24 February 2016

Orioles Continue To Raid The Bakery At Closing Time: Dexter Fowler

While Yovani Gallardo's deal is up in the air over an issue found with his shoulder, Dexter Fowler soldiered on and was undeterred into tentatively agreeing to contract terms.  Fowler is rumored to have agreed to a three year deal at 33 MM.  The BORAS model I developed predicted a three year deal at 36.3 MM.  A miss of 1.1 MM a year is pretty decent for a model and, perhaps, indicates that the discount the Orioles got for Fowler was not all that grand and likely a net loss after including the lost draft pick at the end of the first round.  I think a more fair deal would have been a 2/22 deal with a 1/11 option, but at some point this might well be splitting hairs.

As we suggested back in November, the Orioles waited for the market to settle and are now trying to fill every hole on the roster they can.  This is similar to what happened a couple years ago.  Back in the winter of '14, the Orioles blew their first round pick on Ubaldo Jimenez and then slashed their second round pick on Nelson Cruz.  The former has been forgettable and the latter made their first place finish obscenely in front as opposed to comfortably in front.  Gallardo may well be 2016's Jimenez who might be paired with a 2016 Cruz in Dexter Fowler or the other way around.  Fowler has a number of question marks associated with him similarly to how Cruz had his own issues.  Both are/were capable of big things and both had/have a risk of completely crapping out.

The comp model is not particularly excited about Fowler.  His late 20s look most similar to these ten outfielders: Brady Anderson, Brian McRae, David Dejesus, Marvin Benard, Shane Victorino, Mark Kotsay, David Murphy, Fred Lewis, Randy Winn, and Shannon Stewart.  As a group, these players remained remarkably healthy and logged a great number of innings from age 30 to 32.  McRae, Benard, and Lewis are the only ones who completely crapped out.  A 70% three year retention number is a great figure for players in their early 30s.


The above table was constructed based on Fowler being a right fielder and performing as a -5 run defender.  A general rule of thumb is that a player gains ten runs when shifting from a center field position to a corner position.  However, center fielders with below average arms are general thought to only gain five runs with a shift to right field.  As such, a general expectation of Fowler would have him as a -10 run CF, -5 run RF, and 0 run LF.  As a left fielder, he looks like a decent signing, but nothing special and certainly one a club would hate to lose a draft pick.  As a right fielder, he looks like a poor player to look in long term.  That said, if Hyun-Soo Kim is starting, you would want Fowler in right as opposed to Kim regardless of what WAR says about Fowler individually.

Again, there are reasons why some players are the last to sign.  Fowler is a below average hitter from the left side for an outfielder and is mostly a below average defensive outfielder.  Adding to the confusion over his value is that he has logged minimal innings from a corner outfield position (95 innings in Rookie and Fall League before Fowler turned 21 in addition to one major league inning in 2008).  With that in mind, he certainly feels better than Nolan Reimold and whoever, but maybe only 0.5 wins better.  To sober up that thought, PECOTA pegs Reimold and Fowler as equal value in Right Field when given the same playing time.

It all seems highly questionable because the club appears to be moving the needle slightly while dedicating a high level of resources for that small incremental change.  In fact, if both Gallardo and Fowler signings are finalized, the Orioles will be the biggest spenders of this past off season.  As it stands, a Gallardo addition roughly moves the club from a 12% to 15% shot of getting into the play-in game (first place is about 1%).  Fowler moves the club up into the 17% range with maybe 2 to 3% shot at first. Vegas odds have a similar take with the Orioles enjoying 50 to 1 odds.  Maybe the Orioles have a different way of figuring out how good of a club they are.


Roger said...

They still gain at least 0.5 WAR from eliminating Paredes at DH, too. There is a "team" benefit as well as an individual benefit.

Jon Shepherd said...

My comment is with respect to my depth chart, so Paredes was already considered. Remember my entire post on that where I questioned that?

Roger said...

One thing that comes to me though is I have a gut feeling the O's are preparing for a full platoon in LF with Kim and Reimold. Hedging their bets on Kim. If they have a full time RF then they won't need Reimold out there. And a more or less full time DH in Trumbo (who is only on a one year contract so Fowler also helps for next year when Trumbo and likely Wieters are gone). There may be some actual long term thinking here.

The Gallardo medical is a bitch, though. I do have to admit that the O's have usually been right about that stuff and you guys were all talking about his K rate being down.

Unknown said...

My first post here, I have read every article though. Good job on the Fowler signing. It's time to go "all-in" for this Orioles team. Can't afford Manny long term, and the other key pieces are aging. Why not go for it this year? What am I missing thinking that a high OBP guy who is a decent CF going to right is a bad thing?

Unknown said...

I might be wrong, and Jon you certainly understand the metrics more than I do, but for so long we have been bemoaning the lack of OBP. And now a relatively cheap answer has fallen in our lap. Has to be a good signing, especially when Angelos is usually so cheap.

Jon Shepherd said...

OBP is good and usually it is pretty expensive. Thst is one reason why the Orioles have not been able to acquire many of them in the past. Additionally, the Orioles appeared to have focused on less expensive ways to score runs like home runs or prevent them like defense. A lack of OBP does not immediately mean the price is OK at all costs. I personally would have gone in a different direction because I think an organization that ignores the international market needs greatly high end draft selections to keep the franchise chugging along. The Orioles have different priorities and value MLB roster veteran deals than taking chances on breakout players. It is all rather arguable. I do not think anyone is necessarily completely right or wrong.

Jon Shepherd said...

I think going all in would have meant going after better players like Kazmir or being creative with Zobrist. Spending a lot of money alone may mean you monetarily go all in but one needs to respect the current talent level and where all that money puts you. I think they paid a whole lot to be slightly better than they were last year. In a very simple way...this year is about adding Fowler and Trumbo and losing Chen. Spending 50 MM or so to do that seems like minimal gain at a very high price.

Unknown said...

"A little more money could have been persuasive enough."

Apparently not for Dexter Fowler.