30 November 2016

Orioles Miss Out On Potential Bargain In Jon Jay

It would be stunning if the Orioles made a major move this offseason. Still, they have holes to fill at outfielder, catcher, and possibly designated hitter. There could be other positions to add -- backup infielder, relief pitcher, maybe even starter -- depending on which non-tender candidates (Vance Worley, Ryan Flaherty, T.J. McFarland) and starting pitchers the Orioles keep. 

Two areas where the Orioles would like to improve are outfield defense and on-base percentage. One possible free agent fit who checks those two boxes, Jon Jay, was just scooped up by the Cubs. Jay signed a one-year, $8 million contract.

Let's unpack a few things here. First, it's hard to ignore the parallel with Dexter Fowler's re-signing last year. Fowler spurned the Orioles' contract offer and returned to the Cubs on a one-year deal for similar money. He also apparently preferred to play center field instead of a corner spot. Jay is likely to spend a large chunk of his time in center field for the Cubs, and perhaps he's looking to do what Fowler just did: post strong numbers on a winning team in an effort to cash in the following season. 

Second, the Orioles were not clearly interested in Jay, though Roch Kubatko mentioned Jay as having been a "more realistic target" this morning. Which, well, of course. Jay has a career on-base percentage of .352, hits from the left side but is not a platoon bat (108 wRC+ vs. RHP and 100 wRC+ vs. LHP), and has the ability to play well enough in center field (1.9 UZR/150, -5 DRS) but can also play adequate defense in a corner outfield spot. His arm doesn't play as well in right field, but he still covers a lot of ground. 

Plus, Jay was not going to command huge money. Jon Shepherd's BORAS model projected Jay to earn a deal around two years and $20 million, so it's hard not to be impressed with what the Cubs were able to do. Jay isn't a superstar; you don't sign superstars for one year and $8 million. But you do get someone who has the ability to post a two- or three-win season, if things break right. Replicating Fowler's 2016 season is almost certainly a pipe dream, but there's no risk here. 

Maybe the Orioles never had a chance. Jay may have preferred the chance to play center field over anything else, and as much as some fans clamor for it, Adam Jones is not moving to a corner outfield spot yet. Jay surely received a couple of multiyear offers, but maybe they weren't to his liking. And hey, playing for the Cubs should be a lot of fun. They just won something called the World Series, which was kind of a big deal.

Regardless, there aren't a whole lot of worthwhile outfield upgrades out there that won't break the bank. Some options include Michael Saunders, Brandon Moss, Angel Pagan, Rajai Davis, Franklin Gutierrez, Matt Joyce, Michael Bourn, Carlos Gomez, Austin Jackson, and Peter Bourjos, but many of them are not capable of playing full time or don't present real defensive upgrades (though lots of players are better in right field than Mark Trumbo). Regardless, the O's may have missed a chance by not being more aggressive in their pursuit of Jay.


Anonymous said...

Dumpster Dan, sitting on his hands, and "waiting for the market to develop" as he would say!

Pip said...

1) Dan waits till late
2) Dan spends too much money
3) it is wasted money
4) BUT! It's always," a qualified major leaguer"

vilnius b. said...

Lmao! You guys are a riot! That pretty much describes Duquette succinctly.

And now you can take Joyce off that list as well. Nice piece on FanGraphs by Jeff Sullivan left me wondering why we didn't pursue him either. He obviously couldn't help on defense like Jay. But as Sullivan pointed out, with a retooled swing, a terrific OBP% and left-handed bat that didn't have terrible splits---a wOBA and wRC+ of .343 and .116 vs. LHPs respectively---and very nice numbers vs RHPs of .381 (wOBA) and .141 (wRC+) he should be able to help with the bat. (Caveat: very small sample size vs. LHPs.)

We didn't feel he wasn't worth at least an eleven million dollar gamble? Granted his defense wouldn't be much better than Trumbo's and maybe the Orioles think that they can re-sign Trumbo---I guess that's their reasoning---but couldn't we just rotate the two between DH and OF depending on who's pitching?

Finally: does the acquisition of Logan Verrett indicate some kind of trade involving our other starters is in the works or was it just a way of building depth in the organization?

Pip said...

Vilnius, acquiring Verrett indicates the Oriolea are going to dump Worley. The Mets DFA-Ed Verrett, so the Orioles could've waited a couple of extra days and gotten him for free, but Duquette was eager enough to pay for him("cash considerations")
Think of the switch as a trade of Worley plus cash for Verrett. You're saving about 2.5 million, depending on the "consideration" amount, and getting back a young guy with only one remaining option who is not as accomplished as the guy you're giving up.
I like Verrett and I'm glad we are getting him back, but once again, Dan is showing terrible judgement. He could have had both.
Worley won't be on the open market for ten minutes before someone signs him.