Before last offseason, projecting the Orioles' payroll was an endeavor that you could easily get yourself into a 5 MM range of the actual final total. Then the payroll rocketed up into the mid 140s (often reported higher due to deferred money), which was about 15 MM or so beyond was most optimistically expected by fans. With such a large jump in payroll, it makes one a little cautious to think it will jump again and projected arbitration values make the payroll look pretty tight. In this post we will run through the MLB Trade Rumor projections, which are rather close to what winds up happening.
Chis Tillman (10.6 MM) - When Tillman is playing well, he performs at an ace capacity. When he is not, he is performing as a sub-5 arm. In the past, we have seen more of the top end of his projection than the low end. However, he dealt with reduced velocity and potential injury issues at the end of last season. With six starting pitchers (arguably) on the roster and barely any on the open market, Tillman may be a valuable trade piece. He only has a season left in Baltimore, so it might make sense to cash out now and use the returning pieces to fill some holes as well as the excess money.
Ryan Flaherty (1.7 MM) - As I noted last August, I hope fans enjoyed Flaherty's 2016 because I cannot see him staying on. Flaherty arrived in Baltimore as a bat first, fringe corner infielder. He became a glove first middle infielder. It was a metamorphosis that I have rarely seen. Anyway, the Orioles can probably find something similar to Flaherty for the league minimum and save a million.
Zach Britton (11.4 MM) - Britton is a Cy Young Candidate and this is probably the last year the Orioles will see any exceptional value for him if he is dealt as next year his arbitration value likely moves up to about 14-17 MM. Yes, the Orioles would not have made the playoffs without him this year (something you could actually say about several players), but with their pen it seems that they could replace his value internally. The Orioles probably would do better spending this money elsewhere and let Britton toss two years of innings elsewhere. I think he stays though.
Vance Worley (3.3 MM) - Worley is capable of pitching well in relief and sometimes passing as a starting pitcher. For a rotation that flames out quickly, that kind of arm to cushion innings in a pen is valuable. His final line produced a well above average ERA (126 ERA+) that FIP (4.82) questions. He is the kind of pitcher you really do not want to give big money to because you think he is going to implode any moment, but he is not all that expensive for the role he has. That said, if you have great faith in Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright then it is best to save yourself about 2.8 MM by going with them.
Brad Brach (2.9 MM) - Brach is a solid middle inning reliever and this cost is a surplus value of about 3-5 MM, so he is a keeper.
Manny Machado (11.2 MM) - Next.
Jonathan Schoop (3.4 MM) - Schoop is a solid second baseman and another year has passed waiting on him to break out to the next level. It has not happened. That said, he is still a solid average second baseman at a low cost.
T.J. McFarland (0.7 MM) - Cheap arm, but he does not really solve a major issue for the Orioles anymore. They have pitchers in the pen capable of multiple innings and McFarland does not take advantage of lefty matchups. Like Flaherty, he seems like a non-tender.
Kevin Gausman (3.9 MM) - Next.
Caleb Joseph (1 MM) - Joseph had an awful year, but he is still a solid catcher who can be sent to the minors if needed. You have to keep a guy like that on your roster. If Wieters leaves, Joseph can perform as the weak half of a catcher platoon or be a usable backup catcher.
Potential Players to Target
Khris Davis (5.0 MM, Athletics) - Davis is the Mark Trumbo coming off a good year kind of player. He is a mess in the outfield and his arm would be rather questionable in right field. However, his sheer power makes him look like a better player than he really is. At 5 MM, the Athletics can hold on to him and wait for the best offer, but they should be worried that this may be the last year that a team or two really believes in his talent. A major question of fit for the Orioles is if he cannot play right field, then where does he go? Does he join a platoon in left field and then is a DH when not platooned in the field? Regardless, he could be a 35 home run bat with the Orioles and they tend to value that.
Chris Carter (8.1 MM, Brewers) - Like Davis, Carter also hit more than 40 home runs, but Carter's line is so dreadful that his production was on par with a bench player. He is what Trumbo would have been if he had hit as poorly in the first half as he did the second half. He might be the true Trumbo play at 8.1 MM, but it is hard to find much upside beyond hoping for a league average RH DH. As such, he carries slightly more negatives than Trumbo did.
Charlie Blackmon (9.0 MM, Rockies) - Blackmon had a breakout season for the Rockies. He has one season left under control, works a count better than Adam Jones, has speed, some power, and can play right field. At 9 MM, the Rockies probably consider him a bargain. In some realm, you might be able to see a Blackmon for Tillman deal. That said, the Orioles probably would have to give up something big to get him now.