26 October 2016

Blueprint For The 2017 Orioles (Option 2): Meet The New Boss...

Positional Needs & Wants

The following players are set to be free agents after spending 2016 with the club:
  • C Matt Wieters
  • 1B/RF/DH Mark Trumbo
  • 1B/DH Pedro Alvarez
  • LF Nolan Reimold
There aren't any literal holes in the rotation; the Orioles claim to have 5 starting pitchers. I don't agree with them, so I'd like to see the team make an effort to bring on another starting pitcher and relegate at least Jimenez to the bullpen. Still, the actual roster holes need to be filled before any new pitchers can be brought in.


Based on MLB Trade Rumors' arbitration estimates, the Orioles will be spending quite a bit next year already. With an available budget of $160 million, there's not much left over for filling the holes.


Here's the rub with the Orioles: they're good enough to feel like they're just a piece away when really, they're one or two really expensive pieces away. Staying within a tight budget given the team's current commitments means that the rotation can't be meaningfully upgraded while also filling the hole in right field. While I want to upgrade the rotation through free agency, I probably won't be able to. I'll have to count on Gausman and Bundy to continue to progress as professional starters.

 I'm also incredibly risk averse and projecting contracts is not my strong suit so other Depot writers and you, the reader, might think I'm foolishly giving up the chance to earn two draft picks here. That's fine:

Like last year, I'm against extending a qualifying offer to Matt Wieters. He's definitely not worth the $17M that would be associated with the QO, and unless he is really looking for a long-term deal, he'd take the QO and the Orioles would end up with an expensive catcher who is no better than the other free agent options.

I'm not going to offer a qualifying offer to Mark Trumbo either because he might actually take it. That ice was broken last year by Colby Rasmus and Matt Wieters and although Trumbo's season-long numbers look great, he was noticeably worse overall in the second half. Sure, his WRC+ was over 100 in every month of the year, but just barely in July and September. I'm not willing to bank on Trumbo to put another two-or-more win season together while being strictly a power hitter and a liability in the outfield, which means I'm not willing to risk paying him like a two-or-more win player.

I'll also get rid of TJ McFarland and Vance Worley. Their skills are easily replaced by other guys on the roster and frankly the Orioles already have too many 6th starter/LRP types anyway. I'd rather let Ubaldo and Miley fight for the last spot in the rotation. That also saves us about $4 million.

I'd like to see the Orioles acquire Jay Bruce to play right field. He's coming off of a year in which he played well enough to be seen as the Mets' missing piece before falling apart at the end of the season. He had two bad years prior to that, but his early- and mid-20s hinted at a lot of potential. Even if Bruce puts together a pretty average season worth 1 win, that makes him better than both Joey Rickard and empty space, and he's only going to cost the team $7.2M on a 1-year deal, per the BORAS model.

Catcher is a tough position to fill, because many of the impending free agents are older and haven;t caught a full season. The Orioles have Caleb Joseph, who I thought might be the man to fill Wieters' spot as recently as last year, but I think he's better off used as a backup. However, I'd prefer to go cheap here. I don't need a lot of power from this position. A healthy, reliable backstop is fine. With that in mind, I'm going to pass on the top free agents and go with the less expensive Hank Conger on a 1 year, $4 million deal. He's never played more than 100 games in a season (for performance reasons, not injury), but he's under 30 and has multiple season with an OPS over .700. If, like I did, you thought at one time that Caleb Joseph could be the organization's future simply because he was cheap and serviceable, then Hank Conger isn't a stretch. He's an upgrade from Joseph and the two can split time to keep them both healthy. But most important, Conger is a cheap warm body that can play behind the plate. The organization needs to go cheap somewhere if we're going to see meaningul improvement anywhere, so I'm punting on a position that most organizations punt on anyway.

Finally, we're looking for a DH, and preferably one that can play a little first base if necessary. The BORAS model used by Camden Depot suggested 3 years at an AAV of $13 million for Steve Pearce, which feels a expensive. Pearce hasn't made more than $5 million in any single season, so I'm going to use that as my high estimate for his AAV and offer him a 2 year, $10 million deal. Pearce also offers some flexibility in the outfield and can play left field whenever Buck feels like excluding Kim for no apparent reason.

Pearce hits lefties and righties pretty well, but is noticeably better against lefties than righties, which makes him ideal for a platoon with a left-handed masher. True to Orioles' fashion, I expect the team to go with a decent option that they've seen in the clubhouse before. With that in mind, I'll recommend bringing back Pedro Alvarez for about 1 year and $5 million. This is again below the BORAS projection of 1/$8M for Alvarez, but he signed for 1/$5.75 last year and didn't do anything to earn himself a major raise.

