02 August 2017

Orioles Take the Road to 2018

While so much focus on the trades laid on whether or not the club is built to be a contender or refreshed the prospect ranks, I think a bit more nuance might be best.  The post will look at a few areas of the club and what exactly the future holds.

Shortstop and Third Base

In early October 2014, the Orioles solved the left side of the infield for three seasons.  They inked J.J. Hardy to a three year deal (and an evergreen fourth year) to create a defensive stalwart combo between him and Manny Machado.  Machado kept up his end, but Hardy quickly developed a problematic left labrum issue that sapped his power and, eventually, a bad back that sapped his defense.  At the time, it looked like a decent solution, one that I was only mildly against.  It has turned into one of the worst contracts in Orioles history.

In 2017, Hardy never seemed to get healthy and his body appears broken down.  Two days ago, he was placed on the 60 day DL, which is where players go and are never heard from until November.  The club has trotted out Jonathan Schoop, Ryan Flaherty, and Ruben Tejada.  Schoop simply does not have the range and has trouble getting down onto balls.  Flaherty has yet to have the bat that was rumored on his minor league scouting reports.  What Tejada lacks in defense, he lacks more in offense.  All in all, none are good solutions.  Machado can play there, but it remains to be seen where exactly he envisions himself.  Is he an otherworldly third baseman or is he one of the handful bashing shortstops?

A few weeks back, the Orioles inquired on Adeiny Hechevarria.  He has two years left of team control and will be earning about 4.5 MM next season.  The Orioles allegedly floated a low minors arm and Hyun Soo Kim.  The deal supposedly ended with the salary offset the Orioles were looking for.  Instead, Hechevarria went to the Tampa Rays.  With Tampa, his defense has been great and he seems to hit the ball hard.  Maybe the Rays are looking to revamp the swing because as good as the statcast metrics look, he has done nothing at the plate.

The Rays made their decision though and seem to be sticking with it because they jettisoned Tim Beckham to Baltimore.  Jettison is the right word, the Rays grew weary over the years with Beckham's behavior.  Several instances of lagging on the field and rumors beyond appear to evidence their alleged irritation and the eventual transaction of a young-ish, defensively able, decent bat for a shortstop player to an in-division rival.  In return, the Rays got an interesting, but not too interesting pitching prospect in Tobias Myers.

Tim Beckham
Age PA BA OBP SLG OPS+ UZR(SS)
25223.222.274.42993-2.1
26215.247.300.434991.3
27345.259.314.40796-1.8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/1/2017.

What may make Beckham special is that while he plays an average-ish shortstop, he is also capable of playing second base and third base.  This enables him, if he does start, to adapt to whatever the Orioles choose to do with Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado.  The offensive output is fairly playable as well.  Not exceptional, but playable.  In the end, this move gives the club three years of control (Beckham is entering his first arbitration) for player who could solve holes at several positions.  He is not exceptional and their are some considerable red flags attached, but it could be a boon.  It is a move that builds for this year and next and perhaps two more.

Starting Rotation

The sense is that the Orioles attempted to deal Zach Britton for at least one starting pitcher to plug into the 2018 rotation.  For one reason or another, that did not happen at the trade deadline and now we can all assume whatever we wish to assume about anything.  Moving on, the Orioles did one major move that potentially could improve the 2018 rotation: trading for Jeremy Hellickson.  Hellickson was acquired for the aforementioned Hyun Soo Kim as well as some international money and Garrett Cleavenger.  In other words, the Orioles sent away things they do not use for something they could use.  Now, Hellickson is a free agent at the end of the year, but he could help next year's rotation by letting the fatigued Dylan Bundy have extended rest for the remainder of the season or even be shut down completely.

Anyway, that is the hope.  The 2018 rotation looks to be Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, and three people who have never been in my kitchen.  Who are those three men?  I do not know.  Ideally, something happens over the next couple months with Jayson Aquino, Alec Asher, or someone out in the ether like Lucas Long making themselves known.  Otherwise, a good portion of the 50 MM or so coming off the books will need to be devoted to rounding this group out.

Outfield

All signs appear to point to Austin Hays gracing the big league club at some point.  His batting approach does not appear to include walking, so that is always a concern.  However, he mashed HiA pitching and continues to mash AA pitching, so a jump to Baltimore would not be unheard of.  He will likely struggle, but that seems to be a logical move.  Cedric Mullins is also making a similar claim.  Add those with Joey Rickard, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, and Trey Mancini, and, well, that is your likely outfield bucket.

Ideally, the club finds someone, anyone, to pick up Trumbo for nothing.  He has some value, but it does not offset his contract and he really no longer has a place on this club with Mancini appearing to continue his breakout season.  Mancini lacks the athleticism to be a long term solution for the corner outfield positions.  His best spot is a Trumbo-less designated hitter position.  That really leaves Rickard, Jones, Hays, and Mullins to figure things out.  One outside of the box idea is that perhaps Jonathan Schoop's range has collapsed so much that a move to right field might be in order.

