17 July 2014

The Orioles Should Trade for Justin Morneau and Brian Roberts

The Orioles offense has mostly been boom or bust. Some players like Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters (until his injury) and Steve Pearce are having career years. Other players like Jon Schoop, Ryan Flaherty, Chris Davis and pretty much the rest of the motley horde that we've tried at catcher and second base have been terrible. The Orioles offense is about average once you factor in the fact that they play in a hitters stadium. Even if you just look at runs scored per game the Orioles still do worse then the elite offenses belonging to the Blue Jays, Tigers, Athletics and Angels. The Orioles can really strengthen their team by fixing weaknesses at catcher, first base and second base.

It should come as no surprise that the Orioles are interested in improving their offense and are specifically looking for a left handed hitter. They were interested in Seth Smith before he signed his extension. One player that fits the bill is Justin Morneau.

Justin Morneau is having a strong season for the Rockies with a .307/.340/.498 line and a wRC+ of 118 to go with his 18 HRs and 59 RBIs. But what makes him even more interesting is his platoon splits. This year his splits look like this:

vs RHP802551045.325.361.532.892.332113151
vs LHP5098314.261.286.413.699.2596794
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/13/2014.

He's crushing right handed pitching while struggling against left handed pitching which is consistent with the rest of his career. Steve Pearce is doing well and likely will keep a full time slot but Justin Morneau could be paired with Delmon Young in a platoon role.

Morneau's contract runs through 2015 with a mutual option for 2016 and will receive $5M in 2014 and $6.75M in 2015. This is reasonably affordable for a platoon bat.

The Orioles could try to trade prospects in a deal for Morneau and/or Jorge De La Rosa and could offer the Rockies either Eduardo Rodriguez or Chance Sisco in a trade. But it may make more sense for the Orioles to come up with an idea outside of the box. Suppose the Orioles offer to trade Chris Davis for Morneau and De La Rosa?

As mentioned above Chris Davis is currently having a dreadful season and is hitting below the Mendoza line. Rumor has it that he is suffering from lingering injuries and he is also having trouble dealing with the shift. He is struggling against both lefties and righties and over the past 28 days has hit a poor .128/.240/.244 with 1 double and 3 home runs in 101 PAs (stats current as of 7/13/14). Simply put, he's been dreadful and a contending team is unable to count on him for production this year.
Chris Davis's agent is Scott Boras and therefore is unlikely to sign an extension based on his current market value. It is likely that Chris Davis and the Orioles would go through arbitration for the third and last time next year and then would hit the free agent market.

The trade would make sense for both sides. The Orioles would receive two players that could help them this year when they're definitely in the playoff run while still having control of Morneau for next year at a lower cost than Davis. Matusz has struggled this year and De La Rosa could help stabilize the bullpen as a LOOGY. Trading Chris Davis would open up a spot on the Orioles roster so that they'd have an opening for Morneau. The Rockies would receive a player that doesn't look like he can contribute much this year but who could regain his 2013 form and become an elite bat. At that point, the Rockies could either keep him for their own playoff run or trade him for considerably more then they'd receive for Morneau. Even if Davis did bust he'd only be under contract for one year and the Rockies have a limited payroll. They need to take chances like this in order to get potentially elite talent.

If the Orioles did make this trade then this would leave the only holes remaining at catcher and second base. The Orioles have stated that they're not looking for another catcher. It's also likely that the top options at second base will be out of the Orioles range. The Rays would want a premium for trading Zobrist inside the division while the Phillies don't appear likely to trade Utley. But the Orioles could improve their situation by trading for Brian Roberts.

The fact that Brian Roberts joined the Yankees is hard to swallow even though the Orioles had no room for him on their roster. But it just doesn't seem right that the Orioles are in the playoff hunt without him either on the roster or more likely on the DL. And while Brian Roberts isn't going to make the all-star game anytime soon he would be an upgrade over Jonathan Schoop, Ryan Flaherty, Steve Lombardozzi and all of the other guys we have in Norfolk. Given that he isn't very good and the Yankees are barely in playoff contention it is likely that his value would be a C-/D+ prospect perhaps someone like Jemille Weeks or Steve Lombardozzi.

