13 December 2009

How will Andy fill out the roster?

With the tender deadline come and gone, we have a better idea of the talent market and what may be available. Andy MacPhail has identified several areas that he seeks to find improvements: first base, third base, starting pitcher, LOOGY, and a closer. In this post, we'll take a look who we currently have on the roster to play the positions on Opening Day and three free agent choices. The choices with be defined as: the best chance to win (based on CHONE projections), what I would do, and most probable.

Follow after the jump.

First Base

Current: Michael Aubrey, 28yo, estimate line 262/300/415
That estimated line is pretty harsh for a starting first baseman, but really is not very far away from the production Baltimore saw from their first basemen last year (262/318/411). That fact alone shows how the only direction to go is up. With Ty Wigginton (est 267/321/444) on the team, it is unlikely he is on the team on Opening Day as any first base or third base addition will probably mean him being left off the 25 man roster and exposed to waivers. The team is also trying to put more right handed bats in the lineup, which also does not play to Aubrey benefit.

For the Win: Nick Johnson, 31yo, estimated line 264/394/407
People often forget how useful it is to not make an out. Johnson lacks the gap power he used to possess, but he still has very good pitch recognition and plate discipline. It was suggested, by Rosenthal if I remember correctly, that Johnson would sign a two year deal for 18MM. I doubt that. There are real concerns about his health, so a team can probably only assume about 400 at bats from him. Still, with those at bats and about 300 from Wigginton . . . that is still better production than what you would expect from Russell Branyan or Adam LaRoche. Johnson's lefthanded-ness should not be a factor as he has never shown a platoon split issue. The net effect of replacing Aubrey's innings with Johnson's is 2.2 wins, which is worth close to the suggestion I read (9MM/year). This leaves the team at 76.7 wins.

What would I do: Nick Johnson, 31yo, estimated line 264/394/407
Getting on base is important and has been an aspect of the Orioles play that needs a great deal of improvement. Johnson will not last the entire season, but he should be able to provide enough innings to make up for the time Wigginton plays or when Snyder shows himself to be ready. This team as well is up to 76.7 wins.

What would Andy do: Nick Johnson, 31yo, estimated line 264/394/407
Johnson does not have the platoon split that worries MacPhail about the construction of the lineup. Johnson is also known to be a professional and has worked well with young teams in Montreal, Washington, and Florida. He should also be available on a one year or one plus one deal at about 5MM or so. The team has enough backup options at first that this does not seem to be a problem. Other options like Russell Branyan (one big season and platoon issues), Adam LaRoche (contact oriented hitter with poor contact and fluctuating performance, desire for a three year contract), and Carlos Delgado (not really a first baseman anymore, concerns about injury effect on hitting, past issues with non-playoff teams) seem to pose more problems than what they solve. Delgado is probably the fan's choice because of our familiarity with him and what he has done. He just might not be able to continue that. This team also sits at 76.7 wins.

Third Base

Current: Ty Wigginton, 32yo, estimate line 267/321/444
Wigginton is not going to work out here. MacPhail has said he wants a defensive third baseman and Wigginton is anything but that. Offensively, it would be a great improvement as the collective line last year was 262/318/373. It was a very rough year for Orioles third basemen. If no one is picked up, I could see Scott Moore being given a chance to finally start at third. He projects as average defensively and a batting line of 253/325/445. His issue has been Major League quality offspeed pitches, so that line based on MLEs might be quite optimistic.

For the Win: Adrien Beltre, 31yo, estimated line 270/320/446
The offensive line is about the same, but Beltre's defense is about 15 runs better. This results in an increase of 1.9 wins to 78.4 wins as this improves the majority of the starting defense, but also improves the backup offense from Turner to Wigginton. Getting out of SafeCo will help Beltre and change people's perception of his bat. After a breakout offensive season his last year in LA, he signed big money to go to a park that completely killed his line drive style of power. The contract seems to have come out alright as most defensive metrics rate him as the best defensive third baseman over that time frame. One could argue that although he was paid to hit, he made up for the value with his glove. I would probably argue that defensive runs saved cost less on the open market than offensive runs produced. Anyway, majors obstacles to sign him would be that he is pushing for 10MM a year and wanted a three year deal. Even though he wishes to stay out West, he will probably take whatever is the richest contract.

