16 November 2015

Best Laid Plans Of Dan Duquette: Matt Wieters Edition

Last Friday welcomed us with the news that Matt Wieters preferred the confines of a one-year deal for 15.8 MM instead of braving the waters of free agency with a draft pick tied around his neck.  While our BORAS system projected that his contractural value would be around 2/17, I had argued differently.  My perspective was that his injuries were neither chronic nor did they appear to impact him during his limited playing time in 2016.  If we assumed that the injury was a non-issue then we would have his value around six years and 90 MM.  I had suggested that a club with money and a need should consider bidding that high for his services.  That said, I also thought that it made little sense for the Orioles to retain him because Caleb Joseph was present and performing admirably.  From that point a view, a Qualifying Offer made sense in that the Orioles did not need him and he could grab big money out in the marketplace.

Matt Wieters wound up with a different take.  I assume that he thought the last couple seasons lost to injury hurt his value and that he is still young enough that a resurgent 2016 would net him big money.  If that truly is his thought process then that might well be an issue because that would mean that the long term contract that he would be willing to sign right now is likely not available to him.  It may mean that his quick assessment found that the open market did not bear him riches and the Orioles seem wary to do the same.  This leaves the club with a few options with varying levels of a realistic chance at achieving those options.

Option A
Please do not steal the towels (chances at 85%)
This is the most likely option.  In this situation Wieters and that 15.8 MM chunk of payroll sticks, which means he bounces around catcher, 1B, and DH.  To me, the ideal situation would be to slot Wieters into a rotation with about 50% of games behind the plate, 20% at first base, and 30% at DH.  I assume that with payroll drying up that Wieters will be one of the better solutions at first and DH, which is a little sobering (but so was the performance of the club's DHs last year).  With a first half focus on catching, it is possible the club could turn him into prospects if out of the playoff race or a big piece trade to fill an open slot with an established starter (aka dealing from depth).

Impact on the blueprint: It was assumed that 42 MM was present to spend.  This reduces available money to 26 MM.  As such, I waive goodbye to retaining Steve Pearce or Matt Joyce.  The absence of Byung-ho Park was decided by the posting process.  Can the club fit Ben Zobrist and a pitcher under what is left?  I think they could.  It would require slightly shifting money toward the backend of contracts, but I think the club could snag Zobrist and, if they so insist, Scott Kazmir or spread it a bit on Zobrist, Ah-seop Son, and J.A. Happ.

Option B
Let's Dance (chances at 2%)
This is probably the ideal option.  In this scenario, the Orioles are stuck with excess catching along with Wieters while needing a top flight corner outfielder.  Meanwhile, the Astros are stuck with excess outfielders along with Colby Rasmus while needing a starting catcher.  If Wieters signs a contract the Astros like and Rasmus signs a contract the Orioles like, then they can be dealt under the rules of the current Qualifying Offer system.  What this requires though is that all players involved actually want to go to the other club and can be satisfied with the money being offered.

Impact on the blueprint: In this scenario, I think Rasmus gets bonus money and length, so perhaps five years and 80 MM.  I would let the Ben Zobrist train leave at this point.  This leaves 26 MM on the other parts.  Resigning Steve Pearce, acquiring Ah-Seop Son or another interesting fringe outfielder, Matt Joyce, and J.A. Happ might be the best case scenario here.  Rasmus is not an awful acquisition and it was rumored the club was hoping the QO on his head would lessen his asking price, so interest from Baltimore supposedly is there.

Option C
Ball and Chain (chances at 13%)
Sometimes you need to make lemonade out of lemons.  In this scenario, I would suggest that the Orioles go all in with Wieters and sign him to a long term deal.  My guess is that five years and 70 MM might well get the job done.  Next, deal Caleb Joseph.  Over 182 games, Joseph has a bWAR of 3.4 and an fWAR of 2.2.  Neither of these metrics consider pitch framing which credits Joseph somewhere between 17.6 (stat corner) and 22.8 (Baseball Prospectus) runs saved.  In other words, if you assume Joseph as a full time starter would play about 120 games then he would be worth about 1.8 wins according to current WAR metrics and an additional 1.3 wins with pitch framing.  In other words, he is a fringe All Star catcher.  That could be worth quite a bit to a team that values framing.

What makes Joseph particularly valuable is that the arbitration process has yet to recognize pitch framing as a skill of value.  This means that Joseph will likely be earning a salary based predominantly on his bat and the title of his position.  As such, he aims to make about 550k in 2016, 4 MM in 2017, 6 MM in 2018, and 8 MM in 2019.  These numbers, I think, might be a little flattering to him with the arbitration process, but I think it makes sense.  His true market value would be about 60 MM over this time, which is a surplus of about 42 MM.  The club should easily be able to turn Joseph into one or more useful, cost-controlled pieces.  Teams like the Astros and Cubs have pieces available for trade and could greatly benefit the Orioles.  For instance, a deal of Caleb Joseph for Jorge Soler would lockdown a corner outfield position with an average or maybe better player who has major power potential.

Impact to the blueprint: The club would still have 26 MM to improve elsewhere and could legitimately add Zobrist, Happ, and Pearce or another fringe interesting bat to the club.  It may well not be the most ideal situation, but it could vastly improve the club.

Conclusion
Wieters accepting the deal is not the best thing that could have happened to the club and it may well be quite horrible if the plan simply is to see what this season brings.  If the club takes more of a long-term approach, then I see several areas where they can make the most of a poor situation and add value.  One way would be to use some Orioles Magicks and deal for Rasmus.  He is a good outfielder with the bat and in the field.  He would pair up nicely with Adam Jones.  Or, as I would suggest, the club should sign Wieters to a lucrative long term deal and then deal Joseph for a young, controllable bat.  Just focusing on the Cubs, the target should be Kyle Schwarber, but the acceptable line should be Soler.  Simply put, there is no need for two starting catchers on a club and Wieters acceptance makes the choice for the club.  Now, it is the team's responsibility to recognize that fact and use it to their advantage.