By trading for Justin Morneau, Jorge De La Rosa and Brian Roberts the Orioles could improve their chances for winning this year.


Jim D. said...

I think the Orioles would be better off playing Flaherty every day over Roberts. Based on his first two seasons, Flaherty is a better second half hitter, and he has a good chance of exceeding the production of Roberts going forward.

Jon Shepherd said...

Flaherty has 140 PA total in the second halves of seasons. Regardless of his performance in that time, I would be hesitant to suggest that the performance is related in any way to the time of year.

Anonymous said...

LMAO Davis for Morneau. Holy crap.

Jon Shepherd said...

Regarding Davis vs Morneau's performance, I think the reasonable thing to do is to expect them to both perform similarly overall for the rest of the season. That said, Morneau arguably has the better contract and might be a better transitional talent than what the Orioles have in Davis. The problem with Davis though is that this is dealing him at his near lowest point in value. Arguably, it could be a worse mistake than when the Rangers dealt him. That said, I imagine no one is clamoring to sign Davis to a 150 MM contract like some were before the season began.

Mike Bonsiero said...

What are the park effects in Colorado these days? I ask because my first thought was that his performance was altitude inflated, but upon further review, he's actually hitting better on the road than he is in Colorado. Then I looked even closer and it turns out that he actually hits both righties and lefties better at home, but his increased numbers on the road are a result of seeing more RHP away from Coors field. But at this point I've probably parsed the numbers beyond any remotely useful sample size.

Anonymous said...

Giving up a guy one season removed from 50 HR for a 33 year old having a career renaissance is just dumb management. Stop overthinking it.

Jon Shepherd said...

So...what about the guy who had a career renaissance last year and has been horrible this year? Is that overthinking or faith?

Matt Perez said...

There are two real questions. First is whether the Orioles have a shot at signing him to an extension. Second is whether he's just slumping, struggling with the shift and/or injured.

If they think that Boras will agree that Chris Davis needs to take a discount because he's had a terrible year and you can sign him for a reasonable number then they need to keep him. If they think that Boras will want Chris Davis to receive a mega deal based on his numbers from last year then at most you're losing a year of his production plus a compensation pick when he goes elsewhere. They should have a good idea of what it will take to extend him at this point. Boras may still want 150 million and he isn't known for giving discounts.

If Davis is just slumping then it makes sense to presume that he'll perform as well as Morneau if not better. If he's hurt or can't figure out the shift then there's no reason to assume he'll get much better this year. Even if he figures out the shift or gets healthy next year there's no guarantee the Os will be in the same situation.

I'd use wRC+ to determine Morneau's effectiveness against righties. That takes park factors into account.

Anonymous said...

LOL...one is 28 and the other is 33. I know who I'm betting on.

Jon Shepherd said...

They certainly both have interesting career paths.

Davis wRC+
2011 88
2012 121
2013 168
2014 91

Morneau wRC+
2011 68
2012 107
2013 102
2014 119

Davis has about 4 million left on this deal this year. Morneau has about 2 million left. Davis will earn at least 10.5 MM next year regardless of his performance this year. Morneau is set to earn 6.75 MM.

The bet is on whether Davis will become a good 1B again, which is something he has done once when he was a crazy good 1B. Morneau has dealt with a myriad of injuries and has put together a good half season. Moving forward, projection models are likely to view the players similarly though Davis has more breakout/break apart potential than Morneau. This all at 4 MM or more in cost next year. For a club up likely up against a payroll limit that money might be better reorganized.

Mike Bonsiero said...

It's also worth considering that rightly or wrongly, the Orioles management might be wary to take on a guy with concussion issues (Morneau) after what they went through with Roberts.

Anonymous said...

So Davis has the two best seasons between them over the last four years. And he's younger.

Penny wise, pound foolish. I'd rather spend the money and take the chance Davis bounces back next year.

