“I'd like to see someone here do a dual comparison of say Upton/Trumbo vs. Davis/Pearce or Davis/Parra or even Davis/Markakis and see how it grades out. I bet Upton/Trumbo is not too bad especially if Trumbo can bring 25-30 HR.”This request is definitely doable using Steamer projections. However, a few changes need to be made to this question. First, the Orioles already have Trumbo on their roster and therefore shouldn’t be considered an addition. Second, I question whether the Orioles will spend more than $130 to $135 million on payroll and therefore think that adding Davis and Markakis would break their budget. This results in five possible permutations. One is that the Orioles add only Davis, that they add Upton, that they add Pedro Alvarez and Parra, that they add Markakis and Pearce and that they add Alvarez and Pearce.
Before the off-season started, the 2016 Orioles’ were projected to score about 661 runs if they didn’t add any players. Since then, the Orioles have added Matt Wieters, Mark Trumbo, L.J Hoes and Joey Rickard while losing Steve Clevenger and therefore have improved their offense. My rudimentary model, which uses Steamer projections for performance and plate appearances, suggests that the Orioles have improved from scoring 662 runs to 699 runs. The Orioles scored 713 runs in 2015 and therefore have mostly replaced their offensive production. This is how the baseline has changed.
In part, this is because Steamer believes that Machado will have 672 PAs and Adam Jones will have 654 PAs. Machado has over 700 PAs when healthy while Jones broke 680 PAs each year from 2012-2014 while having 581 in 2015 suggesting that both of these projections are feasible. If either of these players misses significant time, then the Orioles expected production will be inflated. In addition, I think that Steamer is awfully optimistic for players like Hoes (.262/.330/.358), Urrutia (.277/.319/.404), Alvarez (.273/.301/.423), Walker (.254/.311/.426), and Rickard (.256/.324/.350).
Steamer projects Chris Davis to have a .236/.329/.466 line, have 630 PAs and be worth 2.4 fWAR. In 2015, Chris Davis had a .262/.361/.562 line. Needless to say, if Steamer is accurate about Davis’ performance, then he will be a huge disappointment. In such a case, using him at 1B and Trumbo at DH as opposed to using players like Paredes, Walker or Mancini at DH will result in the Orioles being projected to score 720 runs or seven more than last year.
I’m far more bullish on Chris Davis then Steamer and project him to have a .264/.345/.524 line which would be slightly worse than his 2015 numbers but in the same ballpark. If so, the club would be projected to score 736 runs in 2016. This is how the Orioles depth chart looks if they add Davis.
Steamer projects Justin Upton to have a .260/.343/.467 line over 638 PAs and be worth 3 fWAR. Upton would presumably be the Orioles’ left fielder and would be a probable offensive upgrade from guys like Reimold, Rickard, Hoes, Urrutia and Alvarez. This lineup is expected to score 728 runs in 2016. Here's how the lineup looks.
Given the Orioles large number of weaknesses, one might think that adding multiple players could possibly help the team more than adding one great player. Steamer projects Nick Markakis to have a .269/.340/.369 line in 655 PAs and for Steve Pearce to have a .252/.324/.446 line in 377 PAs. If Steamer is correct, then trading for Markakis would be a mistake as he’d be a slight offensive upgrade over L.J Hoes and would cost considerably more money. Steamer appears to be a fan of Steve Pearce given the amount of cash that he’ll receive. This lineup is projected to produce 715 runs in 2016 and looks like this.
Steamer projects Pedro Alvarez to have a .243/.322/.466 line and for Gerardo Parra to have a .267/.315/.394 line. Steamer is justifiably bearish on Gerardo Parra and feels like he’d be a minimal upgrade over Nolan Reimold (albeit more likely to stay healthy) and worse than Henry Urrutia. As a result, this lineup would be expected to score 714 runs in 2016.
Alvarez and Pearce are the best players in these groupings with the exception of the expensive players like Davis or Upton. If the Orioles added Alvarez and Pearce, they’d be expected to score 720 runs in 2016 or about the same amount of runs as Steamer would predict the Orioles to score with Chris Davis.
The current Orioles prediction that they will score 699 runs is enough to put their offense in the middle of the pact (7th in the AL). Adding Upton or Davis would put the Orioles around 5th in majors based on previous year or that the Orioles should have an average to above-average offense. Then again, I also think that Steamer is highly optimistic on a number of the Orioles outfield options.
If Steamer was slightly optimistic when it came to the hitting, it’s even more so when it comes to the pitching. Steamer thinks that potential starters like Tyler Wilson, Dylan Bundy, Mike Wright, Vance Worley and Parker Bridwell can maintain ERAs below 5 as well as projecting minor league depth relievers like Oliver Drake, Chris Jones, Andrew Triggs, Tim Berry and Edgar Olmos of being above replacement level. That’s certainly possible, but I would be surprised if a few of those pitchers don’t get completely shelled next year ala Norris and Wright in 2015 or Hammel, Arrieta, Britton, Gausman and Garcia in 2013 or Arrieta, Britton, Matusz and Hunter in 2012. The Orioles currently only have four starting-caliber starters and will likely suffer due to a severe lack of depth.
Steamer projects the Orioles to allow 647 earned runs in 2016. Presuming that the Orioles allow 35 unearned runs, it would mean that the Orioles would allow 682 runs total or eleven runs less than last year. It further suggests that the Orioles are currently an 83 win team and should be expected to win between 84 and 87 games based on which hypothetical scenario they follow. This is enough to be competitive and possibly enough to win a playoff spot if the Orioles upgrade their team at the trade deadline.
I would expect the Orioles’ pitching prospects to do considerably worse than Steamer thinks. I expect them to allow an extra 30 runs more for a team total of 712 runs unless they add another starter to avoid relying so heavily on unproven prospects. This would mean that the Orioles should currently be expected to win 80 games and these possible additions would put them in the 81-83 win range.
It seems likely that the Orioles will compete for a playoff spot the entire season long. The Orioles bullpen is especially strong which likely means that they’ll give up fewer runs in important situations (when Britton, O’Day and Givens are pitching) and more runs in less important situations (when Wright and Wilson are pitching) making it more likely that they could steal a playoff spot. However, it also seems more likely than not that this club will fall just short of clinching a playoff spot regardless of whether they make a big signing. This team has talent, but needs one elite player, another good player and an average player in order to feel more comfortable about their chances of making the playoffs. Such a team would probably force the Orioles to spend $150M. Can their payroll go that high?
All in all, none of these scenarios are significantly different and they all leave the Orioles in a situation where they’re good enough to make it to the playoffs if random variation goes their way. They’ll just need to hope that a few players can outperform their projections.