23 June 2014

The Case for the Orioles Acquiring Nick Franklin and Sending Schoop to Norfolk

The Orioles' situation at second base is somewhat like Medusa.  It is terrifying, awful, and can turn a rally to stone.  This Medusa has been led by the promising, but not yet here, Jonathan Schoop.  His time at second has been 381.1 innings.  Steve Lombardozzi has put in 160.2.  Ryan Flaherty? 107 innings.  Plus, Jemile Weeks was able to see six innings at second.  All in all, the defense has been about league average according to DRS.  Schoop has put in inspired play, but his defensive accomplishments have been neutered by Lombardozzi's and Flaherty's troubles.  So, yes, defense is not the trouble here.

The trouble is offense.  Below is the performance of every team's collection of second basemen using runs created.

1 HOU 55.3 346 24 2 2 26 3 .332 .382 .440
2 MIN 53.0 342 12 0 16 15 4 .249 .361 .460
3 PHI 50.4 329 25 3 6 1 2 .301 .359 .466
4 PIT 49.3 330 13 1 11 3 1 .287 .365 .451
5 SEA 44.6 319 16 1 2 5 3 .325 .384 .409
6 LAD 44.5 348 12 8 2 41 5 .263 .323 .370
7 MIL 44.0 325 26 3 6 4 4 .301 .339 .468
8 NYM 43.8 349 18 1 5 11 3 .290 .344 .401
9 DET 42.3 323 22 2 8 7 3 .287 .320 .452
10 BOS 40.1 349 23 0 4 2 4 .270 .338 .383
11 CHW 36.9 330 18 1 7 4 1 .264 .315 .399
12 ARI 34.3 341 15 3 6 2 0 .256 .302 .380
13 LAA 34.0 324 14 3 2 9 3 .264 .328 .353
14 CLE 33.0 316 15 0 6 9 2 .253 .308 .367
15 NYY 32.9 290 9 3 5 7 4 .263 .349 .382
16 MIA 32.8 331 6 4 7 1 0 .230 .311 .351
17 TBR 31.9 328 14 1 4 4 2 .244 .310 .339
18 CIN 31.8 315 19 0 5 1 3 .270 .304 .386
19 WSN 31.4 301 11 3 7 6 0 .232 .290 .370
20 TOR 30.4 296 11 2 7 3 0 .239 .299 .375
21 CHC 29.8 302 11 0 4 8 4 .242 .314 .327
22 COL 27.2 294 8 3 2 5 4 .262 .325 .338
23 TEX 26.6 281 9 3 4 2 4 .252 .303 .358
24 KCR 26.5 321 8 3 5 3 2 .233 .274 .331
25 ATL 24.5 306 7 1 4 1 0 .213 .288 .290
26 BAL 24.3 291 6 1 6 1 0 .242 .289 .338
27 OAK 22.2 286 11 0 0 7 3 .227 .303 .271
28 STL 21.6 308 9 2 1 12 1 .203 .275 .261
29 SFG 20.3 288 9 1 7 1 1 .172 .266 .300
30 SDP 12.9 284 7 1 5 2 1 .151 .203 .243
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/22/2014.

As you can see, the Orioles ranked 26th in baseball.  Also troubling are the other teams listed.  Oakland (best record in baseball), St. Louis (currently in the second Wild Card position in the NL), Atlanta (half game out of the NL East), and San Francisco (first in the NL West) also have employed miserable efforts at the plate from their second basemen.  In other words, if the Orioles are looking to beef up their efforts at second via trade then they will likely be competing with several other clubs for that position.

This means that the team will likely have to spend considerably in order to bring back value.  For a club like the Orioles, the piece coming should not only be important to this season, but also in the seasons to come.  With that in mind, an impending free agent like Emilio Bonifacio is not where the team should be looking.  Rather, the club should be looking at someone who is likely to have a future with the club and makes sense position-wise.  The player is Nick Franklin.

You may be familiar with Franklin as the guy who lost out when the Mariners signed Robinson Cano to fill second base and Brad Miller dominated at the plate while holding down shortstop.  This season, he has had two cups of coffee that went rather horribly as a supersub, but has cleaned up in the minors (293/400/483).  Add that to his league average bat in 2013 along with a solid glove at second and Franklin looks like a decent bet to have value now, but also in the long term. Additionally, it would give Schoop more playing time in Norfolk where his skill set needs some positive reinforcement.

The long term makes sense to keep in mind.  Perhaps there is an outside chance that J.J. Hardy is an Oriole next year, but I doubt it.  That would mean the long awaited shift to shortstop for Manny and Jonathan Schoop sliding over to his more probable position in the future, third base.  Plus, Franklin is flexible enough that if Manny has issues moving over to his natural position then Franklin can cover there.  All in all, acquiring this 23 year old middle infielder who has been a top prospect and was a good starter last year would appear to be a great move.