What would I do: Joe Crede, 32yo, estimated line 250/312/434
I struggled between Crede, Troy Glaus, and Garrett Atkins. Troy Glaus has been off the grid lately, which is typically not a good thing. He used to have a prime bat and a solid average glove. No press for a free agent during the Winter Meetings is typically a very bad sign. I am questioning his health. Risk of injury does not concern me as much with Wigginton, Moore, and Turner around. None of them are ideal, but they can be used as filler. With Garrett Atkins, you have the issue of a potentially crippling bat and a crippling glove. The play on him would be that he could somehow rewind his career by a couple of years. That sounds like a good MiL invite to Spring Training, but not something to bank on. Crede, though, provides good defense, decent pop, and should be an easy one year deal with injury potential to push Josh Bell. Wins increased by 1.2 to 77.9 wins.

What would Andy do: Juan Uribe, 30yo, estimated line 251/297/415
This is a bit of a bold prediction as no one has heard his name mentioned in connection with the Orioles, but hear me out. He has several attributes that could be of benefit to the team and things that MacPhail would want. First, he is flexible. He can play third base average to above average and is workable at shortstop or second base. His range is limited, so you would not care to start him at either slot . . . but he could spell Izturis if needed and open a roster slot there. Taking Robert Andino off the bench could be useful. Second, as mentioned his defense at third base is solid. He has good quickness and his arm is strong. His bat is a little meager to play off short, but he is potentially solid replacement. Third, as poor as his defense is at short, he does provide some level of coverage in case no solutions are found next year and Izturis leaves. He could probably be signed to a 2 year deal. I doubt though that he replicates last season at the plate where he went 289/329/495. Wins rise by 0.7 to 77.4 wins.

Starting Pitching (First man out of Norfolk)
Current: Jake Arrieta, 24yo, estimate era 5.37
The position at play here is supposedly one that would enable said pitcher to rise up in late May or early June and take over a slot for an injured or underperforming pitcher in the starting rotation. About one team a year goes through six or less starters, so this is a decent perspective to have. Though, it is typically a perspective that playoff teams bank on as opposed to also-rans. Arrieta will hopefully provide above replacement level performance.

For the Win: Erik Bedard, 31yo, estimated era 3.69
Bedard is the clear winner here. Sheets is his main competition, but he seems to be driving a hard bargain and has not been competitive in over a year. Bedard might have a shorter path back although probably just as probable to suffer another injury. Both pitchers aim to add about 2.2 wins over the course of pitching 100 innings. This brings this scenario to 80.6 wins.

What would I do: Erik Bedard, 31yo, estimated era 3.69
Bedard is who I would take as well. Sheets' attitude to vocally drive his price and his time off are a concern to me. I think both will be hard pressed to throw more than 100 innings. Bedard adds 2.2 wins, so this group stands at 80.1 wins.

What would Andy do: Kelvim Escobar, 34yo, estimated era 3.96
The Orioles have inquired on Escobar and I think, in the end, this will be the choice. Bedard will probably have his price driven up by the Red Sox or Yankees as a mid season replacement. The Mets should probably entertain that. Actually, the Mets should take all of the money they are willing to spend on Lackey and just roll the dice with Bedard, Sheets, and Duchscherer. Anyway, Escobar is someone who has experience starting and relieving. He used to be pretty good and he is trying to make his way back in. I could see an incentive laden one plus one deal here. I also think it is more likely he sees about 50 innings. This should take this group to 78.3 wins.

Lefty One Out Guy (LOOGY)
Current: No one
We really do not have one. Wilfrido Perez is the closest thing and his injury prognosis is not very good.

For the Win: Darren Oliver, 39yo, estimated era 3.48
Very solid left handed reliever who under a limited number of innings can still affect a team to great extent win-wise. His only detraction is his age, which can result in performance quickly deteriorating. Still he has been automatic in relief and is capable of being stretch to multiple innings on occasion, which will be a help with a young rotation. This addition would add about 0.9 wins making the total 81.5 wins.

What would I do: Ryota Igarashi, 35yo, estimated era 3.50
Igarashi has not yet pitched in the Majors. While Japanese starting pitchers have not fare well in translating to the Majors (about a 20% decline in performance), relievers have typically not missed a beat jumping from one league to the other. Without a track record in the Majors or the lofty non-arbed Type A status Oliver has, Igarashi's price should be quite a bit lower with similar production. A multi-year deal here might be a good idea. Win total now stands at 80.8 wins.

What would Andy do: Joe Beimel, 33yo, estimated era 3.81
The Orioles were in on Beimel and Ohman last year and this could be the case this year as well. Another name to think about would be Casey Fossum. Although Igarashi has been linked to the team in the Japanese press to a great extent and that the Japanese press were in on the Uehara movement last year far, far earlier than the local press . . . it seems peculiar that journalists like Roch Kobatko have not even heard of the connection. They were at least slightly aware of the Uehara rumblings. With their frustration with Uehara added in, maybe Igarashi is not the guy. Beimel would knock the total up to 79 wins.

