25 February 2016

Orioles Should Have Assembled A Comparable Roster And Kept Their Draft Picks

Now that they've signed Dexter Fowler and reached a modified agreement with Yovani Gallardo, the Orioles seem like they're done spending. They are clearly better than they were a few weeks ago. And if that's all you want to focus on, that's all right.

So here are the notable moves from this offseason:

- Claimed Vance Worley off waivers from the Pirates (avoided arbitration, $2.6 million).
- Extended the qualifying offer to Matt Wieters ($15.8 million), who accepted.
- Signed Hyun Soo Kim to two-year, $7 million contract.
- Re-signed Darren O'Day (four years, $31 million; $1 million deferred annually).
- Traded Steve Clevenger to the Mariners for Mark Trumbo (and C.J. Riefenhauser). Trumbo avoided arbitration and will make $9.2 million.
- Re-signed Chris Davis for seven years and $161 million ($42 million deferred, with MLB calculating the deal's present-day value at around $147 million).
- Traded Jean Cosme to the Padres for Odrisamer Despaigne.
- Signed Dexter Fowler (three years, $33 million).
- Signed Yovani Gallardo (two years, $20 million, with $13 million club option and $2 million buyout, per Roch Kubatko).

That's a lot of spending! I've already come to terms with the Davis deal, the largest of the bunch by far. In all likelihood, a contract of anywhere near $100 million (or above) was going to be for Davis and no one else.

So the bulk of the rest of the free agent money went to, in order: Fowler, O'Day, Gallardo, Wieters, Trumbo, Kim, and Worley. Just working with rough numbers, that's about $120 million. (And that's also not factoring in the loss of the two draft picks (Nos. 14 and 29; a value of anywhere from $25-$30 million) for signing Gallardo and Fowler.)

So what could the O's have done differently with that money? Here at the Depot, we occasionally get some flak for being too negative. I've had my moments this offseason, especially when the Davis deal was first announced. But I have liked some of the O's moves: adding Kim, trading for Trumbo, and offering the QO to Wieters. Kim is a cheap upside play; Trumbo is a one-year flier and shores things up at designated hitter; and the Wieters gamble made sense. So let's keep all of them (about $32 million).

I would have entertained non-tendering or trading Miguel Gonzalez and Brian Matusz, or even -- gasp, trading Zach Britton -- but keeping all three is at least reasonable enough. With Britton on board and a handful of solid relievers, the Orioles could have let O'Day walk and used that money elsewhere. I was surprised the O's kept O'Day, but was a little more mixed on that deal than the ones above. I also would have avoided Fowler and Gallardo since they are attached to draft pick compensation. The Worley addition doesn't move the needle much, so let's undo that deal as well. Without O'Day, Gallardo, Fowler, and Worley, that leaves about $87 million, give or take, to play with.

The first move would have been to sign Scott Kazmir. The Dodgers signed Kazmir for three years and $48 million, with an opt-out after the first year. And yes, obviously the Orioles are not huge fans of handing out opt-out clauses. But would you rather offer an opt-out and lose a player after one year, or sacrifice a draft pick? Clearly the O's prefer to go the qualifying offer route, which gives them leverage, but Kazmir would have been a better fit for the 2016 squad, even if he departed after one year. The O's likely would have had to offer a bit more upfront money and more money overall; maybe something in the $51-$54 million range ($12 or $13 million in the first year) gets the deal done.

With that extra $33+ million, I would have gone after Denard Span. Maybe that wouldn't have been enough to pry him from the Giants, and maybe he would not have passed the O's demanding physical process (that could also have been a concern for Kazmir). Span also wanted the chance to play center field, and that opportunity would not have been available in Baltimore. A little more money could have been persuasive enough.

Span is a couple years older and more injury-prone than Fowler. But they are similar hitters (106 career wRC+ for Span; 107 wRC+ for Fowler). Span is also the superior defender, and he has experience in both left and right field (and played both well).

(For what it's worth, a pairing of Ben Zobrist and J.A. Happ or Doug Fister or Mat Latos would also have been a decent option, although Zobrist's apparent preference to play second base would have torpedoed that strategy. Jon also noted a possible Happ signing with a platoon of Nori Aoki and Chris Young. The O's likely could have kept O'Day in that situation as well. Still, the Davis contract limits a lot of potential, intriguing options.)