Major Moves

  • Let Matt Wieters and Mark Trumbo walk
  • Signed Jay Bruce, RF for 1/$7.2M
  • Signed Steve Pearce, DH/UT for 1/$5M
  • Signed Pedro Alvarez, DH/1B for 1/$5.75M
  • Signed Hank Conger, C for 1/$4M


If you're keeping score or adding salaries at home, I went a little over the $160 million budget ($5 million to be exact, but in the spirit of being a fan: it's not my money, so spend away!). I'm sure a few of these contract projections are high; Pearce and Conger will probably cost less than $5M and $4M respectively, so there will be ways to get this roster to $160M.

Exciting, isn't it? This roster looks pretty much identical to the 2016 squad, except Jay Bruce is the new reclamation project in right field. The Orioles will always go as far as their stars take them, and they've got too much money committed to those stars to give them much help in the field or in the lineup. The only way this team competes for a memorable postseason experience is if Gausman and Bundy make major leaps forward.


Matt P said...

Rumor has it (I'm pretty sure the Mets GM said outright) that the Mets will exercise their team option for Bruce for 2017. He probably shouldn't be included in these blueprints and will get you under $160M.

I think Conger is the right idea, although I expect the Os to go with someone that makes minimal money and comes out of right field. I'm thinking a AAAA player.

Jon Shepherd said...

Joey Rickard would come out of right field.

Jon Shepherd said...

I think I am becoming more favorable this year to not offer a QO. In fact, I agree with you (so far). I am not as aggressive in not offering them as to not offer one to Trumbo. I, like you, think he is not worth that money, but I think with his ups and downs he should grab something out there and someone might actually use him properly at first base. If the Orioles had an opening at first, I would be looking in his direction and hoping that other clubs overlook him. Oh well, the club locked down an aging average 1B instead.

Conger looks good at catcher. He is a second tier Matt Wieters, strangely a switch hitter and a defensive profile that once looked much better than it does now. I would be fine with him as a solution behind the plate though I am looking down to Norfolk, wishing.

Bruce at 1/7 or so sounds like a great reclamation project. As Matt P noted, there are strong rumblings that Bruce's option will be picked up. At the time of the trade, it was considered a foregone conclusion that he was traded for as a potential backup solution if Cespedes jumped ship. That might well still be true. The Mets could pick up the option and then dump him later in a thin FA market if they secure Cespedes. I still wonder if Cespedes will test the market. He has a lot of money coming at him already but may want a much longer deal. Plus, the Yanks sound interested.

I think Steve Pearce is a major sleeper and like to see him in your blueprint. I do think outfield play has to be considered gravy and there is concern he will start slow because of the surgery impeding his offseason workout regime. Added to that, he has often in the past ignored his doctors and overworked himself. In other words, there is risk there. However, there is considerable upside. That said, I have a hard time seeing where he and Alvarez both fit in if his arm is still lame.

Alvarez? He does have a nice platoon bat, but I think he will take an option early to be a full time player. I am also concerned that with him, Pearce, Davis, and maybe Mancini on the roster the club is overloading on guys who play or really wish they could play first base.

In the end, I think we have some contentions in your blueprint and where I currently think I am. Although I think those concerns boil down to not QOing Trumbo and reupping Alvarez. That actually puts you on similar footing as Kremnitzer who wanted to QO both Wieters and Trumbo and signing Napoli. Not major disagreements, but some things I need to ponder.

Unknown said...

Shoot, I hadn't heard that, Matt. I only saw Bruce listed as a FA and in the BORAS numbers. I guess I lose this year's blueprint contest.

Anonymous said...

Is there any possibility that the Orioles would eat some of Davis' contract and ship him off to another team in order to open up 1B for Trumbo now and possibly Mancini later?
Colorado could use a good fielding 1B with power. And Chris Davis should do well at Coors Field since pitchers rely mainly on fastballs when pitching there and generally eschew using breaking balls.
I don't know about his numbers last year, but I think I read on FG that in 2015 Chris swung and missed breaking balls at a ~45% clip. And he'd have a bigger field to hit in, so any shifts used against him should be less less of a problem. And I'd think that since much of the remaining money owed him is deferred the Rocs wouldn't be so put off by the contract. But he is a favorite of Angelos, so that's one big obstacle.
Btw: I love the idea of Conger splitting duties with Joseph.

Matt P said...

Patrick - If it makes you feel better, I found out about the Mets plans only after I took the wrong side on a discussion with Jon about it.

Anon - There's no chance that the Os are dumping Davis after one year where he was injured and unlucky. Mancini makes sense as an extremely attractive Plan B in case of some player being either ineffective or getting hurt. You need good reserves in the minors.