01 January 2013

Turning the Orioles into a 2013 Contender (Shepherd)

This entry is one is a short series by the different writers here at the Depot.  The others will be linked in the space below when they come online:
Steph Diorio
Daniel Moroz
Jeremy Strain

The point of this column is to come to terms with how at this late date in the off season that the Orioles can be a playoff contender.  The short and easy answer for me would be incredible health, the emergence of the starting rotation solution from last season, and an offensive explosion from Matt Wieters and Manny Machado.  Perhaps even easier would be to say that this team is already a playoff contender having made it last year with essentially the same squad.  The former is kind of a boring article and the latter is something I simply do not believe, so I will be going on the route of a series of moves that would make the team far more competitive.

As I have it now, projected talent levels in the AL East look like this to me:

EdG Wins
Orioles 85
Red Sox 85
Yankees 85.5
Rays 91.5
Blue Jays 90
That is not really an estimation of the final win tallies because of the unbalanced schedule, but it does give a reasonable projection as to the differences in talent levels.  From this napkin scratch, I am taking on the assumption that this team needs to improve by five wins worth of talent.  Currently, the expected payroll is 86.8 MM and I assume that the team could move the needle up to 100 MM.  So, I need to find a relatively realistic way to improve this team by five wins with only 13.2 MM to spend.

The three biggest names left in free agency are Adam LaRoche, Michael Bourn, and Kyle Lohse.  We used LaRoche as a construct for an argument as to whether his addition would be good for the Orioles.  I concluded, nay.  LaRoche is a solid average first baseman with a decent flame out probability due to his age.  I could not see giving him a three year deal at market rate along with letting go of a draft pick.  Michael Bourn is an excellent centerfielder who has defense and speed.  I think, for him, those two tools will age well for him.  However, I do not think signing him could be easily fit under the payroll limit and Adam Jones is unlikely to be incredibly happy about moving over to left field to accommodate Bourn.  Finally, Kyle Lohse is probably a 3-4 WAR improvement over whoever the Orioles slot into the fifth slot of the rotation.  However, I think better value can be found in a way that would not clog up the payroll.

I have decided on four moves to make the Orioles a contender: three trades and a free agent signing.

Free Agency
Luke Scott, DH
As a first move, this is not flashy.  However, if healed up, Scott has the ability to provide plus performance at a minimal cost.  His power still looks strong with an ISO above .200 and knocking out about 15% of his fly balls over the fence.  Scott also has the flexibility to stand, if not play in a pinch, at first base and left field.  He could potentially be an improvement on Mark Reynolds bat and cost perhaps at most 4 MM on a one year deal.  If possible, perhaps a 1 year 3MM deal with an option of 1 year and 8MM or a 1MM buyout.  Another alternative here would be someone like Travis Hafner.  Acquiring either of these batters, will be a push win-wise due to trades mentioned below.


Jim Johnson, RP and J.J. Hardy, SS
Rick Porcello, SP and Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF
This first move incorporates rumors that Porcello is on the market, the Tigers' desire for a closer and their need for a better infield, and their openness to dealing out one of their top prospects.  For the Orioles, they can replace Jim Johnson with Tommy Hunter.  Hunter's new found velocity and his ability to do far better coming out of the pen as opposed to the dugout means the Orioles have a very cheap and ready closer in their midst.  Pedro Strop might be a decent backup option, assuming his control issues do not magnify.  Hardy is difficult to let go as he is a true all star level shortstop.  However, Machado makes him replaceable and the team needs to save some cash to fit everyone in who will be coming in on trades.

Rick Porcello has three years of team control left and is thought of as generally underachieving in Detroit.  However, if you replace the below average Detroit defense with an above average one, he gives up about a dozen fewer hits which would result in a sub 4.00 ERA.  That is worth about 3 WAR and would be a 2 win improvement over what the Orioles could likely fill in at the five slot.  Castellanos means nothing to the 2013 Orioles, but gives them something to look at in the future at third base or in left field.

In total, the Orioles will be taking on 4.7 MM in salary with Porcello and getting rid of 13.9 MM by sending out Johnson and Hardy.  With Scott's 4 MM, it is a net loss of 5.2 MM or 18.4 MM left under the budget.

