Over the next couple weeks, Camden Depot will be offering a series of offseason acquisition blueprints for the Orioles to follow from our stable of writers (attn: Dan Duquette, these are free to use). At the end of the series, Jon Shepherd will review the different plans and choose the direction that makes sense for the franchise (attn: Peter Angelos, I am available to be a General Manager, Major Domo, or whatever you wish to call that position these days). Under consideration are choices in handing out Qualifying Offers, releasing players, free agent targets, and finding a way to fit within what a realistic, though a bit generous budget of 160 MM (counting deferred money just to make things easier). Readers, oh readers, if you feel the urge to write in a plan, send it to CamdenDepot@gmail.com. Do it well and we just might highlight you as an outside consultant in a post.
Before I continue, please take a look at last year's offerings.
Option 1: Seeking A Cornerstone
Option 2: Building A Rotation
Option 3: Building Major League Depth And A Minor League System
Option 4: Well Rounded And Not Tied Down
Option 5: Purchasing Innings In Bulk
Option 6: Trying To Make Chicken Salad
Options 7a/b/c: Shepherd Seeks A Few Outside Consultants
Our Camel: Shepherd Decides the Decision
Last year, the Orioles wound up with the following decisions:
1B: Chris Davis
LF: Hyun Soo Kim
RF: Mark Trumbo
DH: Pedro Alvarez
SP: Yovani Gallardo
RP: Darren O'Day
This batch of free agents surprised us at the Depot because it overshot our budget estimate by about 35 MM, which was partially absorbed by Matt Wieters saying yes to the QO. It was the first major step up in payroll for the club in years. With a much smaller budget, I went with 1B being an overlap of Steve Pearce and Byung Ho Park. Compared to Davis, this decision at the moment looks pretty favorable for me. Davis had an fWAR of 2.7, but Pearce/Park managed 2.1 on about 200 fewer PAs and at half cost. Anyway, Park faded quickly and went to the minors while Pearce returned to form as a top notch hitter who was only undone by the Orioles forcing him to play the outfield with a bum arm.
For the corner outfield, things would have been interesting. The Orioles chose to go with Kim and Trumbo, which was actually a rather modest success. I think if the Joey Rickard experiment went better it would have been a solid option. Instead, the corner outfield positions produced about 2.8 fWAR total, which means below average production. My idea was to bring on Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce while also sprinkling in some Steve Pearce and maybe Jonathan Schoop. Zobrist wound up supposedly ignoring teams that wanted to place him anywhere other than second base, so this might not have been the easiest thing to pull off.
For Joyce, the Pirates found that he and the outfield is like oil and water. He was simply terrible out there even though his bat was pretty remarkable. He got in 140 games, but averaged only two PA a game. That is an old school professional hitter for you. He would have slotted over to designated hitter once his fielding issues became more obvious. Zobrist would have been a godsend for the club. He would have been the second best player on the team with an fWAR of about 4.0. Who knows if the club could have convinced him to play right field or if Jonathan Schoop could have adapted to that position. But it bears saying that Zobrist alone significantly outperformed what the Orioles put together for the outfield.
Finally, pitching is where I screwed up. I went with Mat Latos on a 1/9 deal. He was terrible. Though that was less terrible than giving up a draft pick and two years on a similar deal to Yovani Gallardo. Additionally, the club got a forgettable season by Darren O'Day. I consider this a win as well.
What is remarkable is that when you consider the positive contribution of Pedro Alvarez, the Orioles' offseason and this blueprint come in about the same. I give the nudge to our blueprint because it was about 20 MM cheaper and did not burden the club with questionable long term or multiple year contracts. In fact, our projection model put this club at an 89-73 record, which is exactly what the club finished up with.
If I knew the budget was another 20 MM above where we pegged it, what would I have done? Easy, my thought process would have led me to signing J.A. Happ and Scott Kazmir in place of Mat Latos. How would that have played out? Happ was a Cy Young candidate and would have been in contention with Tillman as being the best pitcher on the team. He would have made the club knocking on the Red Sox door for the title. Scott Kazmir would have really been the most desirable option for me, but he did not perform as well as Happ did. Still, he did better than what the Orioles often trotted out there. I would contend that such a roster probably would have overtaken the Red Sox, but maybe not.
In the end, you can see the final outcome was one that was actually pretty realistic and on similar terms with what the Orioles wound up doing. Surprising to me, I think the plan we came up with at Camden Depot was a better plan than what turned out as the Orioles' final club. Certainly, some differences could have push the Orioles over, such as securing Dexter Fowler. That move would have put our plan and the Orioles' actions on equal footing when you would consider our additions of Happ and Kazmir.
Who knows whether 2016 was just a lucky year for the Depot. Over the next couple weeks, we shall see what the writers come up with and what I wind up deciding.