16 January 2017

If The Orioles Move On From Mark Trumbo, It Won't Be Because Of A Draft Pick

The Orioles have done some unconventional things under Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter. Some of those things have produced tangible results, while some others may be best described as perplexing.

One area in which Duquette has tried to gain an advantage involves draft picks. The Orioles have not been shy about signing qualifying offer players, which means they're tied to draft pick compensation and their asking prices could be discounted. They've also traded competitive balance draft picks multiple times in order to shed salary during the season that could be used to add another player.

The Orioles' front office, or maybe mostly Duquette, must believe treating draft picks this way gives them some type of edge, and maybe it has. This strategy is frustrating and easy to mock, but even if it's only helped the team marginally, the overall results are still there. The Orioles haven't had a losing season since 2011, and they have compiled the best record in the American League since 2012.

That brings us to the ongoing Mark Trumbo saga. The Orioles seem to still want Trumbo back, but only at a certain cost. As Ken Rosenthal reported last week, Trumbo may be inclined to accept a three-year deal now, despite previously seeking at least four years. That "would at least appear to create room for negotiation," whatever that actually means.

On top of that, Duquette is doing his best to convince Trumbo, Trumbo's representation, and anyone else who will listen that, hey, the draft pick compensation matters in this case. In a recent interview, Duquette said that "as far as the Orioles go, we kind of like the value of that draft pick that’s been enhanced with the negotiation from the new collective bargaining agreement. In other words, it’s about the last time that you can acquire that level of pick for a compensation draft pick."

If you want to take Duquette's comments at face value, that's up to you. It's usually a better idea, however, to judge actions instead of words. And, again, the Orioles have not been shy about giving up draft picks if they think it will be beneficial.

Instances of the Orioles sacrificing MLB Draft picks under Duquette:
  • July 2013: Acquired Bud Norris and an international bonus slot for L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader, and a competitive balance pick (ended up being 37th pick)
  • Feb. 2014: Signed Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz (lost picks No. 17 and No. 55)
  • April 2015: Traded Ryan Webb, Brian Ward, and a competitive balance pick (ended up being 74th pick) to Dodgers for Ben Rowen and Chris O'Brien
  • Feb. 2016: Signed Yovani Gallardo (lost pick No. 14)
  • May 2016: Traded Brian Matusz and a competitive balance pick (ended up being 74th pick) to the Braves for Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek
As a result of qualifying offer players signing with other teams, the Orioles also added a couple picks: Nelson Cruz signed with the Mariners (added Ryan Mountcastle at No. 36 in 2015); and Wei-Yin Chen signed with the Marlins (added Cody Sedlock at No. 27). Mountcastle and Sedlock are two of the better prospects in the O's system, which both tells you that extra picks matter, and that the Orioles' farm system is not in great shape.

So here's the final tally of gained and lost picks:
Extra draft picks: Nos. 27 and 36
Forfeited/traded draft picks: Nos. 14, 17, 37, 55, 74, 74

Maybe you don't mind the Orioles missing some of those later picks. It depends how you view the MLB Draft. I look at it as a glorified lottery, meaning every extra pick gets you a little bit closer to potentially landing a talented player. Still, the O's have tried to use both the qualifying offer and competitive balance pick systems to their advantage, however minuscule it may be.

It's always nice to have an extra draft pick, but the Orioles have also assembled a win-now roster. The future is uncertain; several key players will likely be departing in the next few years. Is this really the time to start worrying about draft picks, just because the pick compensation system will be changing?

The win-now state of the roster is also why it's frustrating that the Orioles didn't make a serious run at Edwin Encarnacion. Trumbo is apparently seeking something in the three-year, $40-$50 million range. Encarnacion signed with the Indians for three years and $60 million (with a club option in 2021). Both players are 1B/DH types, and Trumbo is a few years younger than Encarnacion. Encarnacion, though, is the much better hitter.
Encarnacion's wRC+ of 134 last year was his lowest in the past five seasons. In 2016, arguably the best offensive season of Trumbo's career, he posted a wRC+ of 123 (he also had a 124 wRC+ in 2012). Even at his absolute best, Trumbo falls short of Encarnacion by a decent margin.

If the Orioles didn't want to spend on Encarnacion and don't want to risk disrupting the clubhouse (and fanbase?) with a Jose Bautista signing, moving on from Trumbo still makes sense in ways that have nothing to do with a draft pick (though that's an added bonus). Chris Carter brings similar skills to the table for less money. A Pedro Alvarez reunion at DH, possibly paired with Trey Mancini, would be cost effective. And while the roster is getting rather full with outfield options, there's still a chance the team can add an actual decent defensive outfielder (even if it's Michael Bourn).

The Orioles are playing hardball with Trumbo. It's not wise for them to bid against themselves, so don't think the draft pick is any significant motivation. It hasn't been before, and the O's are doing what they can to maximize the performance of the major league roster. That's what they've done, and it's worked, even if some of the moves have been misguided. Don't go and start taking Duquette's word on things now.

Stats via FanGraphs. Transaction and contract info via MLB Trade Rumors and Cot's.


