03 February 2016

Orioles Again To Rely On Bounce-Backs, Hopes, And Wishes

Before the offseason even started, you could see it coming. Chris Davis was the team's top priority, and the Orioles (with Peter Angelos leading the charge) did everything to ensure his return. They should be commended for that, regardless of whether you think they spent too much money to bring him back. It was likely Davis or no other top free agent, and that does matter.

Still, the Orioles were not going to be able to take care of everything on their shopping list. And to be fair, that is usually the case. The Orioles don't spend enough as a mid-market team to go out and replenish their roster when players depart, and they combine that with having a disappointing farm system that is one of the worst in the majors. That makes it difficult to fill a well-rounded roster with cheap, cost-controlled players. (The Orioles have also had good teams recently, and while that's a positive, they've both dealt away some of their better prospects and dealt with injuries and haven't been able to restock their system.)

The O's have been active this offseason. They re-signed Davis and fought off the Nationals to keep Darren O'Day. They rightly extended the qualifying offer to Matt Wieters, who somewhat surprisingly accepted. They traded for Mark Trumbo and signed Hyun Soo Kim. And they've made a boatload of fringe roster moves in an effort to strike gold with one or two players. But that doesn't seem like enough. After those moves, the O's still may be the worst team in the American League East. And even if they aren't, they don't seem to be more than marginally better than any other team. Realistically, no flurry of moves would have done all that much to alter things. It's not like the Orioles were going to sign David Price, Zack Greinke, or Jason Heyward. They need to get better at developing players, in a hurry.

That brings us back to the apparent flaws of the current roster. The team's corner outfield options - Kim, Nolan Reimold, Dariel Alvarez, Joey Rickard, Henry Urrutia - leave a lot to be desired. Kim is a nice, low-risk signing, but he's unproven in the majors and can't be considered a sure thing. Trumbo needs to be included in that mix, but he's clearly a better option at designated hitter or to spell Davis at first base. Davis could also shift to right field some, but that's probably not what the Orioles have in mind after signing him for so much money. An actual corner outfielder, preferably one who is left-handed, would be a nice addition.

And then there's the starting rotation. Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Miguel Gonzalez are all locks to start the season in the rotation. That's hardly an inspiring group. Tillman was awful last season; Gausman has showed promise but the Orioles have refused to commit to keeping him in the major league rotation until now; Jimenez was improved last season but is hardly dependable; and Gonzalez finally buckled under the pressure of outpitching his FIP (and, you know, also dealt with elbow and shoulder injuries).

That's without mentioning the upcoming, riveting battle for fifth starter duties between Vance Worley, Mike Wright, and Tyler Wilson. Names such as Mat Latos, Kyle Lohse, Tim Lincecum, Aaron Harang, Alfredo Simon, and even Jeremy Guthrie and other AAAA starters are still out there. Maybe it's best to pursue that route and hope for the best. Or maybe the Orioles will make a trade.

There are still some talented players available on the free agent market, but some are tied to draft pick compensation (including Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler). The Orioles seem set on holding on to their first-round draft pick. That probably has more to do with the money not being there for such signings; after all, the Orioles forfeited two draft picks to sign Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz just a couple years ago. And it's not like the Orioles hoard their draft picks anyway.

Right now, it seems pretty foolish that the O's weren't willing to be more flexible to sign Scott Kazmir. Not only was he not tied to draft pick compensation, but he would have filled the left-handed starter void left by Wei-Yin Chen. It's unclear whether the O's were scared off more by Kazmir's injury history or his pursuit of a contract with an opt-out, but he would have been a nice signing -- and could have been considered the team's best starting pitcher.

Teams want more good players. The Orioles aren't any different. Without much to fall back on in the minors, the O's don't have much room for error. They again need a Nate McLouth or Steve Pearce type player to surface, or at least get Miguel Gonzalez to pitch like he did from 2012-2014 or get J.J. Hardy or Tillman to somewhat return to form. (Buck Showalter has acknowledged as much, particularly about his starting pitchers, in some of his comments.) Those types of performances shouldn't be taken for granted, especially when the O's need them as much as they do. Maybe it doesn't lead to exciting offseasons, but the O's again seem like a .500 team that with the right push could again be in the playoff hunt. That's the best-case scenario for this team. The worst case? Maybe you should take a look at that rotation again.

20 comments:

Joe Reisel said...

Here's another way to look at the Orioles' off-season. Essentially, the only move the Orioles made was to swap Wei-Yin Chen for Mark Trumbo. If that were a trade proposal, I wouldn't have made it.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Sure. They also didn't bring back Pearce and seem to be an outfielder short.

Roger said...

Matt, that pretty much sums it up from my standpoint, too. There are still moves to be made - Jackson is still available at a reasonable cost and would likely be better than Pearce as a "fit". Also, Gausman will do better only because he won't be criminally misused this year, hopefully. Gausman should actually replace Chen pretty well. All we need to do is really replace Gausman as fifth starter. Considering his numbers last year, any of the options should do but I think Wright and even more so Wilson (at least according to FG) has more upside than portrayed here a the Depot. I watched him pitch and he was a very effective control pitcher. I am still not sure that a trade centering on Blackmon and Miguel is not possible (Miguel, Wright, Walker for Blackmon?). The O's could take a chance on Latos, too. The cupboard is not bare just starting to look really empty.

