19 November 2015

Getting Rid Of Gausman

The title gives away a little bit of the following role play between me and fellow Depot writer, Joe Reisel.  The idea is to try to figure out how to improve the Orioles in a meaningful way through trade.  Yes, the club is thin and has few assets, but it does have some pieces that are of interest to other teams.  The following interchange has been lightly edited (Joe can yell at me if he sees fit).
Dan Duquette: Jed, baby, it is the Double D.  Congratulations on getting the playoff spirit back in Wrigleyville.  Not sure how you got Arrieta his groove back, but you are welcome.  I noticed that you have been shaking the bushes for cost-controlled pitching as well as looking to lower payroll.  While we do not have as impressive of budget capacity as you all do, we are able to take on some salary and you have a player that interests us: Jorge Soler.
His potential power and his...well, potential everything...is what we are looking for.  We know you guys are frustrated with him and that he has yet to become the hitter you all thought he could be.  We are willing to throw him out there over the next few years and see what shakes.  You asked about Mike Wright last summer and we are willing now to deal him.  You think we can do a Soler for Wright deal or center it around Wright?
You might be asking two questions: why Soler?  Why Wright?  Those are fair questions.  First, Jorge Soler's prospect sheen has been tarnished by unimpressive play and nagging injuries.

201220-0.72 Teams2 LgsA-Rk14951219.299.369.463
201422-3.03 Teams3 LgsAAA-AA-Rk236153348.340.432.700
MLB (2 seasons)MLB5011538145.268.325.433
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/18/2015.

Those numbers alone appear as if there may be some grand next step waiting to happen, but they do not show how dreadful he was in the outfield.  He certainly has value and is locked into a 5/23 MM contract.

Mike Wright?  Yes, that is a low ball offer.  Opposing scouts gave Wright rave reviews in the Spring and he produced in Norfolk.  He certainly was a bigger chip in the early part of the 2015 season than he is now, but he is someone to wave around.  One person told me in March that Wright was by far the most interesting pitching prospect the Orioles had and that he was on their radar.  I do not know where he stands now.  Certainly, the season has not been kind to Hunter Harvey or Dylan Bundy.
Jed Hoyer: We're not in a position to swap our projected starting right fielder for a high-risk, medium-reward gamble. You do remember that Soler will play 2016 as a 24-year-old and Wright will play 2016 as a 26-year-old, don't you? Yes, Soler's had injury problems, but he has both a higher floor and a higher ceiling than Wright.
We're in a position to win now. If we're going to deal Soler, we're going to need someone who's going to really make a difference. You have exactly one of those - Kevin Gausman. Gausman, like Soler, has tantalized with sporadic brilliance but hasn't been consistent. Both have legitimate chances at being key components of championship teams. Financially and in terms of team control, they're pretty much a wash.
Given your organization's position, I know you can't swallow a Soler-for-Gausman even-up trade. So, we're prepared to help you by giving you assets for your system. Jeimer Candelario would instantly become at least your second-best position player prospect and he's blocked here; we'll include him. We have two major-league-ready, hard-throwing right-handed relief pitcher candidates in Corey Black and Carl Edwards Jr.; we can't use both of them so take your pick. And we've got a number of good arms a long way from the majors; might you be interested in a Carson Sands? 
So, my counter-proposal for Soler is Soler, Candelario, Black/Edwards, and Sands for Gausman. 
If you're willing to wait awhile, we need to see who's going to play center field for us next year. If we do get someone, or perhaps more accurately if we know who'll be playing there next season, I might be interested in Wright for the right price - say, Arismendy Alcantara. Or, we could explore something entirely different ...
Do not get me wrong, this is a fantastic deal.  Candelario and Sands are solid prospects and I would think to be able to get both of them would be a major get for the Orioles.  However, it concerns me that the net change here is an increase in money and the hole in right simply being pushed over to starting pitcher.  If the Orioles were in a rebuilding mode, this would be an excellent deal to seek and I would not think twice about it.  However, I need to find something more useful for the MLB club, so, regrettably I have to decline even though this deal looks great for the club long term.
DD: Understandable, we had to start somewhere and I thought Wright might be a good kernel to build upon.  As you, we have discussed Gausman and he is not off limits.  Losing him will put us in a tough position for 2016, but it is something to explore.  However, your offer points toward a rebuild and we need more value now for us to compete today.

Soler costs a little bit and if we lose Gausman we need some savings in cost in order for us to be able to go out into the market and find a dependable backend rotation arm.  As such, we need some cost defrayed.  We also are aware that in the next few years that you have some big arbitration raises that you will need to deal with.  What I will suggest might be a difficult loss, but I think it works for both of us.