I'll admit that hindsight is 20/20, so going back after the fact isn't entirely fair. And maybe the money doesn't completely line up. But it's close (and that's without going back and doing things differently with an entire offseason blueprint). I suspect lots of fans would take O'Day, Gallardo, Fowler, and Worley over Kazmir and Span. It's possible that group performs better this year and beyond. But signing Kazmir and Span would have enabled the O's to keep their two highest picks in the upcoming draft.

Each draft selection is a lottery ticket and a chance to grab a talented player. Drafting players is difficult, and every additional pick helps. The O's have been bad at both drafting and player development, but punting on two top 30 draft picks does not help.

The Orioles could have opted for the best of both worlds -- putting together a solid and improved team while not harming their chances of improving the farm system. Instead, they chose the 2014 route of targeting QO players. By itself, that is not a bad strategy at all. But the O's could have assembled a similar or better team without the need to sacrifice draft picks. All it would have required is some flexibility.


It may seem like complaining to have any issue with an offseason in which the O's handed out so much money. Overall, they have improved their chances, though maybe not to the extent many fans would like to believe. Even with Gallardo and Fowler on board, the O's aren't projected to be that much better. Thankfully, sometimes things don't go according to plan. The scary thing is what happens if they do.


Roger said...

I have been a shameless rooter for Kazmir as I think he was the absolute best fit of all the FA out there. In retrospect, I thought that the opt out was the issue but Possibly both he and span feared the physical. I'm not sure Span would have passed. By waiting until Feb, the Orioles gain leverage. They never could have re-negotiated a deal with Kazmir, he'd have walked. I'm not sure Span is that much better than Fowler. Currently at Fangraphs, he's not being given any credit for moving from CF to RF. The Orioles need a solid leadoff and Fowler is as good a Span in that respect. And Fowler is definitely more durable and younger.

You may also recall that I was the one interested in moving Miguel (and Matusz). That is still a possibility. Why not trade some back-end players like Miguel, Matusz, Paredes, McFarland, or even Walker for draft picks or maybe international compensation. Assuming any or all put up decent Spring numbers, the possibilities remain. Would the offseason look better if we got another 2nd and 3rd round pick for Miguel and/or Matusz?

Matt Kremnitzer said...

There were many people interested in trading or non-tendering Gonzalez, and probably more for Matusz. Giving up on Gonzalez would have left another rotation spot to fill, and that's something the O's weren't comfortable doing.

I also think you're overestimating your group's trade value. Gonzalez's injury history limits his trade value, and Matusz doesn't have much because of his salary. Paredes could be DFA'd; McFarland fills out a bullpen. If the O's are in contention, maybe they dangle some type of package including Walker, Mancini, Wright, Wilson, etc. But they don't seem to have much trade value right now.

Matt Perez said...

Span and Fowler are not comparable hitters.

Span is the equivalent of Miguel Gonzalez. One of his strongest abilities is crushing pitches out of the strike zone. He does significantly better hitting pitches that are balls rather than strikes.

If this continues, then his excellent plate discipline, combined with this ability ensures that he'll be an above average bat. But it's preposterous that it will continue. Well, probably. He has good speed and doesn't hit for much power. It would make sense that his best plan is to hit a ball lightly and try to get to first before a throw. But he shouldn't have a better wOBA against pitches outside of the strike zone then in the strike zone. He's been insanely lucky these past few years.

When it stops, he'll be similar but slightly worse than Nori Aoki. He'll have a slightly better hit tool while having very good but not elite plate discipline. If his speed drops a bit, I'm convinced that his career will be over. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if Aoki was still in the league when he is 40.

In any event, 3 and $31M is a huge overpay. A guy with his tools typically gets 2 and $10M.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

OK, that's breaking it down more than I did. In terms of overall production and what they've produced, they are similar.

Justin said...

You guys don't know what it would have cost to get Kazmir to sign in Baltimore. If his camp's whole goal was to get back into FA next year, why come to a homer-dome and bang your head against a division with 3 of the top 4 AL teams in runs scored last year. Defeats the whole purpose. $5 million more dollars of the life of a deal wouldn't cut it, if I'm his agent. And if I have to give up the 1st year opt-out, you can add another premium onto that.

So I would guess (as I too can speculate without any knowledge of the actual negotiations), that Kazmir would have insisted on a totally different structure to come to Baltimore...One with more security and more years. I'm guessing he would want something much closer to the Chen deal to come to Baltimore.

So let's say its 4 for $65. Even using your assumption that the draft pick is worth $30 mil, the Gallardo deal is cheaper, shorter, and the team has much more control.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Justin, you're speculating just as much as we are. That's part of the fun. So yeah, you might be right. If only those with "any knowledge of the actual negotiations" were allowed to say anything, being a fan might be kind of boring.