The payroll cries are also a bit exaggerated. O's were willing to sign Santana at the end of ST for approximately the value of the QO which would've pushed payroll to 120M. With Cruz coming off the books and possibly Hardy and Markakis the organization has plenty of money to fill their needs without trading away a player one year removed from an MVP caliber season.

Matt Perez said...

Fair point about the concussions.

You'd be betting on Davis and Morneau for the next one and a half years with this half year being most important. It's not like you're stuck with them for the next ten. I'm not worried about ages in the short term.

I do think the club knows whether Davis is 100%. If he's hurt then he has a much higher chance of continuing to bust. If he's just in a slump then you probably let him work his way out of it.

The Rockies would still be interested because they're out of competition for this year anyway. They would want his production for next year so that they could compete for the playoffs or trade him.

Matt Perez said...

Next years production doesn't help a team this year. The AL East is having a bad year so far. You can't expect that to happen in 2015.

Davis had an MVP caliber year in 2013. Wasn't enough to surpass the Red Sox.

Unknown said...

In my opinion, the Yankees would want - well, not necessarily MORE, but something different from Weeks or Lombardozzi if they trade Roberts. Weeks and Lombardozzi are bench players / specialists with no value to a non-contending team but plenty of value to a contending team. The Orioles would probably have to give up a pure lottery ticket, perhaps Greg Lorenzo.

Jon Shepherd said...

Regarding Santana...there was some contention within the front office what their interest really was in relation to the Blue Jays, so I would not take that to be any sort of confirmation about room for budget.

I think the point about both is the one I made...Davis has come out of an early career of dysfunction to function and now he is somewhat broken. What does that mean going forward? Morneau has been poor dealing with his injuries (if I went back further then Morneau has a lot of amazing performances).

I think we likely all agree that Davis is unlikely to be an Orioles in 2016. I will many of us question his value this season. I think most of us are unsure what next year will bring. There may be value in there to be had to reorganize and put in places to improve this club. It could be a short term move like acquiring someone like Morneau and opening payroll up a little or it could be a more long term option.

That really is where the discussion is. One can sit here and be upset over the suggestion of a Davis for Morneau deal, but this is a discussion of taking a volatile commodity the Orioles have and trying to acquire a more stable commodity in terms of improving chances for a playoff appearances.

Anonymous said...

I think something not considered, that would probably get in the way of a trade like this, is i remember reading Buck say that Davis could have made the All star team with his Defense alone. Now, obviously thats just a Buck-ism, but hes one of Buck's guys, and Buck values Defense greatly. Haven't looked at any UZR or dWAR numbers for the two, but just the fact that Buck thinks so highly of him even in this awful offensive year probably means he's staying.

Theres also the whole clubhouse chemistry / Davis seems like a well liked figure in the clubhouse angle, but obviously theres no way to quantify that in this discussion.

Chris Davis will likely also sell more tickets than Morneau, if thats being considered

Jon Shepherd said...

Individual players are not related to ticket sales unless it is a team selling off players in the middle of a poor season. Ticket sales and star players have little to no impact on them has been well studied and published.

Defense? UZR and other metrics have issues with 1B defense. I would trust Buck over them. However, Buck did praise Reynolds defense at first and he was pretty terrible outside of looking good when falling down.

Jon Shepherd said...

This all said...I would not deal Davis for Morneau. I understand and would not complain if such a thing happened, but it really is not an outlandish idea.

I would hold onto him. Hope somehow he finds himself and then look to rearrange value on the roster by dealing him this off season. First base tends to be a horrible position to spend big money on and if I was going to, I would be spending on a guy who I think has more stability in his numbers.

Majopa said...

How high were you when you wrote this?

Mike Bonsiero said...

Buck did praise Reynolds at first, but then they let him walk rather than pay him the relative pittance it would have taken to keep him. Contrast that to Flaherty, Schoop and now apparently Caleb Joseph, who can't combine to hit my weight but seem to be beyond even any consideration of replacing them on the roster and you can see who he really values defensively and to whom he was just blowing smoke.