We think the following makes sense: Soler and Starlin Castro for Gausman and J.J. Hardy.  Yes, we all remember you all calling around to everyone this past summer about whether anyone was interested in Castro.  We were not then, but we could be now.  This deal will not only net you a potential top of the rotation pitcher, but you would be dealing out two, admit it, spare pieces for roughly 20 MM in long-term savings.  We can handle that bump up in salary, but you may have some troubles with guys like Bryant breaking the arbitration bank.   
Yes, you may be worried about Hardy.  His shoulder is a mess, you have to check off on that.  However, it is his non-throwing shoulder, so he still is a great fielder.  His bat?  It probably is no worse than what Castro did this season.  If Kris Bryant's defense becomes a concern, you can push him into the outfield and have Hardy's defense soak up batted balls.  Plus, if Hardy breaks down, you have Addison Russell waiting to move over.  You get that flexibility, plus you get to turn Kevin Gausman into another pitching God.

For us, we hopefully solve one of our corner outfield spots and settle on an infield.  Yes, both Soler and Castro have question marks attached to them, but we like that we know how much they are going to cost and how it enables us to chase a decent arm for our rotation.  Losing Gausman most certainly hurts, but this would be worth it to us.

Are we closer?  Do you want to talk Kyle Schwarber for Gausman straight up?
This was a direction I did not want to go in.  Gausman is a cost controlled pitcher who is at worst an average pitcher and at best is a near ace.  However, I feel more comfortable dealing him out if I can essentially use Hardy's salary to replace Hardy and fill left field.  That is like finding another 13 MM in my pocket.  Only issue I really see from the Cubs is whether they can spin Castro for a deal better than an effective salary dump in Hardy.  Hardy is a pretty expensive defense minded utility man.
JH: When I first saw your proposal, I was not positively disposed. Not only were we giving up two of our most valuable tradable assets for an unproven pitcher, we would be taking on $40 million in dead money over the next three years. Upon further review, I think this trade might work for us. 
Let me start by describing the worst-case scenario for us, excluding serious injury. Kevin Gausman doesn't develop; J.J. Hardy becomes the infield equivalent of Edwin Jackson, and Jorge Soler becomes Nelson Cruz. (We're not ready to right Starlin Castro off, but we won't regret trading him in this deal even if does find himself.) The big disadvantage of this might be the money; we lose our flexibility to fill our holes in the future. We'd be entering 2016 without a center fielder if Fowler leaves, and also without a right fielder. But further reflection leads me to conclude that this deal is certainly worth bringing to my bosses. 
Let's look at the money. Hardy's 2018 option becomes guaranteed after this trade, so we're on the hook for $40 million over the next three seasons. Over that time, we'd be paying Castro about $28.5 million. I believe that Gausman is arbitration-eligible after 2016; I don't have any real idea what he'll earn in arbitration but let's assume it'd be a total of $25 million over 2017 and 2018. So, essentially, we'd get Gausman for three years and roughly $40 million. Comparing that to the probable $60 million it'd cost to add a Jordan Zimmermann, Gausman could be a bargain. We should be able to fill our center-field hole for the difference. 
Of course, with Addison Russell inked in at shortstop, Hardy won't play there. We'll be hoping he can play second base, which would allow us to move either Kris Bryant or (more likely) Javier Baez to Soler's corner outfield spot. If Hardy fails there, we'll have to scramble or hope Chris Coghlan is for real. 
But the upshot is that Gausman and Hardy for Castro and Soler is a deal worth considering, and one I'll definitely mention to Theo and Tom.
So we wound up on the following deal:

Baltimore Orioles receive RF Jorge Soler and SS Starlin Castro
Chicago Cubs receive SP Kevin Gausman and SS J.J. Hardy

From my view (and I think Joe's), this seemed like something slightly in the Orioles favor because Hardy is in no way worth 3/40 and to what extent does Gausman's value make up or surpass that?  To get some idea, I asked someone in the industry what they thought and he responded, "That is generally not a crazy deal.  Hardy is worthless to them, but Gausman is a big prize and saves them a great deal of room in their roster.  I would want to shop Castro around to others to see what I could get for him, but this would be something I would keep in my back pocket.  For the Cubs, I'd probably downgrade the talks and focus on something like Soler for Zach Britton.  That should work for both sides.  If I was the Orioles, only way I would want to deal Gausman would be if Kyle Schwarber was coming back."

I sent a poll out while we were doing this for you all to answer on Twitter.  The terms in the poll are less favorable with the 3MM difference for 2016 tossed in.  Still, you all were slightly in agreement to make the deal.


Anonymous said...

I"m sorry but Starlin Castro + Jorge Soler as the return for a Gausman deal is not within the realm of possibility.
Gausman is potentially an excellent pitcher -- these guys are not

Jon Shepherd said...

That is true. Neither Soler or Castro can pitch.

Jason Clem said...