The Chen vs. Trumbo comparison above is not fair because of the big money difference and the O's also get a comp draft pick. I also think they took a look at Pearce's WAA from last year and determined that they got his "good year" from him.

Jon Shepherd said...

I think we have a somewhat mixed opinion about the pitchers. I think Wright could be a strong and serviceable back end arm or, at worst and most likely, a strong bullpen arm. Wilson's approach is something that rarely works for most pitchers, but he does have a shot at sticking in the rotation. He might be more of a couple seasons toiling in middle relief with spot starts.

I think the Chen vs Trumbo contention is somewhat fair, yet simple. If we only look at the talent level of this team (that ignores the draft pick), the goal is more of a what value does Trumbo bring over generic DH hitters vs. Chen against Wilson and Wright. That does appear to be a lost of quality of maybe a win or two. In a grand scheme, the young guys are a year older and probably better (but it might be hard for Manny to do something grander than what he did last year). Older players like Jones are a year older and more likely to see a decrease in performance. Really, to compare the clubs it depends on the resolution of the scope you wish to employ.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Unless the Orioles build from the ground up and develop a bunch of outstanding young players, the "shoot for a .500 record and get a few breaks" strategy is probably their best path to contention. That's what they've used the last few years. Last year was the most frustrating of the past few, but it beats rooting for a terrible team.

Jon Shepherd said...

I think the big thing many of us have been worried about for several years is that Duquette's apparent 81-85 win team build and then hope you can rattle out good bottom end players is that to construct those 81-85 win base teams the club forsake amateur player acquisition. Additionally, in season trades resulted in a farm system that was stripped of its few second tier prospects. Add that to the collapse of the club's high end talent...and...well...Baltimore no longer has much of a foundation anymore.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I wonder if it's really an either/or type situation and if there is the possibility of signing international prospects for large amounts of money. That maybe seems like a level of risk that the front office would not endorse. If so, then yeah, that's a real concern.

Anonymous said...

Dumpster Dan needs to quit talking and start making moves, top of rotation starter? Let's see it, RF, let's see it. He's always saying deals are in progress, then nothing. If there is nothing going on, don't say there is!!!

Anonymous said...

Pearce sucked, he was as bad as the rest of the OF who were disposed of!

Roger said...

Injuries to the top twp prospects sure doesn't help but the O's have graduated prospects into the majors, specifically Machado and Schoop. If you can graduate two prospects per year or even every other year then your farm system is pretty productive. The O's could have graduated one last year with Bundy if he'd been healthy. Hopefully, Harvey, Mancini, and Cisco aren't too far away. I really do think trading Rodriguez and Davies didn't bring much back in terms of what the O's really need (top level pitching). But the draft picks this year will be a good start on replenishing the system. Short of tearing down the team or spending gross amounts of money, here we are.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Injuries to Bundy and Harvey have been unfortunate, but Machado, Schoop, and Gausman are really the young, talented players the O's have produced. You can throw in Givens in that group; Joseph isn't young but has been a surprise success story. Machado is clearly the star of this group, but Gausman and Schoop are still sort of question marks. They've shown promise, for sure, but the Orioles need them to produce now.

Jon Shepherd said...

How is what you describe different from other teams with much better prospects in their system. This graduation thing sounds nice until you realize everyone graduates players and still finds a way to replenish them even in the face of injuries.

Roger said...

Matt, I agree and this year Bundy needs to produce - it's really the only option. He IS the farm system right now. I just read an old chat by Melewski where he said if Bundy and Harvey were perfectly healthy then the O's farm system would not be so lowly rated - it would be regarded much more positively.

Jon, I might agree with you if there was a different rating for farm system with "major league ready" players. Do you know if there is such a thing? A lot of these farm systems are highly rated based upon future projectable players. If the O's stock a bunch of AAAA players at Norfolk ready to provide replacement level performance in case of injury, wouldn't that be a plus? It's not sexy but there's value in it. And I see DD starting to stock up on those players now - Navarro, Despaigne, etc...

Also, now that Matusz has settled, Matusz at 3.9M is a moderately useful trade chip for someone who wants predictable performance with potential upside - maybe not as much as Hammel or Arrieta but he's not chopped liver.

P said...

Matusz is the very picture of wasted talent. How a fellow can be so gifted and yet so lousy is beyond me.

Roger said...

Would you have said any different about Hammel or Arrieta two years ago?

Jon Shepherd said...

Matusz has no trade value. As I have written before, I think to you, the Orioles could not deal him last year for a AAAA OF without putting money into the deal. No value in a trade.

Regarding value of MLB ready talent...Orioles would rank near last. These rankings are not really a worshiping of far off promises. Having a high floor is recognized as valuable.

Jon Shepherd said...

Melewski might not be the best source. Growing consensus in the industry based on my conversations are that fewer and fewer people think Bundy can start. There is still cautious optimism with Harvey.

Remember Melewski compared Tanner Scott with ARod is Chapman. Realize the history of your information source.

Jon Shepherd said...

Aroldis...that was a typo.

P said...

You didn't say it to me, I've never thought Matusz had much value...and now he's making 3.9 million. Go figure.

Jon Shepherd said...

3.9 MM is not much. It is a slight overpay, but not considerably for a LOOGY. Issue is that it is more than most teams will bother with in a trade that results in giving up anything of value that costs less.