Of course, such a quality piece is likely to cost a great deal.  The Mariners are right in the hunt for the second Wild Card and are buyers.  On first thought, this seems like an unlikely team to befriend as a trade partner.  However, the Orioles have something the Mariners want: pitching depth.  No, that is not a joke.  The Orioles are currently employing a six man rotation.  That excess in starters means that decent, cheaper portions of that rotation may be able to be converted into a piece that might have greater use to the club.

Although it might be nice to send off Ubalado Jimenez for a second baseman, that will not happen.  It is also unlikely that Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman are going anywhere.  Finally, Bud Norris is pulling rabbits out of hats, so the Orioles are likely unwilling to deal him either.  That leaves cost controlled Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen who has a great contract.  MiGo has three arbitration years left.  Chen has an option year next year that is under 5 MM and then has an agreement in place where he cannot be extended a qualifying offer (as I understand it).

From the Orioles' perspective, the preferable move would be to package a deal around MiGo and Franklin, but be willing to listen to Chen instead.  The Mariners would likely prefer Chen and his now value as opposed to MiGo's potential and cost controlled salaries over the next several years.  In terms of expected value, MiGo is worth about 20 MM in surplus money over the next 3.5 years.  Chen is worth about 20 MM over the course of the next 1.5 years.  These values are based on the assumptions that MiGo is worth about two wins per year and Chen is worth three.

Franklin looks to be worth about 30 in surplus value if he becomes a league average second baseman.  With Chen and his immediate value, that is probably a straight one for one deal.  With MiGo, the Orioles might have to sweeten the pot slightly.  The Mariners also have a weakness in the outfield on the right side.  Steve Pearce seems like an obvious fit for them even though they passed him over before when he went through waivers.  Maybe they believe in Delmon Young.  Or, just maybe, they would look to add to the lefties in their bullpen with someone like Brian Matusz.

Beyond that, I would question that the Mariners would be interested in lower level fringe prospects that have decent prospect value, but no playoff push value.  Likewise, the Orioles would be hard-pressed to give up anything outside of a starting pitcher or a bullpen arm as they are on their own playoff journey.


Matt Perez said...

How much value does Nick Franklin lose because he's strictly a platoon option?

In his minor league career, he bats .233/.307/.323 against lefties and .305/.388/.492 against righties. In his major league career he put up a .197/.290/.283 against lefties and .221/.292/.391 against righties.

Decent plate discipline against both but simply is unable to get good contact against lefties. Low home run and line drive rate against lefties.

David said...

I understand the appeal of getting a long term option at second, but I'm not sold that Franklin has better long term prospects than Schoop.

Also, trading Gonzalez or Chen (who has been the team's best starter each of the last three years) puts the Orioles an injury away from Josh Stinson or TJ McFarland starting games.

Jon Shepherd said...

I think there is a difference between someone being a platoon player and someone being strictly a platoon option. I do not think Franklin is the latter. He can get away with a poor lefty split as a function of the base line for his position, defense, and general improvement as he matures. It is unlikely he will ever have an average bat against lefties, but that is not automatically catastrophic.

Jon Shepherd said...

David - The question is not about either Schoop or Franklin. It is about Schoop sliding over to third base. That pairing is the value being sought long term as opposed to one or the other.

Regarding MiGo and Chen, it is a tough deal, which is why deals are often rarely completed. The point to this is how could a team like the Orioles reorganize the value they have at the MLB level to better themselves? The idea put forth is maybe you deal your excess (excess by a slim amount) in starting pitching and turn that into shoring up a positional deficiency.

With that in mind, are a few games of Josh Stinson more damaging than the remainder of the season with Schoop et al. Plus, long term, what does the value of Franklin mean for this team being successful in the years to come.

David said...

Jon, Good article and thanks for responding.

I guess where we diverge here is that I'm more concerned with optimizing the short term, as the window to win this year and next is wide open. Possible Davis, Wieters, and Chen departures and uncertain development of Bundy and Gausman presents difficulties predicting beyond 2015.

The scenario you propose, bringing in Franklin, moving Schoop to third and Manny to short, might improve infield over the next 5 seasons. However, I think losing Chen for the remainder of this season and next year, and only getting the return value of Franklin would greatly reduce the Orioles odds of making the postseason in each of those years.

Jon Shepherd said...

David - I guess I see 2015 as something akin to this. What can be more easily found on the free agent pile? A back end arm that might flash mid-level or a 2B/SS/3B be it Hardy or some other guy?

My thought is that it is easier to find that pitcher or to have that pitcher rise up from the minors than to try to find a useful position player with positional and roster flexibility.

Anonymous said...

Can you say more about this: "Chen...has an agreement in place where he cannot be extended a qualifying offer (as I understand it)."

Jon Shepherd said...

I know Chen had an agreement in place that did not allow the Orioles to offer him arbitration. I assume that the agreement may expand to qualifying offers, which are different.

Bret said...

This is a very odd article for several reasons.

