31 October 2016

Looking Back At My 2016 Blueprint: Some Good Chicken Salad

Here at Camden Depot, we’re doing our off-season blueprints. I think it’s only fair for me to take a look at what I suggested last year and see whether it panned out.

Qualifying Offers:

I suggested that the Orioles offer qualifying offers to Chris Davis and Wei-Yei Chen. I also stated that I would probably offer Wieters a qualifying offer, but expect that the Orioles wouldn’t. Then again, I also didn’t expect the Orioles payroll to skyrocket.

These were probably the right decisions. Chris Davis and Wei-Yin Chen were easily able to find lucrative contracts despite being offered a qualifying offer. To my surprise, Matt Wieters was not only offered a qualifying offer but accepted it. Wieters didn’t have a particularly good year with only a .320 wOBA and 1.7 fWAR, but the other Orioles catchers were terrible as Pena had a .244 wOBA and Joseph has a .192 wOBA. Without Wieters, the Orioles certainly wouldn't have made the playoffs so sometimes bad decisions work out.

Non Tenders:

I recommended tendering Matusz and Reimold contracts, but non-tendering Miguel Gonzalez. In retrospect, this worked out poorly. I was correct in suggesting that the Orioles non-tender Gonzalez. Instead, the Orioles waited to non-tender him until they were on the hook for some of his contract and thereby wasted a million dollars. Gonzalez did have a strong season for the White Sox, primarily due to lowering his home run rate at home. I don’t think he would have been successful in Camden Yards.
Matusz and Reimold were both unsuccessful in Baltimore. The Orioles needed to trade their competitive balance pick to get rid of Matusz while Reimold put together a .222/.300/.365 season worth -.4 fWAR. In retrospect, the Orioles would have been better off without either of these players.

Free Agents:

Mat Latos for 1 year and $9 million: Bust.

This was one of my biggest busts in the blueprint. I saw something in Latos and thought that he might be able to bounce back. However, the market was decidedly cool on Latos and he only received a one year $3 million dollar deal, suggesting that his baggage hurt him. After 60 innings with the White Sox, Latos was cut. The only saving grace for this pick is that the Orioles probably wouldn’t have signed him due to his baggage.

J.A Happ for 3 years and $36 million: Hit

As I projected, Happ received a 3 year and $36 million dollar deal from the Blue Jays. Happ continued to make me look good by putting together a 20-4 season with a 3.18 ERA. However, his FIP wasn’t as impressive at 3.96 in part due to a mediocre strikeout rate. Happ showed some regression from his impressive 2015 with the Pirates. Against right handed pitching, his fastball is still dominant, but he lacked a quality second pitch to go with it. Against lefties, he struggled to throw his secondary pitches into the strike zone. Going forward, I think it’s safe to say that Happ had a lucky 2016 but should be seen as a likely #3 starter for 2017 and 2018. For 3 years and $36 million, that’s a huge hit.

Darren O’Day for 4 years and $32 million: Unclear

I was reasonably close when projecting how much O’Day would receive. I said 4 and $32 million with some deferred money while he actually got 4 and $31 million with some deferred money. Unfortunately, due to injuries, O’Day only threw 30 innings and had home run issues. O’Day was definitely disappointing in 2016 but there’s reasonable hope that he can bounce back in 2017 and be the setup man that the Orioles need.

Byung Ho Park for 4 yrs and $20 million with an $8 million posting fee:  Bust

Park had a terrible season where he was completely unproductive in the majors and was ultimately sent to the minors. He was one of my two biggest busts. However, unlike the Latos pick, I get a mulligan on this pick because the Twins topped my posting fee by over $4 million. I had no interest in Park for a posting fee of $12.8 million. This is another case where sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Matt Joyce for 1 year and $2.5 million: Hit.

Matt Joyce had a strong year for the Pirates as a platoon player with a .242/.403/.463 line and 1.3 fWAR. Given that Joyce signed a minor league contract, he should have been happy to sign with the Orioles for a major league contract.

Mark Reynolds for 1 year and $2 million: Hit

Mark Reynolds had a decent year for the Rockies with a .282/.356/.450 line good for about .1 fWAR. This is pretty much what I was hoping from him – basic competence at the DH position. Realistically, there’s no way he would have taken this offer over what the Rockies offered him.

All in all, this team would have been probably better than what the 2016 Orioles fielded. It seems likely that Angelos made the decision to sign Davis. Fortunately, this team would have enough cash to afford him. Likewise, this scenario didn’t allow me the opportunity to make any trades, so it’s only fair that I have Trumbo added to this squad. As such, the offense and relief pitching would have been reasonably similar to what the Orioles actually fielded. But my rotation would be far better. I felt the Os should sign Happ and Latos instead of using Gallardo and Wright, and this was easily a victory for me. In addition, this club would have cost $139 million on opening day compared to the $148 million that Cot’s said that the Orioles payroll actually was on opening day. That means I’d have an extra $9 million to spend, and as it happened, I did suggest two players that the Orioles consider signing late in the offseason.

Ian Desmond: 1 year and $8 million: Hit

I suggested that the Orioles should have been in on Ian Desmond at 1/$8 because he could either be a right fielder or a shortstop if Hardy got hurt. I didn’t think Desmond would be a strong offensive player and he ended up with a wRC+ of 106 or slightly above average. However, Desmond was excellent on the basepaths and showed competence in center field. Having Desmond on the team would have given the Orioles above average defense in right field instead of being forced to rely on Trumbo and his poor defense with decent offensive production. As it turns out, Desmond would have fit perfectly in the Orioles remaining budget under my blueprint and would have fit in beautifully in right field. Oh well.

David Freese: 1 year and $3 million: Hit

I also said the Orioles would regret not signing David Freese. Freese had a good year with a .270/.352/.412 line while matching his wRC+ of 110 as he did in 2015 and being worth 1.9 fWAR. For $3 million, such production would have been a steal. I’m not sure the Os could have fit both Freese and Desmond on the club, but either one would have been a huge boost to the Orioles playoff chances.

All in all, if the Orioles followed my blueprint, they would have had a slightly upgraded offense. The Orioles wouldn’t have picked up Kim, Rickard or Alvarez, but they would have added Joyce and Desmond. The offense would have been slightly better and the outfield defense would have been much improved. Adding Happ to the rotation would have been a huge upgrade for both 2016 and the future instead of Gallardo. Happ and Desmond would have been huge hits while Latos would have been the biggest bust.

If nothing else, this blueprint would have ensured that the Blue Jays missed the playoffs. But it’s likely that the Orioles would have at minimum taken the first wild card spot and likely would have just edged out the Red Sox for the division. If you ask me, that would have been a pretty good result and I’d say some pretty good chicken salad.

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