Anonymous said...

Fowler Signs With Cubs

Roger said...

Matt Perez, are you saying Span is better or worse than Fowler as a bat?

Roger said...

Matt K, I wasn't suggesting getting a major league player or even a hot prospect - just some draft picks in return. DFA'd players are usually traded for cash or draft picks (very low picks, granted). A true major league pitcher like Miguel to a team that needs pitching has to be worth a draft pick or two. Just need to figure out which round(s). So someone tell me...... which rounds is Miguel worth? Matusz? Walker?

Matt Perez said...

IMO, Fowler is better than Span.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Roger, teams can only trade competitive balance picks. And it seems like the Orioles are more interested in trading those away than acquiring them.

Unknown said...

Dexter Fowler's spurning of the Orioles apparently more-lucrative offer to sign with the Cubs illustrates the challenges - futility? - of these exercises. From what we know now, for instance, I think there was no chance Ben Zobrist would sign with the Orioles. I don't know if there were any chance Scott Kazmir would have signed with the Orioles.

I also fear that if the Orioles continue to try to play hardball in negotiations, they're going to have a harder and harder time attracting and keeping players.

Roger said...

Austin Jackson and Jay Bruce left on the market...... Based upon the last Bruce rumor info, Bruce might be available for Matusz alone or maybe Walker alone.

Jon Shepherd said...

Matusz makes no sense for Reds. Why would they do that?

Unknown said...

i agree with the original post

keep the draft picks - let those guys walk.

sign - Span, Para & Kim -for OF

Fister, Kazmir, Rich Hill, O'Day, Oh (Stl),

other non qualifying offer guys

Roger said...

Jon, if not Matusz than there should be someone equally useless that the O's could trade for Bruce. The Reds can't find any takers and are getting pretty desperate for some return. The Braves got Touki just for taking Bronson Arroyo's contract cost and only gave up a 25th man on the roster. Maybe the O's could give the Reds Walker and get Bruce and prospect to boot.

Roger said...

Why couldn't the O's make a deal with the Cubs for Coughlin???

Anonymous said...

DD is willing to give up the picks because he already has two international players waiting in the wings to compensate for the loss. Also, DD's contract ends in 2017, so his push is now and not 3 to 5 years down the road. Both free agents give the O's a legitimate shot at a World Series birth.

Jon Shepherd said...

Because they thought they were close to a deal with Fowler?

Jon Shepherd said...

They certainly are willing to take less but if you need three teams to complete a deal...you are not desperate.

Jon Shepherd said...

Contract ends after 2018 season. But yes as we have said...draft picks should have minimal value to front office but more value to fans of the team.

Pip said...

Jon, can you explain why the team has any interest in Jay Bruce?
He's terrible in all the ways the Orioles need to get better. He seems to offer nothing at all that the Orioles need, and he offers nothing they don't already have for much less money.
What am I missing?

Jon Shepherd said...

My guess is that he can fake RF relatively well and use to be good. Maybe the Orioles have a sliver of hope that they can get him to pull line drives again. I doubt they can, but maybe they think they have something figured out. If he can hit 30 home runs with a 270 average...he will do enough well to help the club out. I do not think he can do that though.

Anonymous said...

Kept their draft picks so they could get another Billy Rowell? Brandon Snyder, Adam Loewen, Matusz? You musy be joking!!!

Jon Shepherd said...

Or Manny Machado or Matt Wieters.

I wonder how many of our anonymous commenters are Eeyore.

vilnius b. said...

And to that list you can add Schoop and Zach Britton. Draft picks are valuable, multiple draft picks are even more valuable. Your probability of picking a player that will become a major league asset increases with the number of picks you make.

Of course, it means little if you don't have player development. There have been reports (Baltimore Sun) that a fair number of pitchers in our system are not pleased with Rick Peterson's rigid insistence on having all pitchers use exactly the same mechanics. One wonders what might have happened to Sale or Cueto, just to name a few, if Peterson had tinkered with their mechanics. Did Duquette make a mistake in hiring him?

Anonymous said...

Weiters has been a bust so far, want me to mention more failures? There have been so many, we have lost count I knew a guy named John Shepherd and he looked just like Sponge Bob Square pants! You gotta admit, the Orioles drafting has been the worst in MLB over the last 30 years!

Jon Shepherd said...

How is a player with 14.6 bWAR over 7 years a bust? That is ridiculous.

Roger said...

Jon, don't let the trolls get to you.