13 March 2015

Another Look at the 2016 Orioles

The 2015 season hasn’t even begun, yet there is already plenty of talk about what the team may look like in the very near future.  With the departures of both Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis this past offseason, along with the rumors of GM Dan Duquette possibly leaving for Toronto lasting basically all winter, it’s not a surprise that some players on the team have not sounded optimistic about the direction that the Orioles are heading.  Admittedly, the parting of two relatively high profile players isn’t trivial, but it’s nothing compared to what may happen after the 2015 season, when the Orioles could find themselves potentially losing 11 players to free agency.  This isn’t a new issue, but it’s starting to get a little bit more attention.

Almost a year ago, Matt wrote about what the 2016 Orioles may look like.  Since then, there have been a decent amount of roster changes, so it’s worthwhile to revisit the subject.  With the help of Cot’s Contracts, let’s take a look at what the Orioles may look like next year.

Under Contract

That’s it.  The good news is that Baltimore (currently) only has about $42 million in salary committed in 2016, which gives them a lot of financial flexibility.  The bad news is it leaves them with a lot of roster spots to fill.  Luckily there are quite a few players still under team control to help fill up the roster, should the team tender contracts to them.  Here’s a look at some of the more notable players and their expected status following the 2015 season.

Under Team Control

*McFarland is expected to obtain super-2 status

Not only are the Orioles going to potentially have to deal with 11 free agents, they could also potentially be dealing with 11 more arbitration cases.  Now it’s possible not all of the arbitration eligible players listed here will accrue enough service time to reach that status.  This is particularly true for Clevenger (if Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph are healthy and effective all year), as well as Brach and McFarland (depending on how the bullpen shakes out).  Regardless, there is potential here for Britton (saves), Machado (overall awesomeness), Tillman, and Gonzalez to see considerable raises, especially if Tillman and Gonzalez continue to put up wins and post strong ERA’s (statistics that are generally rewarded during the arbitration process).  Finally, there are the players under team control without enough service time to qualify for arbitration.  Here are the important members of that group.

Add it all up and you get a potential 2016 depth chart that, barring any trades or free agent signings (which is completely unrealistic) COULD look something like this.

Hopefully NOT the final 2016 Baltimore Orioles depth chart
Obviously, some of these choices are complete shots in the dark, particularly in the bullpen and on the bench.  Additionally, some assumptions were made in that neither of the two Rule 5 draft picks from this winter would stick around and that Dariel Alvarez may be the team’s best option in RF, despite not currently being on the 40-man roster (for what it’s worth, I don’t believe Alvarez is an everyday player).

That depth chart doesn’t look good, but it doesn’t look as quite bad as I initially thought it would based on the assumption of losing ELEVEN free agents.  As of right now Baltimore could use a clear upgrade in the bullpen, on the bench, at least one corner outfield spot, first base and possibly catcher (starting pitcher will probably require an upgrade as well, but that may be the least of the team’s worries, which I’ll get to).  The bad news is that the Orioles don’t have much position player talent in the upper minors that will be ready to help next year.  According to Baseball Prospectus, 4 of the Orioles’ top 10 prospects are position players.  Of the two that BP estimates could contribute in 2015, one of them is already included in the depth chart as next year’s starting first baseman, and the most realistic role for the other (Mike Yastrzemski) is as a 4th outfielder (Alvarez is listed as a “Factor on the Farm”).

The good news is that the current 2016 free agent market relative to the Orioles needs isn’t barren.  This is especially true in the outfield, where Yoenis Cespedes, Dexter Fowler, Alex Gordon*, Jason Heyward, Austin Jackson, Denard Span, and JustinUpton are all scheduled to hit free agency.  As for pitching, there will be a lot of high end starters available on the market next year, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Baltimore stay out of that market, considering they’ll still have 4 or 5 major league starters, while also being fairly deep in back end of the rotation options such as Mike Wright, Zach Davies, Tyler Wilson, and Tim Berry.

*Gordon has a player option that he is expected to decline

Obviously a lot can happen in a year, both on the major league team and in the minor league system.  There’s a REALLY good chance that much of what I’ve written here won’t even be relevant after the 2015 trade deadline.  However, no matter what happens in 2015, with 11 players scheduled to become free agents and 11 more potentially filing for arbitration, the Orioles should be very busy over the next year or so, which is a stark contrast from what fans saw over this past offseason.  Fortunately, they should have plenty of financial muscle to flex if needed.


Philip said...

If Alvarez is indeed not MLB caliber, it would indicate that the international scouting department warrants a stern talking-to, because outside Chen and M Gonzo, they've all been flops(the jury may still be out on Wada, but he's a Cub regardless)
Any idea why the team is only two players to the good in an international market seething with good players?

Matt Kremnitzer said...

The Orioles seem to prefer to shop on the periphery of the international market. Sometimes that's good; since they aren't going after expensive players, they can occasionally hit a home run, like with the players you mentioned. I assume if they got the OK to spend more money, they would do so. Maybe they figure it's too risky. But no, I don't know why.

Anonymous said...

Yeah...the international team only needs a stern talking to for Korea. Beyond that, they have next to no money to spend.

W. Blake Gray said...

You can't criticize the O's international scouting department in a vacuum. What percentage of signings are successful for other teams?

Chen and Gonzalez -- and don't forget Uehara -- make up for a lot of mistakes. I'd like to know how other teams measure up.

GoatworkS said...

Koji wasnt good until he went to boston. But i see your point. At least we got CD and Hunter out of it tho

Anonymous said...

Koji was very good for us as a reliever. That's why we were able to flip him into Davis and Hunter.

Anonymous said...

Orioles spend less than every other team year in and year out on international signings. It is no wonder they don't have the same power arms others do in the low minors and how the teams Latino constituents are free agents other than Schoop.