The Orioles were the source of some rumors earlier this week as it was reported that they discussed a trading Brach to the Mets for Granderson. According to the rumors, this deal ultimately fell through when the Mets insisted on the Orioles covering Granderson’s entire salary, while the Orioles wanted the Mets to pitch in some cash to help make up for the large difference in salaries.
The Mets have a surplus of outfielders after resigning Cespedes, but could use bullpen help. The Orioles have a strong bullpen with Britton, Brach, Givens and O’Day but desperately need outfield help. This trade would seem to have the potential to be win-win for both clubs. Should the Orioles have considered making such a move?
Brad Brach had a strong year in 2016 if you look at his basic statistics. He had a 2.05 ERA, a 2.92 FIP, an All Star appearance, a 29.6% K% to go with an 8% walk rate and was worth 1.6 WAR according to Fangraphs. After O’Day went down with an injury, Brach thrived as a set-up man. These numbers seem to suggest that Brach could be used as a potential closer and therefore it makes sense why the Mets like him so much. On the other hand, I noted in July that Brach was the recipient of some good fortune in the first half of 2016 and was proven right when he had a 3.96 ERA from July 25th (the date of the above article) until the end of the season. Brach had some good fortune with men on base that helped lower his ERA. I’m of the opinion that Brach had a career year in 2016 and that it would make sense to trade him while his value is at its high point. As such, I’d recommend trading him for the right return.
But is Granderson the right return? At this point in his career, Granderson is acceptable defensively in an outfield corner and provides an acceptable ability to get on base with a good amount of power. In each of the past three years with the Mets, Granderson has been above average offensively and was well above average in 2015 when he put together a .259/.364/.457 line. He’s better against right-handed pitching than left-handed, but is proficient enough to make a platoon unnecessary. Certainly, he would help the Orioles.
The problem is that Granderson is earning $15M in 2017 while Brach is projected to earn $2.9M (and I think that’s a bit high). At a cost of $15M, Granderson is being paid market rate, but Brach is earning decisively less then what he’d receive as a free agent. It makes sense if the Orioles would want the Mets to eat either 4 or 5 million in salary or throw in a prospect in order to make a deal. In addition, the Orioles already have a high payroll and may not be able to afford to add Granderson’s contract. The Orioles can only afford to spend so much cash.
The answer to this problem may be to expand the deal. The Mets have a lot of starting pitching depth, but their rotation is considered fragile. It was thought that the Mets had interest in resigning Colon, but he became a Brave. The Mets are so worried about their pitching depth that they are discussing using a six-man rotation for part of 2017. If they’re not willing to eat some of Grandy’s contract, then would they be willing to take one of the Orioles’ expensive starters (Tillman, Jimenez, Gallardo or Miley)?
Of course, if the Orioles did add a piece to the trade, then the Mets would need to add a piece also. A decent prospect could perhaps get the deal done, but otherwise the Orioles should see if they can’t convince the Mets to include Gsellman in a trade.
Gsellman is a 13th round pick who came out of nowhere to have an extremely successful debut in 2016. Despite having a labrum injury (he had surgery this offseason) in his non-throwing shoulder that resulted in him never swinging the bat in the Majors, he put together a season where he had a 2.42 ERA in 7 starts and 8 appearances. Other teams have noticed his success. According to Adam Rubin, teams have asked about Gsellman and have been told that the Mets have no intention of trading him.
Gsellman benefited from a good amount of luck. In the 40+ innings he threw as a starter, he allowed only one home run. It’s possible that there’s some skill involved there, but it’s likely a function of small sample size. It’s also worth noting that he gave up 8 home runs this past season in 48.2 innings in AAA to go with a 5.73 ERA in Las Vegas. In addition, Gsellman had a 22.4% K-rate and a 3.1% BB-rate with the bases empty but opposing batters had a .305 wOBA against him. With men on base, he had a 25.4% K-Rate and a 12.7% walk rate but opposing batters only had a .251 wOBA against him. Seems like he benefited from good sequencing.
On the other hand, opposing batters had a surprisingly high .348 BABIP against him. Going forward, I would expect opposing batters to hit more extra base hits but get fewer singles. In addition, while Gsellman is more dominant against left handed batters than right handed batters, he had an acceptable 18.9% K-rate against righties to go with a 6.7% walk rate. Against lefties, he had a dominant 29.1% K-rate.
Gsellman has some decent pitches. He has a fastball that he threw at 95 mph in the majors, even though he was throwing it at 88-92 mph earlier in the season. It wasn’t as effective as his velocity suggests, but it was certainly respectable. The question is whether he can maintain that speed for a full season and if so whether he could improve its placement. In addition, he has a Warthen Slider that has been effective against left and right handed batters. Left-handed batters missed 19.1% of the time while right-handed batters missed 16.7% of the time, so this is an acceptable out pitch. In addition, Gsellman has an acceptable curveball against left-handed batters. Gsellman just started throwing the slider this season, and it’s become his best pitch. If he can develop a third quality pitch, then he has the potential to be an above-average starter.
Going forward, I don’t think Gsellman is anywhere near as good as his previous performance indicates, but I do think he can be a back-of-the-rotation starter. The Orioles would do well if they could get the Mets to add him in a trade. The Mets have been unwilling to discuss trading him, so the Orioles would need to consider offering Tillman in a trade or adding prospects. This would be a risky decision, but probably would be a smart risk.
In any event, the Braves also reportedly asked for Brach on Wednesday. The Orioles asked for Mallex Smith and more in return and nothing happened. But it is worth noting that there’s been a lot of discussion about trading Brach. It is probably good news to learn that the Orioles are trying to sell high on Brach.
The Orioles are correct to look into trading Brach this offseason, even if Granderson by himself isn’t enough value to pull the trigger. If the Orioles can convince a team to value him as a potential closer, then it’s likely the Orioles will receive significant surplus in a trade.