I, personally, have come around on the idea of trading Gausman. While it irks me to no end to see Os pitchers find success elsewhere, they just don't seem to develop as they should in this system. I don't know if it's they're intimidated by OPACY's reputation as a launchpad or if it's systemic but the fact is, Gausman may never be more than a #3 caliber pitcher here. Good offense, middling SP, good bullpen has become the new Oriole Way. If you can get value for him, trade him.

Matt Perez said...

How much cash would the Os need to take on to get Vogelbach included in the deal?

Jon Shepherd said...

My estimate would be about 5-8 MM.

Anonymous said...

I would be fully in favor of this deal. Castro could be anything from a mild to huge offensive upgrade at shortstop over Hardy and Soler would fill a big void in right.
Then again, if there was any chance at Soler for Wright + anyone but Gausman, Machado, or Schoop, that would be preferable.

Anonymous said...

Lessee..... the biggest need is SP and you trade the best young SP and let the actual best SP (Chen) go in FA. It doesn't matter what you get back; that is nuts. There's lots of OF possibilities. The SS part, idunno - no firm opinion one way or the other. Top SP is not easy to find. Maybe trade Gausman for Arrieta....... lol

Anonymous said...

Horrible horrible idea. We would replace one aging SS with another (to whom we would be committed for more years) while trading a MLB ready young SP (potential ace) for yet another low walk/high K/below average power 1 WAR (if that) OF. And Gausman would almost certainly turn into a Cy Young Winner for the Cubs just to rub it in again. No thanks.

Jon Shepherd said...

A 25 yo SS is an aging SS?

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I'm not really a Starlin Castro fan, but he's 25. He's not great; he's not aging either. Still, I think expecting him to be a mild or even huge offensive upgrade over Hardy is expecting a lot, unless we're just talking about 2015 Hardy.

I'm not a huge fan of this specific trade, but I can see the logic. The Orioles have plenty of needs, not just at starting pitcher. That doesn't mean you give Kevin Gausman away. I don't think this trade is doing that.

Much of what's been frustrating with Gausman has been how the Orioles have handled him, and I give him just about all the benefit of the doubt when it comes to him underperforming or whatever. But he's still been up and down when given a chance in the rotation, and there's no guarantee he'll be an ace, especially if he only throws fastballs and change-ups. Anyway, that the team getting him in this example (Cubs) should not have much bearing on whether you pull the trigger or not. It's about the return.

If I dealt Gausman to the Cubs, I think I'd hold out for Kyle Schwarber, if he's even available. There's no need to trade him away unless you get something impressive in return. I'm not sure Soler qualifies.

Anonymous said...

In fairness to other anonymous, we're all aging (though not shortstops)

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I think you know what we mean.

Anonymous said...

Why deal from a position of weakness that is difficult to fill in order to acquire fill a hole that can be effectively filed other ways?

Jon Shepherd said...

I think you could argue that it is the only position of strength to deal from trade wise. However...the main choice is do you believe in cost controlled bats or pitching given what is available on the market.

I think the trade occupies a gray area primarily because it fills two positions while dealing out one. The issue being that Gausman might be special.

GRob78 said...

Respectfully disagree...completely.

Gausman has the stuff to deal at a high level. He regularly stays above 95 MPH throughout a start and he's been figuring out the difference between throwing and pitching. Now, if he can pick up a solid third, and hopefully, fourth pitch he might be one of the best starters in the majors. His mechanics look like he's got at least a decade of work available.

Now, we missed the boat on selling high on Bundy and can only hope he's arm problems aren't the end of him.

Of course, the Orioles having already dealt a Cy Young winner for some marginal talent doesn't mean they aren't open to this. At this point, I'm starting to think the only untouchable part of this organization is Machado. Though Gausman is pretty close in there too.

Jon Shepherd said...

Club is discussing Gausman. I am unsure how serious they are with it. He is highly valued around baseball. His inability to consistently spin his breaking ball is a concern but he is young enough for that to be overlooked. If he does not figure it out for 2016 along with service time issues, his value will drop by about 70%. You are either all in on him now or you spin for something you so believe in within context of what the overall plan is.

Doug Palmer said...

Starting pitching seems to have more of a boom-bust caveat, so dealing a potential (key word=potential) ace for positional players can blow up in your face (see Arrieta) as much as it turns into a great deal (see Erik Bedard). That being said, I'm make the deal as much as I would HATE to lose a good clubhouse presence in Hardy. Hardy and Jones are the veterans and really the only ones who are out there day in and day out (sorry, Weiters has to be healthy first to lead). The rest are kids. So ship off a veteran (Hardy) and have two more kids playing in the field.

I'd also be curious as to the difference in Hardy to Castro as far as fielding. The bat, sure Castro has it all over JJ. But in the field, Castro will never be confused with Ozzie Smith.

But I'd do the deal. At least they'd go to the NL and I would have to be reminded of what could have been (see E.Rodriguez of the Bosox)