Brian Matusz, SP, Zach Britton, SP, and Wilson Betemit, DH
Gavin Floyd, SP
The White Sox are trying to acquiring a left handed hitter and have dangled Gavin Floyd, once again.  The White Sox have talked about Floyd a great deal in the past, but have never gone through with trading him.  As such, he is now in the last year of his current deal, set to earn 9.5 MM, and is coming off his worst performance as a starter.  Chicago's chip has decreased a great deal in value.  Still, Floyd looks like a decent bet to be a 3 WAR pitcher who would be 2 wins better than what the Orioles currently have.

Wilson Betemit, assuming he has a healthy wrist, is a plus hitter against right handed pitching.  He has nothing to off in the field or against southpaws, but he does provide a very strong and stable platoon bat for a very low price.  The White Sox could also play the odds and hope Brian Matusz can start even though Cellular Field is a launching pad.  Balancing out that risk though is the groundball pitcher Britton, who also has quite a bit of promise.  The truth is, this deal could really go south on the Orioles with both Matusz and Britton doing well and having to pay for Scott or Hafner to replace Betemit.

The Orioles save 2.75 MM here while taking on 9.5 MM in salary.  This leaves 11.65 MM left to spend.

Dylan Bundy, SP and Nicky Delmonico, 1B/2B
Chase Headley, 3B
This is probably the move that leaves a great number of people saying no.  A key part of this move would have to be getting Headley to sign a long term deal, but, maybe not.  Chase Headley provides above average defense at third base, takes a walk, and somehow hit home runs last year.  I don't think a permanent move from Petco would result in him being a 30 home run hitter, but it is not a stretch to think he could be a .350 OBP hitter with 20 long balls annually and a good glove.  That would be worth about 4 WAR which would be an improvement of about one win over the Hardy/Machado side of the infield.

Bundy simply does not impact the team this season.  At most, he would see a late season reintroduction to the team.  In the future, he could be worth a great deal to the team, but it remains to be seen if he can (a) fulfill his potential and (b) that the team will be good enough that it will matter whether he fulfills his potential.  If 2013 is so important with the shambles of the Red Sox and Yankees, then it might make sense to wave goodbye to the future.  Delmonico is a bit more of a lottery ticket.  The bat looks very sound, but he currently is without a position.  If he has to shift to first, it puts a lot of pressure on his bat.

In this deal, the Orioles take on approximately 8.3 MM in salary, leaving 3.35 MM under the assumed 100 MM cap.

The above moves leave the team with the following lineup:
Nick Markakis, RF
Manny Machado, SS
Chase Headley, 3B
Adam Jones, CF
Chris Davis, 1B
Matt Wieters, C
Luke Scott, DH
Nolan Reimold, LF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
With a bench of Taylor Teagarden, Ryan Flaherty, Nate McLouth, and Danny Valencia.

The rotation would shake out as:
Jason Hammel
Wei-Yin Chen
Gavin Floyd
Rick Porcello
Miguel Gonzalez / Chris Tillman

To me, this looks like a 90 win talent team with Headley marginally improving the lineup and Porcello/Floyd improving the rotation.  The remaining 3.35 MM could be put to good use to help shore up the team performance at the trade deadline.  The team lost one of the best prospects in the game in Dylan Bundy, but was able to pick up a solid positional prospect in Nick Castellanos.  All in all, if Dan Duquette was able to and did the moves above, I'd have little to complain about.  However, publicity-wise...it might be a tough sell.


Jon Shepherd said...

Just grabbing some comments from another board, so I can see them in the future:

Colts53 - Morning, Happy New Year..thanks for the info…I always like Camden Depot but that is the most ridiculous trade scenarios I have ever read coming from them. They must be severely hung over this morning…..I am truly shocked . I can’t wait till 53 more days go by…..you for sure should make it a point to go to Sarasota and see a ST game soon….you will love it.

Fahrenheit 451 - I was a little shocked myself. Bundy and Delmonico for Headly kind of sent a chill up my spine. But then I considered that the point (?) was to try and illustrate just how much it would take to legitimately repeat last years success. Which isn’t something in principle that I’d argue with, even if I really don’t want to think about it…

Marylander -

1. I’m a big fan of trading Wilson Betemit. Gavin Floyd isn’t the greatest pitcher, but he’d be perfectly acceptable in the Orioles’ rotation. Giving up both Matusz and Britton makes me slightly uncomfortable, but I suppose it’s likely neither amounts to much.

