04 September 2014

Quick Thoughts on Recent Roster Changes

We’re in the home stretch of the 2014 season and the Orioles couldn’t be in a better position.  Prior to last night’s game, they sat 9.5 games in front of the New York Yankees in the American League East (their magic number to clinch the division was 17), which is the largest lead of any division in baseball.  Both Baseball Prospectus and ESPN have them as a near lock to make the playoffs at almost 100%, and BP also gives them a 99.1% chance to win the division outright.  Things are definitely looking good in Baltimore at the moment.  Despite the comfortable lead, the Orioles decided to bolster their roster last weekend with the help of a couple of trades and the expanded rosters, due to the end of the minor league season.  Let’s take a quick look at what transpired.

August 28 – Orioles recall INF Jimmy Paredes

Paredes essentially takes the roster spot of Cord Phelps, who was designated for assignment and later outrighted to the minors.  Paredes is a slightly better player than Phelps in basically all aspects of the game, and has experience playing the outfield as well, giving the team a little more positional flexibility.  Having said that, they’re both replacement level, so this move doesn’t really change much.

August 31 – Orioles trade 2B Jemile Weeks and 2B Ivan De Jesus Jr. to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for 3B Kelly Johnson and 3B Michael Almanzar

Kelly Johnson (photo via Keith Allison)
Baltimore basically traded its depth at the keystone for depth at the hot corner with this deal, and considering the fact that Manny Machado is out for the season, it’s not a bad idea.  Weeks (who was the “big get” in the Jim Johnson trade during the offseason) is a decent piece to have in your organization, but he’s limited to second base, and doesn’t even play that position very well.  On the other hand, Johnson can play pretty much anywhere except SS and CF, and (to my surprise) has been average or above average defensively at every position except second base.  He’s also a better hitter than Flaherty or Paredes, although we shouldn’t expect the above average offensive numbers Johnson has put up in the past, as he hasn’t been that type of hitter since 2010.

The inclusion of Almanzar is interesting, as the Orioles get him back after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft and returning him to the Red Sox.   I’m not exactly sure what Baltimore sees in him, but he’s more of a prospect than Weeks or De Jesus Jr, so it’s good that the team was able to pick him up again, especially without having to keep him on the 40-man roster this time around.

August 31 – Orioles trade RHP Mark Blackmar and RHP Miguel Chalas to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for OF Alejandro De Aza

Alejandro De Aza (photo via Keith Allison)
Picking up De Aza for two relief “prospects” looks like a nice move by Duquette and company.  The word “prospects” was in quotes intentionally, as Blackmar and Chalas are probably better classified as organizational filler.  They each have a chance at producing at the major league level, but through different means.  Chalas has the stuff, but doesn’t know where he’s throwing it, while Blackmar can locate his pitches, but there’s nothing special about them.

Meanwhile, De Aza adds outfield depth.  He has played mostly center field in his career, and grades out as a slightly above average outfielder according to UZR/150 (although DRS has him at -13).  So while he won’t be supplanting David Lough as a defensive replacement, he will be taking away some of his at-bats, especially against right handed pitching, where his career wRC+ of 102 looks much better than Lough’s, which currently sits at 90.  As an added bonus, De Aza is under club control next year as well, which could soften the blow should Nelson Cruz and/or Nick Markakis not return in 2015.

September 1 – Orioles recall RHP Evan Meek and purchase the contract of LHP Joe Saunders

These two were most likely recalled to soak up some innings in September and make sure the regular bullpen arms are rested when the playoffs start. We’ll always remember Saunders from those two magical starts in the 2012 playoffs where he allowed 2 runs in 11.1 innings, but he’ll reside in the bullpen now, waiting for the opportunity to mop things up.

September 2 – Orioles recall C Steve Clevenger and RHP Ryan Webb

Clevenger will likely be the emergency catcher, and has the potential to start a couple of times against right handed pitching.

Despite being Baltimore’s 3rd best reliever at the time, Webb was sent down to the minors with the acquisition of Andrew Miller, a move that confused me at the time (and still does actually).  In the end, it didn’t matter much, as the bullpen has been doing just fine without him.  Webb could see higher leverage situations (at least more than Meek and Saunders), but if I’m reading the postseason roster rules correctly, he won’t be eligible for the playoffs.  Consider me still confused.

September 2 – Orioles purchase the contract of OF Quintin Berry

Berry won’t be eligible for the playoffs either, but he’s on the September roster to do one thing, and that’s steal bases.  He’s a perfect 24 for 24 in stolen base attempts in his major league career.  It’s a little surprising that they didn’t find a way to add him in time to be playoff eligible, as it’s something the team doesn’t do much (or well).  They are 36 for 52 (69%) this season, which ranks 23rd in MLB (their 36 SB’s rank last by a healthy margin).  However, Berry doesn’t provide much value elsewhere, so it’s not much of a surprise they wouldn’t want to use a playoff roster spot on him.

As Roch Kubatko of MASN reported, the Orioles appear to be done with September call-ups barring injury, so the final 2014 roster appears set.  Having said that, take the month of September to watch the Orioles with a relaxed mind, because come October, that won’t be an option anymore.


Pat Holden said...

Webb should be eligible for the postseason roster. There was a slight change this year w/the eligibility rules this year in that the pool of eligible players now includes anyone on the 40-man at the end of August.

Whether he actually appears on the roster is a different story, which I know confuses you as much as me...

Unknown said...

Actually, the eligibility rules have essentially been the same for quite some time. Technically, the players eligible for the post-season roster are those on the active roster on August 31, plus those on the disabled list on August 31. However, the rules allow teams to submit an "initial" roster (conceivably different for each postseason series) and then allow teams to replace players still on the disabled list with anyone on the 40-man roster on August 31. Thus, the Orioles can include Manny Machado or Matt Wieters on their postseason roster and then replace him with Ryan Webb or anyone else on the 40-man roster as of August 31.

Infamously, this rule was mis-applied in 2002, when the Angels were negligently allowed to add K-Rod to their postseason roster even though he wasn't on the 40-man until mid-September. MLB later admitted that it was wrong to allow him. K-Rod took the place of Steve Green, who had been on the 60-day DL since spring training.

Pat Holden said...

That's what I thought as well, but Duquette said on MASN the other night that the rule had changed before this season to include the 40-man plus the same DL stipulations. I couldn't find too much online about it, but this Fox Sports article cites the change as well.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I'm still getting used to using "Orioles" and "playoff eligibility" in the same sentence.

Jim D. said...

I am sure the Orioles always intended to have Webb on their playoff roster. At the time of the Miller trade, they needed to keep McFarland and Brach so that they some relievers who could go 2 or more innings if necessary, and they needed to keep Matusz and Hunter because they were out of options. Getting by without Webb for one month was their best option, now they have Miller and Webb for September and October (assuming Miller is not too badly hurt).