One last thing to reiterate: I think it would have been worse if the club had not put the Qualifying Offer on Wieters.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on almost all fronts especially that the Orioles should put the QO on Wieters and a trade for Rasmus would be a great idea. Apparently, DD was quoted as saying that, even with the QO acceptance, they can still re-sign Davis and get a big time starter. Is he blowing smoke or did they really intelligently plan for this scenario. Trading for Rasmus, signing Davis, signing a FA pitcher (Kazmir?), and cleaning up the rest of arb and free agency would leave us with a pretty good team. I still think signing Pearce and letting Matusz go (and probably O'Day) would be good and the ultimate result is that the bank would not break too badly but have to be increased some. The MASN decision surely leaves this as a possibility.

Also, I was stunned at the rumor of the O's considering bringing Markakis back. That is kind of a head scratcher.

An outfield of Rasmus, Pearce, Jones and occasionally Davis with Reimold being 4th. And 1B of Davis and occasionally Pearce. And DH rotating Davis, Pearce, Paredes, Reimold, Clevenger. These would be good options to have and a solid team. Rotation of Tillman, Kazmir, Gausman, Gonzalez, Wilson/Wright would not be too bad. And Mychal Givens taking over for O'Day with Britton closing is solid. All you need is a LOOGY from the minors. Maybe even Bundy can turn around (doesn't seem likely at this point).

Anonymous said...

Dang it. Forgot Jimenez in the rotation..... The point is the same, but even better really. Gives the option of non-tendering Gonzalez but having six starters is never a bad thing,.....

Jon Shepherd said...

Keep in mind, Duquette clarified his top of the rotation remark as a pitcher who is a 1, 2, or 3 slot pitcher. In other words, JA Happ like if you squint would fall within that grouping.

Anonymous said...

Pretty funny reading this column after the author mocked other writers for asking whether the team should make him a qualifying offer.

Jon Shepherd said...

As I wrote, I still think it would have been foolish not to extend a QO to Wieters. I think it would have been a mistake otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Being stuck with a 16M catcher when you have a halfway decent C platoon for 1M is what I would consider a "mistake".

Jon Shepherd said...

I would call it a complication that can be turned into an advantage. It is not the best situation, but it is certainly not the worst.

Joe Reisel said...

This reminds me of the Greg Maddux case of 2002-2003. After the 2002 season, the Braves offered Maddux arbitration, fully expecting him to decline. But Maddux confounded them by accepting arbitration, and the Braves felt forced to trade Kevin Millwood, another player facing arbitration, for Jonny Estrada, a marginal catching prospect. I fear that the Orioles will overreact to Wieters' accepting the QO.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I actually think the O's won't do anything creative and will just use Wieters as they normally would. Maybe they'll even get his bat in the lineup more at 1B and DH (against left-handed pitching) and utilize Joseph. Maybe that's the right course of action.

Nate Delong said...

Great summary. All viable options, and I would probably prefer (however only slightly) the 3rd one, as I do think Joseph could bring back a good return. I realize it was just an example, but with Miguel Montero under contract and Willson Contreras coming up fast, not sure the Cubs would bite. There would be a lot of other interested teams though.

Anonymous said...

How can trading Wieters for Rasmus not be the best option considered? The money is the same. Both clubs get a need filled while eliminating an unexpected occurrence. As the QO was never accepted before this season, both clubs likely made it for the sole purpose of not being accepted and to get the draft choice in return so they were both ready to separate from both players. It's a classic win/win....

I think there is a whiff in the air that the O's will not be stuck at $119M. Seems like they are implying that $125M-$130M is possible. I haven't done the math but seems like that would not be impossible when getting Rasmus, Davis, Kazmir, and Pearce and letting O'Day, Chen, and Matusz walk. Non-tender Gonzalez, if you need to. We still have one extra draft pick for Chen (unless Chen becomes this year's QO "stuckee" and comes whimpering back home for a discount).

Philip said...

Joseph is a much better catcher.
Trading him and keeping Wieters is logical( But Dan won't think so) but I hope we keep him.
Clevenger has value too. The Mariners wanted him last year but nothing came of it. He accumulated .4 BWAR in very limited playing time. What's he worth?
Also, Boras is going to scream if Wieters spend significant time at DH or 1B.
However, at least this would quell any foolish talk about needing to acquire a DH, right?
Agree that the QO was the right thing.

Jon Shepherd said...

We do not know if money is the same because they have to sign new deals to be traded until mid season.

Anonymous said...

It won't be that much different and they can even out the money as part of the trade. Seems like a pretty good no-brainer.

Anonymous said...

I sure hope that the Orioles are the team that's "in" on Rich Hill...... supposed to sign with someone today. Hill ($5M) and Worley combined would nearly equal non-tendering Gonzalez leaving a "no cost" upgrade.

C Moore said...



Cubs have Ross, Montero, & Scwharber at C
why would they want Joseph ?
makes no sense - they need a CF -Jones makes sense.

Jon Shepherd said...

Schwarber is not a catcher. He is a big boy who will be at first in a year or two. Montero is movable and Cubs are looking to save money. Ross is in his final season. Joseph is a long term option that is cheap.

So...it makes some sense as long as they can move Montero, which would be in line with what they are trying to do this offseason.

Jon Shepherd said...

Schwarber is not a catcher. He is a big boy who will be at first in a year or two. Montero is movable and Cubs are looking to save money. Ross is in his final season. Joseph is a long term option that is cheap.

So...it makes some sense as long as they can move Montero, which would be in line with what they are trying to do this offseason.