Current: Jim Johnson, 27yo, 3.94
Johnson is not going to close. He looked completely uncomfortable in that setting. Clutch hitting may not exist, but clutch pitching certainly does and Johnson just does not seem to have the state of mind to really succeed there. Uehara could be a decent solution. He was a closer in Japan and was fairly successful at it. The concern is that he may not be fully recovered from him injury and pitching back to back nights may not be something he can do with his health.

For the Win: Jose Valverde, 32yo, estimated era 3.47
Valverde is a rich hire as he will probably cost 8-10MM and you will lose a second round pick here. He really is not that great of a closer to give up that value. He is the best on the market though and can help a team. Added win value is 1.3, raising the total to 82.8 wins.

What would I do: Koji Uehara, 35yo, estimated era 3.82
I think our internal options are good enough. I don't see the need in going outside. I think established front line guys like Valverde are a waste of money and a draft pick. Signing a player like Fernando Rodney is betting large on a multiyear deal that the guy can finally pitch his 2 seamer off his change. Signing a non-closer like Kiko Calero or an retro one like Octavio Dotel is just throwing money when we have other options. Maybe a Dotel or Calero signing would have a positive push down effect, but is that really worth about 4MM to save five runs? I still stuck at 80.8 wins.

What would Andy do: Fernando Rodney, 33yo, estimated era 4.58
I think the Orioles want him because he has closed and has been successful at it. Maybe they saw the same thing as I did last year and think he may have finally figured out how to use his 2 seamer. He walks a lot and that means hits against him are typically worse for him than others who have less people on the basepaths. This move most likely will be a multiyear deal and CHONE thinks it is a loss of -0.1 wins. It would be greater, but pushing down Johnson or Koji does improve the bullpen in general. Final tally is 78.9 wins.

As it stands: 74.5 wins
For the win: 82.8 wins
What I would do: 80.8 wins
What would Andy do: 78.9 wins

That said . . . it makes little sense to go the win approach given the holes MacPhail has mentioned. A much greater refitting would need to occur. Pieces probably are not even available on the free agency market, so trades would need to be explored.

EDIT: I had mistakenly thought Igarashi was left-handed. Feel free to ignore that. I'm getting international free agents mixed up. I mixed handedness with Takahashi, who I would not want any part of. So . . . who instead? No one of note. I would resign Hendrickson and have him be more exclusive as a LOOGY. I would also invite whatever lefties are out on the scrap heap in spring training and see if anything sticks. For where this team is, a LOOGY makes sense to me only if it means something for the future. Beimel, Fossum, and Ohman should fit in the mix, too.


Unknown said...

Escobar -- Do you think it's more likely Escobar logs some innings as a starter? I would think the pen would be a likely re-entry point.

Rodney -- Would be my pick. I only want him closing; enter the game with no one on base. As an aside, I believe his 2-seamer was up over 90 mph a fair amount last year, and he seemed more effective with it down than in the past.

Good read, Craw.

Jon Shepherd said...


Re: Escobar - I think the pen is more likely, but that an attempt will be made to stretch him out. When MacPhail talks about having the ability to take a chance on an injured pitcher . . . this is the kind of chance I think he will go for. A guy who has had past success and will be cheap because few others will take the time to bring him back. Could be wrong.

Re: Rodney. I'll go into the pitch f/x data when I get the time. His fastball was actually rating out as solid last year based on the batted ball data. It was a net negative pitch before based on baseruns. It might just be an anomaly. He seems to use it to set up his change up as a swing and miss. He has always been playing in the 90s with it though as far as I can tell.

Jon Shepherd said...

Oh . . . and somehow I have gone two weeks now thinking Igarashi is a southpaw. I even posted video showing otherwise.

My head is elsewhere right now apparently.

Unknown said...

Rodney -- I agree his 4-seam has always been 90s (mid- to upper-90s, even), but I thought his 2-seam was markedly slower. Could be misremembering.

Jon Shepherd said...

Sorry . . . yeah, my mind has been on flame retardants. My proposal defense is coming up. Yeah, his 2 seamer did jump last season. He used it throw it around 88 and last year it ticked up to 92/93.

Jon Shepherd said...

One thing to remember is that he threw his 2 seamer about 2% of the time. I'm not sure how effective it was if he laid off it so much. With him being right handed, I would think he would try to mix it up a bit more. Live arm though.