2. I’m not a fan of trading Bundy and especially not this year. I’m not opposed to the idea, but I think that Bundy’s trade value will only increase. If we’re going to use him to acquire an all-star in a trade, it should come next winter and it should net us more than one year of Chase Headley and then an expensive contract.

3. I’m not a fan Rick Porcello, at all. His lowest WHIP was 1.336 in 2009 and it’s not trending for the better. Yes, Detroit’s defense sucks. However, if we’re trading JJ Hardy, we’re looking at less than stellar options for 3B, a rookie at SS (whatever Machado’s ceiling is, his first year at SS in MLB is not going to be as good as Hardy), and who knows what at 1B. The O’s infield would look a lot more like April / May 2012 and less like August / September 2012. Defense aside, I just don’t think Porcello is a good pitcher. He’s Jake Arrieta and we already have Jake Arrieta. I do like Castellanos, but not for that price.

Phiip Taggart said...

Jon, iteresting article as always.
I continue to be disappointed by your apparent pessimisim, but your talent based win ranking you mention is spot on.

As things stand, the Orioles should finish an honorable third, but probably no better.

Why, however, did you rank the Rays ahead of the Jays?
The Jays have improved everywhere, and the Rays lost Shields without any significant addition to their offense.
Both organizations are well run, with excellent on-field leadership, but the Jays have an Offense, and the Rays don't.
Jays should run away with the East and probably the Pennant.

Jon Shepherd said...

The Rays have a poor offense, but they have Escobar adding value to shortstop, more games from Longoria, and Myers projecting to give them average value in the outfield. With respect to pitching, Shields was more or less a shiny extra piece. They have more than enough starting pitching to not suffer too much from his absence. The Rays really focus a great deal on great pitching and great defense with a passable offense. They Jays have a very good offense, passable defense, and a supposedly above average pitching staff.

Jeremy Strain said...

Agree with Jon on Rays/Jays. Rays have been in playoffs quite a bit recently with very similar roster style, Jays look to be much improved, but there are still some questions here or there. I think you see 2 playoff teams and maybe another near miss out of the East again, so it won't be a huge difference, but I think 4/5 teams could be in the mix this season.

Jon Shepherd said...

Just to clarify Jeremy's comment to my own perspective (and maybe his). All five AL East teams do have a chance to be playoff bound teams if things break right, but over the course of a season you are going to see more drift. Unforeseen injuries and collapses in performance will likely pile up on a team or two. For all five teams to be in it in September, all five will have needed to split their in division games while winning 60% of their out of division games. Last year, the Os were the winningest team in division going 43-29. They had a losing record against AL West teams.

Matt P said...

Certainly these trades do make the Orioles stronger in 2013.

The White Sox trade is the one that looks most reasonable for the Orioles but it doesn't make sense for the White Sox.

With Dunn and Konerko already in their lineup, I have to wonder where Betemit would play. He'd be useful in a platoon at either 3B with Kippinger or LF with Viciedo but his defense isn't good there.

Given that the Soxs already have Sale and Peavy, you have to wonder whether they'd be interested in trading right handed starting pitching for left handed starters. Do any teams in the majors have three lefties starting? The Dodgers did but I think that's it. I'd think Tillman, Gonzalez or Arrieta would be better fits. Of course, Arrieta and Gonzalez aren't as good as Britton and Matusz but Gonzo did have success in the majors last year. Does Gonzo, Arrieta and Betemit get it done or at least come extremely close?

The Headley trade presumes the Padres will trade him. I think they'd want an absolute killing to trade him and they simply don't get that via this trade. Although Bundy and Castellanos would be something they'd have to consider.

Then again, I'm not even going to touch the Tigers trade. Better to just get Marcum or Saunders.

Jeremy Strain said...

Yeah, like Jon said. I meant that from the start they could all be there, but over the course of the season things will go wrong for some and others will pull away. If they all stay healthy and max performance they would beat up on each other so much that only one team would end up getting enough wins to get in the playoffs. There are just no TERRIBLE teams to beat up on in this division like you have in some of the others.