boy that would have been ridiculous.

Anyway, the Orioles just don't have any options this offseason. They've depleetd the farm system, they haven't any trade pieces of significant value, and free agents are expensive and rarely return value.
Unless they are very clever or lucky enough to repeat the Bedard trade, this season looks like one of hunker down and wait for '17.

philip said...

PS: The Rangers would LOVE to have Davis back. They can afford him, and they have a no-hit outfield, so he could play right, or 1B while Moreland moves to DH.
The Angels can afford him as well.
What really matters is whether the Orioles can bring him back, and that will depend as much on Dan not repeating last offseason's shennanigans as on the money offered.

Anonymous said...

Why do the Orioles need a backup catcher?
Wieters is leaving and Godspeed to him, we have an excellent starter in Joseph, and a quality backup in Clevenger, and in three years we can slot in Sisco.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

They don't necessarily need one, but they could still sign one if they want a more defensive-oriented backup instead of Clevenger.

Anonymous said...

I disagree about JHey and JUpt. And I am also a Braves fan who watched both of them. I know about age and potential but all three have been in the league for a while and Davis has outproduced both of them. Granted JHey improves the defense but his power is son much lower and they match OBAs pretty much. JUpt is always "almost" there and always puts up good numbers just not great numbers. He's no better on defense. And the Orioles not being any sort of running team would just stifle their SB potential and reduce their intrinsic value. Both are rated higher than Davis at MLBTradeRumors as far a FA value so Davis may ultimately be cheaper than either. I agree with most posters that Davis is a "must" resign if the Orioles want to be competitive vs having another 15 year swoon. Parra is close to a must re-sign or else the loss of Davies is criminal. Let Chen and Wieters go. There some good pitchers in the minors - at least as good as Miguel or Norris...

Jon Shepherd said...

Kemp has been hitting as he generally does. Decent but great production from a DH position. Kills you in the field though. We really do not know at what level he would have been dealt to the Orioles. I mean...asking for Kemp does not mean wanting him along the same lines as the Padres wanted him.

Matt Perez said...

A marquee name does increase ticket sales for that first year though. More importantly, Angelos needs to worry about turning into the next Dolan. Cleveland was a city where fans really came to games. Then, the Indians didn't keep a few clutch free agents, the fans decided that Dolan was cheap and now nobody will come to Cleveland games even when they're successful. If the Os give up on Davis and the team struggles next year, does that situation happen here? Especially if he has a Cruz-like year.

Of course, with the twentieth largest market and the twelfth highest payroll something needs to give.

I wonder if the Blue Jays would go after Chris Davis. They still have Bautista and EE but both will be free agents after 2016. They could put Davis at 1B (displacing Smoak) or in LF (displacing Revere). They could even structure his contract in a way that it would cost a minimal amount in 2016. It would mean they would have a limited amount of cash available for pitching though but maybe having a murderers' row for a lineup would make up for weak pitching. Plus, they'd piss off a rival.