1. Chen is the O's best pitcher. He doesn't walk people and is the only O's starter that doesn't have severe to critical to fatal issues with throwing strikes (not including KG who is up in the air).
2. Franklin is a Jon Schoop type player. Major issues controlling the strike zone (21 Ks, 3 BBs this year which is same ratio as Schoop) and minor league numbers are similar as well (2-1 for each). They both have power.
3. To summarize, I wouldn't trade our best pitcher for another guy that can't get on base, we have plenty of those. I would bring up Weeks who has flaws but can take a pitch.

Philip Taggart said...

um....Because Franklin apparently offers nothing that we don't already have, this doesn't really make sense.
We already have three competent but not outstanding second basemen in Schoop, Flaherty and Lombardozzi. Each is imperfect(Flaherty has the best defense) but each is essentially equal, and Frankin would be more of the same.
(And Flaherty would take over 3B instead of Schoop, who has been dreadful defensively at 3B.)

If you want a 2B guy, go big, and get someone worth having, a solid starter. Or get Chase Headley, move Manny to SS in anticipation of Hardy leaving, and put Flaherty at 2B.
Getting Franklin would be another Nick Hundley: a guy who does exactly what we already have.

Jon Shepherd said...

um...I guess it depends on how you evaluate those players. I have a hard time calling the second basemen who have delivered one of the worst seasons at the position ever as completely competent. Schoop can plead age, but Flaherty and Lombo have more trouble doing that. Schoop, as mentioned in the article, is probably a better fit at third and this would enable that.

Anonymous said...

O's need to keep Chen's lefty arm in the rotation since most of their prospects and current starters are righties.

Anonymous said...

What the data tells me is that you don't need a great offensive star at second to contend. The Orioles need a catcher! The Caleb experiment needs to end. Why did we trade for Hundley if he was just going to be a backup?Showalter seems to stick to certain guys to long when they are not producing, like Flaherty last year

Jon Shepherd said...

Good luck trying to find a catcher in a trade who is worth much of anything. Good catching is scarce.

Re: Hundley. There is a reason why the Orioles got him for basically nothing.

Ryan Solonche said...

Would Ivan De Jesus be a candidate for a cup?

He has a wOBA of .376 and .368 in AAA in 13-14 respectively. He also boasts an 11.5% BB rate this year and is good for wRC+ of 134 and 127, again, in 13-14.

The common narrative from O's fans is they need to get on base more and score runs, this is De Jesus' whole game. Plus, if a Spring Training invite makes it until July hitting .300 in AAA - at a position of need - you can't imagine the front office would really ignore this guy without at least a cup in the majors. I'd at least give him a shot over Flaherty/Lombo/Weeks/Schoop, who wouldn't?

Anonymous said...

You're insane if you think an established #3 starter is a straight up trade for a AAAA middle infielder. Thankfully you have absolutely no influence on the O's front office...

Anonymous said...

It wasn't nothing. It already cost them two games because with Patton gone and Britt on at closer, Matusz is the only lefty setup man. Without any options Showalter is forced to leave him in way too many righties and he's already served up 3 HRs to them since the trade. It was a dumb trade that cost SD nothing but the price was artificially high for Baltimore.

Jon Shepherd said...

Anon - Yeah, he is a 3/4 with about a year and a half left in an Orioles' uniform. That has a certain value attached to it. And, fans often are emotionally attached to players. That is understandable. Make peace with yourself and love yourself some Chen.

Ryan - Ivan might be an everything clicking at the moment kind of guy. I don't see him as a long term solution to much, but I have yet to see him personally this year. Perhaps Joe has an idea as to whether he is doing well or if he has established another level of play for himself.

Jon Shepherd said...

Anon - I don't think that is the right way to properly judge the deal. Patton is a replaceable kind of arm, but does have value. Those games were loss for a variety of reasons and perhaps Patton would have contributed to those losses.

Basically, deck chairs were shuffled around and if you choose to find patterns, you can.

Ryan Solonche said...

Anon on Patton/Hundley -- Something to consider: whether we like it or not, Showalter is going to continue to give McFarland innings. I'm sure that played into Patton's move, as it was a pretty clear surplus "deck chair", 1 for 1. We had 3 LHP, the Padres had 3 C's.

The only thing that is troubling for me is: Hundley's defense, and arm specifically. They do not look to be at Joseph's level; and with Clevenger continuing to rip the cover off the ball since his "demotion", you wonder if Hundley can even warrant "backup playing time" over Cleve in the near future. They really won't want to carry 3 catchers, but Hundley looks below Joseph's D, and below Clevenger's platoon offense... right now. In the end its just a bland depth move facilitated by Wieters injury, but Clevenger's continuing production puts Hundley's role - in my opinion - in doubt moving forward.

Unknown said...

I've seen Ivan DeJesus (Jr.) and nothing has really stood out. I don't think the Orioles don't believe in him. I'll look at him more closely for a July 5 article.