15 January 2014

Dan Duquette and the Orioles Keep the Minor League Deals Coming

Another couple of days, and a few more marginal player signings for the Orioles. On Monday, the Orioles signed Delmon Young to a minor league deal with a spring training invitation. Young, 28, will earn $1 million if he makes the major league club, and he could earn another $750,000 in incentives. The O's have also been trying out Jack Cust (turns 35 tomorrow), who hasn't played in the major leagues since 2011 and is hoping to earn some sort of contract. In 2003, Cust hit very well with the Orioles in 84 plate appearances (.260/.357/.521) and eventually found his way to Oakland, where he had some productive years from 2007-2010. The decision on Cust should come soon.

Yesterday, the O's signed pitcher Luis Vizcaino and infielder Brock Bond to minor league deals. Their deals do not include invitations to spring training. Vizcaino, who's 39 and hasn't played in the majors since 2009, faces an even more difficult task than Cust of earning a spot on a major league roster again. Bond, 28, is a former Giants farmhand and has occasionally flashed some on-base skills in the minors, but he has yet to earn a promotion to the majors.

Of the three actual signings, the player worth discussing in slightly more depth is Young. He started 2013 with the Phillies but was pretty bad (.261/.302/.397). He was released in August, and Tampa Bay scooped him up. With the Rays, he batted .258/.329/.452. But that was only in 23 games (he played in 80 games with the Phillies). Overall, he had a .314 wOBA in 2013, which isn't that far off from his career wOBA of .321. But it's not a good sign that Young connected on only 58% of pitches thrown out of the zone (career 64%), the lowest of his career. His overall contact numbers were also the lowest since his rookie season.

Young's best (and possibly only) skill right now is that he's pretty good against left-handed pitching (.348 wOBA). He's not nearly as good against right-handed pitchers (.309 wOBA). Considering the Orioles traded away Danny Valencia (.380 career wOBA vs. LHP), Young would help the O's in that department. But the Orioles also have Steve Pearce under contract, and Pearce has a career .349 wOBA vs. lefties. Pearce has accumulated his numbers in many fewer plate appearances, for what it's worth. But Pearce can also play some first base and corner outfield (not well, but not horribly), and he's an average baserunner (0.9 career baserunning runs above average). Young, on the other hand, would just be a bench bat or designated hitter against lefties. He's a liability in both corner outfield spots, and he is not helpful on the basepaths and doesn't have much speed (10.2 career baserunning runs below average).

Young could certainly have a place on the O's roster as it's currently constructed, but he'll have to show that his bat is still useful. If it's not, the O's shouldn't hesitate to cut ties with him. It's also worth wondering how Pearce, Nolan Reimold, and Young could all earn spots on the 25-man roster. And that's not even counting Michael Almanzar and Francisco Peguero.

(It also needs to be mentioned that Young has had some on- and off-field issues, which Roch Kubatko summarizes effectively here:
Young was suspended three games in 2005 for bumping a Double-A umpire, and 50 games in 2006 for flipping his bat underhanded after being ejected and striking a Triple-A umpire on the chest and arm.

Young was arrested in April 2012 for aggravated harassment after the New York police department reported that he yelled an anti-Semitic slur while he was intoxicated. He issued an apology and was released on $5,000 bail. Major League Baseball suspended Young for seven days without pay and ordered him to undergo counseling.

With good players remaining, the Orioles keep opting to bring in less talented players on minor league/cheap deals. Young adds the ability to hit lefties, but little else.

It's hard to get upset about signing any player to a minor league deal, but the frequent announcements of the team signing these players seems like more of a joke every day, considering the O's have actual holes on their roster that should be filled by competent (which means more expensive) talent.

Instead of choosing to pay a bunch of money for one or two great players, the O's are signing guys with one or two skills and hoping they can stick with the major league club and provide something of value. For a less skilled team, that would be an OK strategy. But when a team with a talented core of exciting players and money to spend only has Ryan Webb to showcase as their major signing in free agency, something is wrong. There's still time left to make some moves, but the Orioles are running out of excuses.


TiredofAngelos said...

They are just cheap... and refuse to give long-term contracts to pitchers. They don't want to pay for high-priced OBP players.

Unknown said...

Peter Angelos has proven from day one that winning is not a priority. Its an investment. Great fans,great ball park. Cheap owner who could care less about the fan base. He refuses to do interviews and is rarely at Camden Yards. Last year was as good as it will ever get and its sad.

Jon Shepherd said...

Well, let's not get carried away with Stalinist revisions. The Orioles were one of the highest paying teams in baseball in the 1990s and were in fact the highest paid team in 1998, I believe.

Angelos putting winning above all else time and time again during that first 8-10 years. Ignoring that is ignoring the complex character that he is.

Also, you know who was the runner up to Angelos' group? Loria's.

Romie Sample said...

It seems to me that the O's are working a strategy of hoping to find a 1-2 year player(s), coah 'em up and hope for that kind of Beane-esque success. The glaring difference between the O's and the successful Beane transactions is the improved statistical analysis and eval tools available now aren't pointing to these minor league additions being impact players.

I suppose the most troubling aspect of this off season is neglecting the areas where there is clearly a need. Machado may be slow to return, there are major questions with our starting pitching and "relief by committee". Gausman was unimpressive, and Bundy looks to be at least another year out.

DH? Don't get me started.