Matt Perez said...

Fair enough about the type of prospect the Yankees would want. I'm not familiar enough with our system to know who the D+ guys are.

I'm skeptical that Buck will ever call one of his players a terrible defender. I just don't see him saying on the record that one of his players is the worst defender at his position in the league.

It's probable he's trying to find some way to show Davis he has his back by complimenting his defense because you can't compliment his offense this year.

Winning sells tickets.

I'd probably want more than Morneau for Davis also. I think I said Morneau and De La Rosa. But how well Morneau would be able to replace Davis would be a key part of the trade.

Jon Shepherd said...

Talk about my reading comprehension...yeah, De La Rosa makes this a solid deal for the Orioles if they have the wherewithal to deal from their surplus of starters for talent in other areas...like second base.

Anonymous said...

Flaherty sucks and should have been gone!He is wasting a roster spot.I know they think they got a deal on him but it's time to let him go.Give schoop some playing time without looking over his shoulder and he comes around.Oh and stop sending Gauseman down you are killing his confidence!

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I doubt that Schoop isn't hitting because of worrying about losing playing time to Flaherty. He was rushed onto the major league roster, and if he's going to become a competent hitter, it's going to take time.

Anonymous said...

OPACY is 30th in scoring this season. It is 24th in HR and 22nd in doubles.

This season at least it is not playing as a hitters' park.

Unknown said...

Stats, stats, suppositions, money etc. How about team loyalty, and wanting to be an Oriole, and relationships with teammates, and wanting to learn from and play for one of the better if not the best current baseball managers? If the O's go off willy-nilly and trade away people who are having a tough season, or are not currently 'performing according to the stats' doesn't mean the team should give up on them. Why do you people want to be like the NYY or BRS or any other team that turns over personnel and turns off the chemistry and team identity just because we're in first at the break? You saw how quick they got there and can fall back just as quick. Consistency and continuity are what puts you on top after 162 games, not trying to get the next best thing or shore up a perceived hole in the lineup. I'm not being naive or altruistic, and I understand that some trades and move have to be made because of injuries, or long-term poor performance or just because of the opportunity to acquire an better player/hitter/pitcher, but damn, if it ain't broke, don't 'fix' it. We are in first place and playing well. Guys playing well pick up teammates that aren't. That's the nature and greatness of baseball. Let them play, and "sit down, shut up and quit trying to ruin my life!" 1.

1. Mad Max- John Boy & Billy Big Show

Liam said...

I don't think the Orioles should trade to replace anyone who has under performed this year. The upside is is too high on Jimenez (especially given is second half last year) and obviously on Davis. I'm happy to let Schoop and Flaharty keep wallowing at second given Schoop's age and the chance he starts producing. Roberts, Flaharty and Schoop are all very similar quality players at this point.

If we are going to trade quantity for quantity the time to do it could be this winter. I don't think Bundy will contribute in Baltimore in 2014 but if he's in a similar position next year as Gausman was this year, we could trade one or two starters for a pretty nice return somewhere else.

Let Hardy walk for a first round pick, package the pick with Gonzalez and bud norris for Starlin Castro? Or is that just too much of our trash for their treasure?

Anonymous said...

Does this trade make us better?

I think absolutely not.

Sometimes the best trades are those not made. I think everyone that's followed the Orioles would want to keep Crush around to see if he can adjust to how he's currently being pitched and the shift. I think there's a certain element of timing that gets lots in all metrics, for example, advanced stats don't consider game winning or tying hits with two outs to be more worthwhile than home runs when you're down 10 runs. So while advanced metrics are useful, so is actually watching baseball, and if you watch the Orioles, I think you would've seen Chris break open that game against the Nats in extra innings the other night.

If you're gonna write about prospective trades, at least make them trades that the fan base actually wants.

Please write about how we might get an actual ace on this team without giving up the farm. Or even if we give up some good prospects, let's imagine a scenario that actually makes this team better.