Catcher

Perhaps the only two conclusive misses for this past trade deadline are that Welington Castillo and Seth Smith are still around.  We do not know what the markets were and I did not hear anything on Castillo at all, which makes sense because the only non-move that made me nervous is the presence of Castillo.  As we have already established, a lot of money probably needs to rain down on the rotation and Castillo may hamper that slightly.

Last winter, Castillo was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks.  They could find no takers willing to go through arbitration with Castillo.  The Orioles made their way to him once he hit the open market and gave him a player option for 6 MM.  Castillo is not a good catcher and his bat has been stuck in the doldrums, so it is becoming increasingly more likely that he accepts the option.  This would not be ideal for the club because Caleb Joseph has shown he deserves to be around and Chance Sisco is polishing off his minor league career to be promoted next Spring.

Conclusion

Several media reports have put the Orioles down as losers at the deadline.  They failed to get anything out of the commodities they possessed.  Even the most blatantly unneeded and somewhat wanted commodity, Seth Smith, remained with the club.  With the industry discussing the coming cliff after the 2018 season without a strong farm to deal with the likely mass exodus.

It is true that the commodities that the Orioles have the rights over could have buoyed the system somewhat.  Rumors have it that Britton was effectively worth a cost controlled 2018 starting pitcher plus two interesting prospects (read: not top 100).  The question then becomes to what extent does Britton really improve the farm by trading him?  What really is the loss in value come this winter?  If the loss is as much as a top tier minor league 2018  ready starting pitcher, then is that really worth all that much.  A general study would state that value is about 25 MM, but the median value is about 4 MM.

In other words, a forest of prospects is very meaningful, but a solitary tree does not mean all that much.  Britton's value would have been fully in the trade column if he could pull back a top 10 truly elite talent, but that did not appear to be the case.  So while the Orioles should have moved Britton, perhaps, there simply was not a true location to send him for it to mean all that much.

In turn, the trade deadline for the club was much more about tinkering for 2018.  It is doubtful that the club can finish out 35-21 in the remaining games to win it all.  That is why you did not see the club make any win now moves.  The moves were simply to shoulder this season and build for another run next year.  That probably is the most you can ask for when the return value on the deals was firmly in a gray area.

Easy deals, top 10 prospect deals, would be something I would trust to a potentially outgoing senior executive.  However, deals with nuance truly requires whoever will be leading the club over the next few years to make that decision.  Many of us have said it, Duquette needs an extension or the club needs to find who that next chap with the splendid title is.  From there, the future can be directed.

6 comments:

Roger said...

Good article. First one in a long time from any media outlet that I think really describes who the O's are and where they're going. I'm actually glad that Britton didn't get traded; I see him as a "core" player. I also liked the move with Beckham even though I didn't know about the attitude issues (hopefully, Mr. Jones can straighten him out). I also thought the O's got a steal in Hellickson who was supposed to be last year's deadline gem. A better deal than either the Gallardo or Miley deals. The O's DO have some farm assets and they seem to be hoping they all pan out and are trying to buy time winning as much as possible until the next set arrives (Sisco, Hays, Mullins, Marin, Gassaway, etc...). Maybe Alex Wells can move faster or Harvey can return from injury. We can still hope that Gausman has another gear. I just prefer your "half-full" articles to the "half-empty" articles. One good thing about Angelos is that he does like to keep the players he likes - maybe he will really open the bank for Machado.

Trethan Manschini said...

Hey John,
Don't have twitter, but found something cool you might want to take a look at.
I was reviewing that batted ball profiles for some Orioles minor league hitters and looking for current major league comps (not comps in terms of similar players necessarily), but with similar batted ball profiles.
I noticed that Jonathan Schoop and Austin Hays have very similar profiles:

Player BABIP GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB Pull% Cent% Oppo% SwStr%

Jonathan Schoop .340 1.08 20.7 41.1 38.2 16.1 20.3 46.0 35.3 18.8 13.3
Austin Hays .341 1.08 23.4 39.1 37.5 18.9 21.3 52.4 23.8 23.8 12.7

When I think about it, you often see them described in similar terms (aggressive hitter, doesn't walk much, but keeps swing-or-miss under control, lots of hard contact, general pull profile)

Another interesting discovery is how it seems like every Orioles milb hitting prospect is running a well above average IFFB

PTCello said...

The thought of giving Dan Duquette an extension makes me ill.
Hire Kim Ng

Ace said...

The O's had the correct mindset with Britton, apparently demanding a goldmine of a return. Britton is an elite level reliever and these type of players could be the difference between winning a world series. If Britton returns to form, which seems to be the case, he can still be rented out for a top prospect next summer, as was Andrew Miller and Chapman. I can understand the frustration of those who wanted to see him traded though.

I never understood the frustration among fans with the Beckham move. That was a blessing for the Orioles to be able to get him for a low minor league prospect. He's a cheaper and more improved option than any of the shortstops in the upcoming free agency pool, and he's under team control for next 3 seasons. You also have to consider his speed as major bonus as the O's are lacking in that category.

Scott Wheeler said...

Great article, thanks

Scott Wheeler said...

Great article, thanks