As in years past, the Orioles have a number of arbitration eligible players. I’m going to keep all of them except for T.J. McFarland and Vance Worley, as I think similar contributions can be found for less money. I would preferably non-tender Ryan Flaherty as well, and try to resign him for less than the MLB Trade Rumors arbitration projection ($1.7 million), but unless you can talk yourself into a Ruben Tejada type player instead, there isn’t much else out there in terms of a cheap bench bat that can play shortstop, among other positions.
I’m giving one to Mark Trumbo because I think there is a really good chance that he declines. In the event that he accepts the offer, it would be worthwhile coming up with a Plan B, as that $17 million (or there about) would suck up basically all of my budget. For now let’s assume that he declines, since that currently seems to be the perception. With a strict 2017 budget of $160 million, there is no way I’m offering another qualifying offer to Matt Wieters, as I think there is a good chance that he accepts, even with the Wilson Ramos injury. Either way, I can’t take the chance of both accepting the qualifying offer, so I’m only handing out one, and it’s going to Trumbo.
So here is what we are left with in 2017 and the holes that we need to fill. All salaries are either obtained from Cot’s Contracts, the arbitration projections from MLB Trade Rumors, or salary projections using the Camden Depot BORAS model. I assumed that the major league minimum will be $520,000 (this will ultimately be decided when the new CBA is completed) and that Dylan Bundy gets a slight raise from $1.8 million (his 2016 salary) to $2.0 million.
Looking at the figure, I have to fill vacancies at catcher and right field, along with 2 bench spots, and 2 bullpen spots with approximately $14.96 million. This is where you say, “good luck”. Thanks.
First and foremost, if Manny Machado is open to a contract extension that is structured in a way that frees up a little bit of budget space in 2017, I’m trying to get that done immediately. For this exercise, I’m assuming he’s not. Catcher is the only open position. Caleb Joseph stays on, but great defense aside, I’m not sure his bat justifies a starting position for him. Furthermore, I’m not sure he can physically handle the catching position on a full time basis. To help with the catching duties, I’m looking to stay internal with Francisco Pena. Pena hasn’t been terribly impressive in his limited time in the majors, but he has a reputation of being a decent defender and has shown power in AAA in the past (40 home runs in 744 PA’s between 2014 and 2015 in the Royals system). I don’t even feel good about this decision, but the options on the free agent market aren’t great, and there are limited funds. There isn’t really a starter in this scenario, more of a 50/50 timeshare.
If you want to be extremely optimistic, Chance Sisco comes up halfway through the season and takes over the catching position. I wouldn’t bet on that though. Signing a veteran to a minor league deal (think Ryan Hanigan or Drew Butera) for insurance would be a prudent move.
Remaining Funds: 14.44 million
Adam Jones returns to man centerfield and Hyun-soo Kim performed well enough to earn the full-time left field job. And by full-time, I mean no platoon. Right field is where we need to fill a spot. I’m in more of the Joey Rickard 4th or 5th outfielder camp than even platoon starter and Dariel Alvarez may not even be a bench bat. So we'll need to sign someone to play right field.
Originally, I was in favor of Jay Bruce to fill right field, but following yesterday’s post and the discussion regarding the Mets picking up Bruce’s option, he probably won’t be available. In light of that, I’m suggesting signing Jon Jay instead, who BORAS projects can be acquired for a 2 year deal worth $19.7 million ($9.85 annually). It may eat up a lot of our remaining budget, but Jay is essentially your league average hitter (career 106 wRC+) and fielder (career -1 Defensive Run Saved), can play all 3 outfield positions adequately, and will also fill an outfield position in 2018, which at the moment consists of Adam Jones and that’s it. I also like the addition of Jay to the Orioles lineup as someone who consistently puts the ball in play.
Remaining Funds: $4.59 million
It would be nice to improve the starting pitching, but aside from the fact that the Orioles already have 6 starters for 5 spots, there isn’t a guaranteed improvement on the free agent market. Plus, because of various flaws among them, I’m keeping all 6 starters because one of the 5 listed in the figure above WILL inevitably succumb to injury or ineffectiveness. In fact, with this group, I’d ideally want to bring in a few more options, but with this budget, it’s not happening.
So I’m starting Bundy in the bullpen for the beginning of the season for health reasons, and he’s the first cavalry (sorry) member called when someone disappoints. I’m filling the other two bullpen openings with internal options with any combination of Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, Oliver Drake, Parker Bridwell, Donnie Hart, etc. Wright, Wilson, and Bridwell could potentially be spot-starters as well if more than one of the starters needs to be relieved of their duties.
Remaining Funds: $3.55 million
So far, the bench consists of Caleb Joseph or Francisco Pena, Ryan Flaherty, and Joey Rickard, meaning we have 2 spots to fill. I only have $3.55 million left, so one (or both) will need to be filled by a player making the minimum. One of those players would be either Trey Mancini or Christian Walker, and while I would prefer Mancini to get a little more time in AAA, I wouldn’t be opposed to putting him on the opening day roster.
With $3.03 million left, I am going to sign Chris Coghlan to be a poor man’s Ben Zobrist and play all over the field. Coghlan’s 2016 season wasn’t good at all (66 wRC+ and -0.5 fWAR), so he potentially could be had cheap. However, he was worth 5.7 fWAR in just over 900 PA’s in 2014 and 2015 combined, so he isn’t too far removed from success either, which makes coming up with a salary for him potentially challenging. Signing Coghlan to a somewhat realistic contract while staying under budget requires me to take some creative license, so I’ll sign him to a 1-year deal for $3 million (how convenient!), with a $7 million option that vests at 300 PA’s, or something else that is easily attainable (I did not ask Jon to run a BORAS projection for him since I’m finishing this up late the night before).
The acquisition of Coghlan allows the Orioles to use the DH spot as a rotational position to rest guys or play match ups (or both), which is in stark contrast to the 2016 team that featured both Mark Trumbo (miscast in the outfield) and Pedro Alvarez on the roster. With many of the Orioles core position players getting older (Jones, Davis, Hardy), having that additional flexibility to rest guys or rotate them through the DH spot becomes more important.
Here’s the final tally:
- OF Jon Jay - 2 years, $19.7 million
- UTIL Chris Coghlan – 1 year, $3 million (vesting $7 million option if 300 PA’s reached)
Postscript: If trades were an option, I’d be heavily shopping Zach Britton, along with Brad Brach, Christian Walker, and Trey Mancini to try and restock the farm system and potentially add to the major league roster. Cost savings from Britton’s (and potentially Brach’s) salary would likely go to the catcher position or a better option in RF (like Josh Reddick), along with potentially an additional pitcher(s) who could start or relieve like a Travis Wood or Jesse Chavez.