Jon Shepherd said...

"Wanting to be an Oriole"

People should realize that this is largely a fan perspective. Players rarely have this thought. This is a business.

Matt Perez said...

I'm not sure that I'd use park factors for half a season as anything definitive.

Roberts isn't much better then Schoop/Flaherty but he is slightly better. The problem is that there aren't many second baseman that are clearly better. There's Zobrist but nearly every team wants him, there's Utley who has no trade protection and there's Murphy who would cost a fortune in prospects.

"Let Hardy walk for a first round pick, package the pick with Gonzalez and bud norris for Starlin Castro? Or is that just too much of our trash for their treasure?"

You can only trade picks you receive in the Competitive Balance Lottery. That pick would be a compensation pick and ineligible to be traded. The Cubs would have little interest in Norris as he's nearly a free agent and would have minimal interest in Gonzo. I'm not sure the Cubs have interest in trading Castro regardless.

"Advanced stats don't consider game winning or tying hits with two outs to be more worthwhile than home runs when you're down 10 runs."

Not true. WPA does do this. According to WPA, Davis has been worth .6 of a Win offensively. But the question is whether his ability to perform in the clutch is just random chance or actual skill. He has had a number of clutch hits this year.

"Please write about how we might get an actual ace on this team without giving up the farm."

I can write an article about how the Orioles should trade Luc Rennie, Trey Mancini and Luis Gonzalez for David Price but I have no idea what the point of it would be.

Teams want talent in return for talent. If you want a huge upgrade then you'll need to trade a lot in return. This usually requires trading top prospects but can also mean trading struggling talent. Trading struggling talent isn't considered nearly as often.

Unknown said...

"Please write about how we might get an actual ace on this team without giving up the farm."

Dan Duquette finds the Ark of the Covenant buried under third base. The Orioles trade this for David Price. Bam.

Seriously, the Orioles aren't going to get an ace this year. Unless Gausman has a meteoric rise in the second half. The O's aren't going to part with Bundy and Gausman, and barring that there is no way to get an ace. Unless you flip one of them for a rental, which would also be stupid.

Also seen a lot of hate in the last few days on different boards toward WAR and advanced metrics and how they're stupid and useless and blah blah blah. I kind of feel like that if someone thinks that way, they just don't understand analysis or something. I mean if it's useless, go tell that to Billy Beane.

Anonymous said...

If there was ever a time to trade Davis, it would be the 2013-14 off season. It's like the case of Hammel in the 2012-13 offseason: the team had already missed the chance to sell high.

Personally, I'd rather leave Davis on this team and start Pearce at 1B for the time being until Davis gets out of his slump.

Rog said...

Just no....no.

Rog said...

Just no....no.

Unknown said...

Lighten up Jon. Business or not, it's still just a game. For our entertainment.

Anonymous said...

Michael Wallace

Funny answer,

let me re-phrase the question

who is the best pitcher we can get for Hunter Harvey, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Josh Hart?

Anonymous said...

Michael Wallace,

also I don't hate WAR, I just think its part of the equation, and is most useful when combined with visual observation.

Put this way, I'm a building analyst, I have to deal with trend data, but I also need to walk through the building and combine visual observation with trend reporting.

Unknown said...

I wasn't saying about you in particular. I've seen a lot of people be like crazy about it lately on ESPN/Yahoo for whatever reason.

But yeah, I'd like to see who they could get for that combination. I'm not sure if it would be anyone too top flight or anything though. I saw on MLB Trade Rumors a day or two ago that they were discussing AJ Burnett. Could be alright, although he didn't want to play here in the offseason.

Anonymous said...

People at Camden Depot: stop writing, you people are morons, actually the people who are even more moronic is ESPN for allowing this stupid blog to be posted on their site. I guess the only qualifications you need to be on ESPN is to write a bunch of nonsensical moronic trade ideas to stir people up and put a couple pictures of orioles players ...how sad sports "journalism" has become...

Jon Shepherd said...

Thank you for reading.