Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter recognize this. In their press conference at Camden Yards the day after the season ended (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), Duquette made multiple mentions of the need to strengthen the pitching staff.
|Photo - MASNOrioles on Youtube|
Anyhow, looking forward, the Orioles are on the verge of also losing Chris Davis, Steve Pearce and Matt Wieters from the lineup, a trio that created a total of 195 weighted runs (per wRC on Fangraphs). Cruz and Markakis, for whatever it's worth to you, created 188 runs together in 2014 going by that same metric.
Gerardo Parra, while we're at it, totaled -0.8 fWAR over two months in an Orioles uniform. So it's tough to count him as a "loss" at this point.
The team is now left with a lineup of Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop and... six other guys.
Look, it would be antithetical for me to go against the grain here and suggest the organization look into trading Manny Machado this offseason. This blueprint will instead lay out a plan for the Orioles to push back into the playoffs in 2016 while hopefully not selling more draft picks to the Dodgers.
At a glance, the Orioles only have payroll obligations to three players entering 2016:
- Adam Jones - $16.3 million
- Ubaldo Jimenez - $13 million
- J.J. Hardy - $12.5 million
So back to the Chen ordeal.
He will be the first of three players to be granted a qualifying offer, joining Davis and Wieters. All three are Boras clients, thus making it a strong possibility that all three decline. Davis and Chen are no-brainers (both will receive longer length contracts with higher AAV) while Wieters' case depends on if he wants one year to reestablish his value. If so, he would clearly accept as no other team would go near $15.8 million for a catcher coming off a 1.0 fWAR season following a year off for Tommy John Surgery.
For all intents and purposes of this blueprint, I am going to presume Wieters declines and seeks a two or three year deal on the open market, at least.
That brings the Orioles three compensation picks in the 2016 draft. Please don't sell these, Dan. They provide tremendous value, I promise.
Next up are the arbitration eligible players.
|Photo - Keith Allison|
- Nolan Reimold - $1 million
- Chris Tillman - $6.2 million
- Miguel Gonzalez - $4.9 million
- Ryan Flaherty - $1.5 million
- Zach Britton - $6.9 million
- Brad Brach - $1.1 million
- Manny Machado - $5.9 million
Gonzalez and Tillman are what they are. Semi-productive bounce back seasons make both of these deals still worthwhile, both costing less than the price of a win on the open market and both with the possibility of providing innings to a stunningly mediocre rotation. Let's also pray and hope Gonzalez's elbow stays in tact.
Flaherty is useful for when Hardy goes down with a Spring Training shoulder strain, and Brad Brach is primed to step in as Britton's setup man (alongside Dylan Bundy) with Tommy Hunter in Chicago (though not on the NLDS roster) and Darren O'Day likely pricing himself out of Baltimore with four straight very productive and healthy years since Andy MacPhail claimed him off of waivers mid-2011.
As an aside, O'Day seems primed to join the Nationals. The Washington bullpen will look back to Storen to close, Papelbon is likely off of that roster by Opening Day, and O'Day's wife works for the Fox News affiliate in DC. All that plus Ted Lerner likes to spend money.
That brings us to ten players at $69.3 million.
|Photo - MASNOrioles on YouTube|
I have to admit that I'm being a bit of a copycat here. The four blueprints prior to mine included Span, and while he wasn't initially on my radar, the idea has grown on me. A 2-4 win player on a three-year deal worth $43 million ($12 million in 2016, backloaded to $16 million in 2018) sounds solid with perhaps a touch of upside. If healthy ("if"), that locks down a corner outfield spot and allows the masses to continue the debate on if Dariel Alvarez can hit at the big league level (Adam Jones says yes).
Putting a solid center fielder into a corner spot generally makes for an above average defensive situation in theory, too.
With this deal in place, Span and Jones would be teammates for three years, and both of their deals would be set to expire in 2018. And also, paying Gerardo Parra any amount of dollars to come back just doesn't sound productive.
If Samardzija is looking for a multi-year contract rather than a one-year "show me" deal, four years for $74 million should get it done. With Cueto, Greinke and Price headlining the free agent pitcher market and Samardzija posting an ugly 4.96 ERA this past season, this deal would likely bring a decent amount of controversy.
With a walk rate well below his career average, no nominal rise in hard hit percentage, and three straight seasons of 200-plus innings, Samardzija could be a staple for a middling rotation that needs innings. The quality of those innings is, notwithstanding, to be determined.
Also, Samardzija pitched in the "no fans" game at Camden Yards this past summer, giving up seven earned runs and 10 hits over five innings. Take that for what you will.
Let his hamstring heal up and hand Leake $67 million over five years. Only entering his age-28 season, Leake fits the mold as stated previously with Chen and Samardzija - he provides innings. 1083 2-3 of them over six seasons since his debut, to be exact. And check out the above chart - relatively consistent K/BB/HR rates over his career without any major outliers that cause concern.
One year, $4 million. The guy is familiar with the organization, and we all know how much this team thrives on culture. Plus, he was the Fan Choice bobblehead giveaway, so that has to count for something, right?
This move mostly acts as one of those Garrett Atkins/Derrek Lee type stopgaps while the organization reevaluates its first base solution long term. Christian Walker likely is not that answer. But Pearce/Flaherty for a year likely helps procrastinate that decision. It could be worse. I think.
Joe Blanton/Chad Billingsley/Aaron Harang/Shaun Marcum/Bud Norris/et al
Give a bunch of these types minor league deals with Spring Training invites and hope to shove them all in a juicer and squeeze 80-100 useful Major League innings out of them. Something like that.
Dan Duquette is more than likely going to solve the pitching problems by trading for a couple of back of the rotation AAA arms, find a first baseman in the depths of the Atlantic League (Rafael Palmeiro, anyone?), a left fielder from the Canadian Junior National Team, and call it a day.
If the team wants to contend, it won't do so in its current situation if it "buys the bats and grows the arms," so to speak. The arms aren't there. Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson are both "maybes" while Tillman and Gonzalez are not as reliable as we once thought. Stabilizing the rotation this offseason allows for Duquette and Showalter to manipulate the roster otherwise how they please. Shaving cost here by simply hoping that J.A. Happ on a three-year deal will work out in your favor is a heavier risk that the organization cannot afford at this time.
Any amount of additions within the current budget structure do not make up for the lost contributions from the 2015 team, unfortunately. The farm system is depleted, Manny Machado is set for free agency in three years, and Kevin Gausman still can't throw a quality breaking ball. But I digress.
Here is the blueprint summary:
- Denard Span - 3 years, $43 million
- Jeff Samadzija - 4 years, $75 million
- Mike Leake - 5 years, $75 million
- Steve Pearce - 1 year, $4 million
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