I'm not equating postseason berth or success with pitching success specifically. A baseball team can win games many different ways. However, the Orioles' pitchers are, at this point, too mediocre to be relied on if the team expects to contend. I would love to focus an offseason plan on adding arms, but this season's free agent market for pitchers is incredibly top-heavy, and I don't expect the Orioles to be players for the available aces. As a result, my offseason plan focuses on mild improvements to multiple positions instead of making a splash at one. Meanwhile, the Orioles can use the opportunity to make a low-risk/high-reward play on free agents looking to prove their worth and give extended innings to young pitchers and let them learn on the job.
Qualifying OffersBut first, the qualifying offers. Extending a QO to Chris Davis and Wei-Yin Chen are no-brainers. They will be denied, and the Orioles will in return receive draft pick compensation for their loss. Matt Wieters is a much tougher nut to crack. 2016 will be Wieters' age-30 season, and a good year could set him up for a longer-term paycheck to close out his productive years as a catcher. He may treat a QO as a high-paying one-year deal to establish value for a good contract in his age 31 to 34 seasons. At the same time, injury concerns and declining catcher productivity with age may be enough of an incentive for Wieters to agree to a longer-term deal for more moderate, but guaranteed, income.
To be worth (in terms of free market price of a win) the $15.8 million deal a QO represents, Wieters would need to be worth 2.25 wins. That's a good goal for Wieters, and attainable given a full season of health, but is also close to what Caleb Joseph offers for a lot less money (he's first arbitration eligible in 2018). I wouldn't offer Wieters the QO despite the boss' insistence because I'd rather use $16 million on an area of weakness than to place a bet on getting a compensatory pick.
Not offering a QO on Wieters is foolish. Just like not offering one on Markakis last year. At most, you spend 4 MM on B level prospect.— Camden Depot (@CamdenDepot) October 6, 2015
Non-TendersBased on MLB Trade Rumor projected arbitration salaries, I suggest non-tendering Brian Matusz. He has not proven himself to be worth $3.4 million in a bullpen role that nearly any minimum-salary left-hander could do. I would also non-tender Paul Janish and Nolan Reimold. The former isn't anything you can't find for league minimum or in the minors, and the latter is too old and too often injured to be considered a possible option off the bench.
I suggest keeping Miguel Gonzalez through arbitration. His projected $4.9M in arbitration is a little steep to stash in the bullpen, but he could be a serviceable spot starter in case of injury, a decent back-end rotation option if he comes back from injury, or
Doug Fister is looking for a change of scenery and hopefully a return to the rotation, and Baltimore is just the place to make that happen. The Nationals reportedly don't think that Fister is worth a QO. After a pretty terrible 2015 in which he played for just $11.4M, perhaps the Orioles can offer a 1-year, $10M "prove it" deal to the now-31-year-old right hander. A dominant pitcher when healthy, Fister lost a lot of time to the DL during his stint with the Nationals. Even if Fister can't hack it in the rotation, the Orioles are adding a great (but expensive) arm to the back of their bullpen and potentially setting themselves up with trade bait at the deadline. This would just force Bundy (who I will touch on later) into the rotation earlier, or force the Orioles to lean on a rotation of internal options.
Mike Napoli will be brought in on a one-year, $5.25M deal. Like Nate said, he can be easily replaced with Christian Walker should he struggle in Baltimore. Even if he's not fit to play first, Napoli can moved to a DH platoon to swat lefties so that his paychecks don't go to complete waste.
Adding Denard Span on the 3-year, $36M proposed by Ryan R. sounds like a great idea. Span brings defense to left field, can play center when Jones is in the lineup as the DH, and can actually hit for a decent average. The hip injury only brings down Span's price, helping the Orioles off the field as much on it.
As Nate noted, Bundy has to be on the Major League roster or be placed on waivers, so he's in the bullpen at the very least.
To fill the hole in right field, bring Gerardo Parra back on a 3-year, $22M deal and look to give him frequent breaks against lefties. When he hits the bench, Steve Pearce will take over on a 1-year, $3M offer. Pearce can also fill in at DH or first if needed as the batters in those roles don't make the cut.
Filling out the bullpen with league-minimum arms shouldn't be too hard. Playing the options ams here allows Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette to see who sticks and maybe squeeze a little extra juice out of a cheap contract via performance or midseason trade.
Summary of Major Moves
- Doug Fister (SP), 1/$10 million
- Mike Napoli (1B/DH), 1/$5.25M
- Denard Span (LF), 3/$36M
- Gerardo Parra (RF), 3/$22M
- Steve Pearce (RF/1B/DH), 1/$3M
That's enough wiggle room in the $120M max to play with in trades, taking riskier names on the bullpen market, or even getting a long-term deal with Manny Machado.
I like to think that this approach, while not particularly splashy, is a well-rounded and reasonable approach to patching many of the team's holes heading into 2016 while maintaining flexibility for the following years. Some of my contract estimates may be aggressively low, and the $10M wiggle in the budget allows them to go a little higher on someone like Span if necessary. I'd like to see them build in some reserve funds during the offseason to make a run at a player who falls into their lap, like Nelson Cruz did. And if nobody is there, bank it and look to improve at the deadline.
Option 1: Seeking A Cornerstone
Option 2: Building A Rotation
Option 3: Building Major League Depth And A Minor League System
Option 4: Well Rounded And Not Tied Down
Option 5: Purchasing Innings in Bulk
Option 6: Trying To Make Chicken Salad
Options 7a/b/c: Shepherd Seeks A Few Outside Consultants