20 March 2011

What if the Orioles had let Roberts walk?

As I have mentioned time and time again, the extension for Brian Roberts made no sense.  The Orioles signed him in the winter of 2009 for an extension that would cover years 2011-2014.  This would be his age years of 32 through 35.  Not only was it a poor idea due to the historical evidence of second basemen falling apart in their early 30s, but it was also completely foolish in light of the market rate at that time.  Whereas Brian Roberts of good offense and average to below average defense wound up locked into the Orioles for five seasons at 48MM, Orlando Hudson of good offense and average to below average defense wound up locked into the Dodgers for one year at 3.4MM.  He then followed that up with a 1 year deal with the Twins in 2010 for 5MM.  It is true that Hudson is not your typical leadoff man, but it is hard to fathom Brian Roberts as being worth twice as much as him.

I propose what Andy MacPhail should have done is let Roberts play out 2009 and then let him walk.  The offers from the Cubs wound up with prospects that never amounted to much (e.g. Roger Cedeno).  The only benefit in dealing for those players would have been to avoid the final year of his initial contract.  I think the better move would have been simply to let him walk and reload the minors with two more picks in the 2010 draft.  I think it would have been likely for the Orioles to have secured the 24th selection in the first round.  That off season the Giants had some money to throw around and needed a second baseman.  I could have also seen the Washington Nationals making a play, which would have netted the first selection in the second round.  I think Roberts would have preferred the Giants though.  Using the Elias Rankings projection, Brian Roberts would have resulted in a sandwich pick between Billy Wagner and Chone Figgins . . . the 40th selection.

Next, I will look at who the Orioles might have drafted . . . who I would have drafted . . . and just who might have been playing second base these past two years.

Who the Orioles would have selected?
The Orioles tend to go after two types of players in the first couple rounds: safe college pitching and raw tools high schoolers.  I am using that foundation as to who they would target at 1:24 and 1:40 in last year's draft.  After taking Manny Machado, I would think they would focus on a safe college starter for 1:24.

1:24 Asher Wojciechowski, RHSP, The Citadel
This would have been a solid pick who would have signed around slot.  He has a large frame at 6'4 and 230lbs.  He also owns a mid-90s fastballs and a fringe plus slider.  At this point he was mainly a two pitch pitcher with an ineffectual change up.  I do not know if he has progressed beyond this point yet.  He wound up being selected by the Blue Jays in the supplementary round with the 41st selection.
Jarrett Parker could have been nice.
1:40 Jarrett Parker, OF, Virginia
Parker's ability to play in the Majors is placed almost completely in how he is able to develop his raw power.  Joe Jordan has not drafted this kind of player this high before, but I could see them wanting a slot signing that could improve the presence of raw power in the minors.  At 6'4 and over 200lbs, his running speed is unexpectably average to above average.  If he can somehow develop a decent contact rate, he could be an excellent prospect.  He wound up going to the Giants with the 74th selection (2:24).

Who would have I picked?
1:24 Nick Castellanos, 3B, Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL)
He wound up going to the Tigers in the supplementary round for 3.45MM.  Obviously, I am not making money a sticking point here.  I think an investment needs to be in the minors and I had Castellanos in my top ten players.  Good power, instincts should translate over to third base . . . so he should be a solid 3B prospect.  If cost is an issue, I would go with Bryce Brentz out of Middle Tennessee State.  However, not having Roberts around should open up more money to be spent.  He has strong power and defensive tools.  He is a solid prospect as a rightfielder.

1:40 Asher Wojciechowski, RHSP, The Citadel
I would have wanted someone who has a safe profile and could at least be used as a closer in the future.  He is also a slot guy.

Who plays 2B for the Orioles in 2010 and 2011?
Could be worse without Hudson.
In 2010, I think the Orioles could have competed for Orlando Hudson, Juan Uribe, or Kelly Johnson.  With MacPhail's background, I could see him offering Hudson a 1 year, 6.5MM deal.  I imagine getting paid 1.5MM more than what the Twins offered would have sealed the deal.  I do not think a multi-year deal would have been offered and there were no internal solutions.  In 2011, there are also no internal solutions.  This may for the Orioles to reup with Hudson, but if the Padres offer two years for 11.5 overall, it may make more sense to go lower with someone like Jerry Hairston and hope for the best.

In 2010, there would not have been much difference between Roberts and Hudson.  Roberts was the better player, but with him being injured that lowered the performance coming out of second base for the Orioles.  In 2011, if Roberts is unable to play, then Cesar Izturis may be manning second base and he is nearly incapable of hitting anything.  In both money, flexibility, minor league talent, and performance . . . it appears the Orioles would have been better off letting Roberts walk.  So, yeah, this post's point is redundant with what I wrote over two years ago.

Edit: Oops, I was going to refine this article a bit more.  I thought I scheduled it to be printed on Monday.  Oh well.


steve said...

"As I have mentioned time and time again, the extension for Brian Roberts made no sense."

Hold up, at the time of the extension, you spoke positively of the extension. You wrote, "The projected value of his performance is worth 42.5MM with 63% of that worth coming in the first two seasons. Overall, the Orioles pay below the predicted going rate of cost per win. Although in the final two seasons they pay above." And then you mention in the conclusion that you thought the extension was "fair." So at least in terms of value, this latest post seems like a reverse in course.

Jon Shepherd said...

I think you are making a bit too much out of 'fair.' Fair is with respect to the total terms of the contract. Not to what it means in terms of cost savings, flexibility, and core development.

Read the following paragraph in that original article and it should explain it well enough. Contract is fair to player and could be argued for if you provide front end supplemental talent to make up for the plus value at the beginning of the deal. It becomes foolhardy when you plan for him to be effective at the tail end.

Does that make sense now? I never liked the deal. I was widely hit at Orioles Hangout and the Sun Board for those opinions two years ago. It is rough because I like Roberts, too. But historical context is sometimes hard to break free of. Few 2B defy it.

steve said...

Oh yes, makes sense. In fact, that's why I said "in terms of value" because I suspected you thought the contract wasn't good in other aspects. But your original statement said "made no sense" when in fact in made sense in at least one aspect (performance value), which is what raised my attention. I certainly agree that it made no sense in the other ways you mentioned. I wasn't a fan of the Roberts extension at time but because I thought his value wouldn't hold and it was an overpay.

Jon Shepherd said...

I contend though that it made no sense in the context that the team had no chance to compete on the front end of the deal with supplemental talent. To make it more clear, I should have written in the unspoken contextual clause.