16 May 2017

Time To End The Craig Gentry Experiment

Let’s say you’re going to make a pizza at home.  You have all the ingredients to make a delicious pie: pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers, onions, etc.  And then, for some reason, you have a box of yellow raisins.

This is not a knock against yellow raisins.  They’re all right by themselves; they’re just not a topping you’d probably ever want to see on a pizza.  They don’t complement the other ingredients. 

Craig Gentry is that box of raisins.

The Orioles signed the 33-year-old veteran, hoping he could provide outfield defense and speed on the base-paths.  Gentry has been in the league since 2009, and has posted a positive WAR in every season he has appeared in at least 64 games.  Thus, it seemed a reasonable dice-roll for a club that specializes in such off-season moves.  

The signing threw him into the backseat of the Orioles’ clown car of corner-outfielder/first-basemen/DH-types.  Buck Showalter deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for the way he’s been able to divvy up time between them, while still winning ballgames.  

They toyed with using Gentry as the weak-side of a leadoff platoon with fellow newcomer, Seth Smith.  It’s not a large sample size, but Gentry’s production (.290 OBP when leading off) is hardly anything to write home about.  

He’s seen his playing time shrink, accordingly.  When he does get into games, it’s usually as a pinch-runner or defensive-replacement - supposed areas of strength for the University of Arkansas product.    

That was another factor that led to Baltimore signing him in the first place – many of the Orioles’ outfielders do not share Gentry’s defensive prowess.  Merely from the eye test, we can see he’s faster tracking down balls than some of his lead-footed brethren.  Whatever acumen he provides is not enough, however, to avoid receiving negative fielding marks on sites such as ESPN and Fangraphs.    

Overall, he's posted a -0.2 WAR.  So, if he’s not providing positive value on offense or defense, one might quote John C. McGinley’s character from Office Space: What would you say, you do here?

Teams use phrases like “provides veteran smarts” and “gives professional at-bats” as explanations to justify keeping guys like Gentry around.  But, in an era of bullpen specialization and hyper-utility players, there’s not much room for corner-outfield defensive-specialists who don’t add much at the plate.

Besides, as I mentioned, Baltimore has plenty of options to turn to (Smith, Joey Rickard, Hyun Soo Kim).  Every hapless Gentry at-bat is an opportunity that could have gone to a player on the upswing of his career. 

Gentry is barely receiving playing time.  He's kind of just there, sitting around like a third set of car keys.  The Orioles would be better served using that roster spot to shore up their bullpen, which has been a leaky faucet of late.  With Zach Britton on the DL, it’s an all hands on deck situation.  Whatever form of relief help that exists in the minors may and will be summoned. 

It’s time to trade him in for some anchovies or at least some pineapple.  


Roger said...

They should at least swap him out for Michael Bourn and trade Kim for other help. With Mancini stepping up the O's have plenty of RH hitting and Rickard can take Gentry's bench spot (for whatever that's worth). Has anyone got a bead on Mancini's OF defense yet?

Jon Shepherd said...

Mancini...only a couple looks. Kind of like Luke Scott. Limited athletically, but has a great read on the ball. Does not get the little things right, so throws are poor and his arm is not all that strong enough to make up for it.

I am pleasantly surprised.

Pip said...

Isn't having a good eye the most important thing about OF?
Getting to the ball means outs, or singles instead of doubles. Trumbo has a very good arm but his lousy everything else means that his arm is wasted.
Is that why you're pleased or is it just that Mancini isn't as bad-but still bad-as you feared?
I checked Fangraphs, and his Dwar is -2.3. That's below average, but not terrible is it?

Pip said...

Matthew, I think you're underestimating how much better Gentry is than every other outfielder. He's also a valuable pinch runner and his speed has led to at least one win.
And he probably has zero trade value, and is worth more to us for what he has.
It would be far better-at least at this time- to option Rickard and keep Gentry around.
You are correct that the roster is badly constructed. Dan seems unaware of how a good roster looks. But at the moment, keeping Gentry is a good idea.

Jon Shepherd said...

Pip, dWAR is not the right metric to use. You are pulling together his total defensive positional value, including position adjustment. you would want to check out his UZR by position, which is about 60x away from being definitive.

Mancini looks to be a below average outfielder. If he truly has a plus bat. It works.

Re: Gentry. He has not been challenged much, but he has had a couple rough approaches to tough balls and has been slow on the transfer. He is not the guy I remember from a few years ago. Reminds me of when Lough started getting bogged down by injuries. Healthy Lough was a glorious thing to watch. Ditto for Gentry. Gentry looks merely competent out there. Combine that with a terrible approach and performance at the plate. Without that Spring Training play, there would be zero reason why he should be out there. He no longer provides plus defense. You have to go back to 2014 for that to be true.

Matt Bennett said...

As a general rule, you try to keep as many assets in the organization as possible. The difference between Rickard and Gentry is negligible. Give Rickard everyday at-bats in Norfolk. He's not really a productive major league player at this point, if he ever will be. I think the Orioles have a history of jettisoning players when it's unnecessary for at best an insignificant upgrade.

Oliver Drake says hi. 3.38 ERA/3.09 FIP with Milwaukee so far this season.
Anuery Tavarez says hi. 7 steals in 25 minor league games with stellar hitting.

Jon Shepherd said...

Rickard is perfectly fine as a defensive outfielder and weak side platoon hitter. He can contribute and is contributing when permitted to have his role reduced as such.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

The Orioles would have gladly sent either of those players to the minor leagues, if possible. I wish Oliver Drake well, but those ERA and FIP numbers are nothing amazing (especially considering the walks, which are still an issue).

Also, congrats to Tavarez for crushing Double-A pitching. He's not doing the same at Triple-A. Is he good enough to be a major leaguer? That's yet to be determined.

You can't keep everyone around. Sometimes you miss, and sometimes you hit. The Orioles have taken advantage of some of those situations from other teams as well.

GRob78 said...

Looks like Buck or Dan read your post. They just outrighted Gentry to AAA.

That said, I agree with the post. Gentry is the odd man out in the multi-tiered OF situation. At some point the O's are going to have to be able to move some guys but I'm not sure what the trade value for guys like Kim or, and its a possibility, Rickard might be these days.

Maybe if they packaged Kim with Caleb Joseph or something (since they are carrying 3 catchers today) they could find some prospects. I don't know if that would work. Caleb has been coming on lately with his bat though I think we all would agree that the long term fit at catcher is going to involve something with Chance Sisco and maybe Pena (Castillo is a two season guy.)

Gentry, getting back to the point of the post, is a weird baseball case study. Injuries and opportunities just haven't worked out for him. Too bad though.