IrishAl '81 said...

Did we lose some draft pick in the Ryan Webb deal or gain onr? The way it is written it looks like we added a pick.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

The Orioles traded a competitive balance pick away in that trade. Thanks, I corrected the wording.

Roger said...

If ANY of Rowen, O'Brien, Barker, or Belicek ended up being worth a #74 pick (or two in aggregate) then those comp bal picks might not have been so wasted (yes, I know the O's saved a few bucks). Or if Norris had come a bit cheaper (he did well but Hader is projecting better). And one could also argue that there were better pitchers to use a #1 draft pick on than Gallardo and Jimenez (although turning Gallardo into Smith may end up being a coup). We might not be so frustrated with the trades and signs. It's not the feeling that the strategy is bad just that it hasn't been executed to the best degree.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I have more of a problem with the competitive balance pick strategy. You're not going to get much in return in terms of prospects in those deals because you're dumping salary.

Anonymous said...

Resigning Trumbo would be stupid. Sign Carter, an almost identical player, for avout a quarter of what Trumbo would cost. Sign Pagan and Alvarez and call it good!

Matt Kremnitzer said...

They don't have room for three more offensive players. There are spots for a DH and maybe another outfielder, at the most.

sarasotosfan said...

Yes, I think in the case of Mark Trumbo this is more about negotiating than it is about the pick. Early in Duquette's reign he may have discounted the value of those picks because the scouting simply was not up to par. I think today his views on losing a first round pick are different than they were when Joe Jordan was there. I think Dan has more confidence in the scouting today, but with respect to Trumbo, it is hard to argue a supplemental pick is worth more than the leverage gained in negotiating with Trumbo.

vilnius b. said...

Regarding sarasotosfan's comment: I know virtually nothing about the scouting department and the hierarchy of the front office for the Orioles organization.
Who was Joe Jordan and what was his role with the organization? Since he has apparently left, who has replaced him?
Finally: how much of a role in the selection of players in the amateur draft does Duquette play? Or does he entrust much of the work to his subordinates?

I'm in agreement with Matt about Duquette. Given his history, it is doubtful that the draft pick attached to Trumbo is of a paramount importance to him. But since I know little about any changes that may have occurred in the front office in recent years, I guess it's nothing more than speculation on my part.

Anonymous said...

yes, they do have room!

Roger said...

Pagan would not be good. I still say the O's should take a chance on Mancini, if for nothing else than to see if he can be an asset in 2018. If he never gets a chance then he never gets the experience and reputation. What we still need is a RIGHT HANDED OF (or at least someone with spectacular stats against lefties). I'm not sure who that is but Mancini/Smith at DH, Kim/Rickard in LF, and Taverez/? in RF is what we have. You can go with Alvarez at DH and not platoon Smith in RF but his numbers against lefties are awful (as are Alvarez's). Carter is no RF so Trumbo is an improvement over that. Apparently, folks here think neither Walker would be good in RF. I like Bourn but he's another lefty - maybe his numbers aren't so bad against lefties. Having Taverez and Bourn around improves the defense when you need it. Who is out there that can hit lefties with authority and still play defense???? I sure hope Santander gets better and can fill that hole.

Roger said...

Although, Mancini at 1B, Carter at DH, and Davis in RF is not such bad idea.

Jon Shepherd said...

That is not really how scouting works. Duquette's placements in scouting were not starting from no knowledge. They were quite knowledgeable. Particularly since we are talking about first round picks. You do not need a crazy advanced and detailed overhaul to select a first round pick. Yes, there are differences in opinion on exact order, but that is the easiest part of the draft to draft.

Jon Shepherd said...

In other words, if you doubt your scouting department then you do no depend so much on later round selection.

Jon Shepherd said...

Jordan was head of scouting and now is head of Phillies minor league operation. He was replaced by a very qualified scouting director. Duquette has input on top of the draft, but more so in the process of that selection. He is not a GM who wants a last look. That is an old school mentality that is not exactly common anymore.

Jon Shepherd said...

Trumbo was considered better than Davis in RF by club.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I've been tough on Davis's defense at first base at times, but there's no question he's better there now than when he was first acquired by the club. He's a plus with the glove, and he's not moving off of first base. He shouldn't.

Anon, no, the Orioles don't have room for three more position players. Who are you going to bump from the roster? Keep in mind they're almost certainly going to try and keep a Rule 5 pick on the team (probably Aneury Tavarez).

Pip said...

The draft fascinates me: I would love an article about the deeper parts of the draft, where much more important analysis is necessary.
The first couple rounds are laden with well-known players, so it's easier to make a logical pick, even if it doesn't work out( was DJ Stewart a logical pick? He sure doesn't seem to be working out)
But the later rounds is where wise eyes make the most impact.
I'm really interested in where the guessing starts and teams just pick guys because they throw or hit very hard, and how Dans personal preference plays into those choices. He really seems to care about neither control in pitchers(favoring hard throwers) nor excellent defense in hitters(preferring hard hitters.)
All the hullabaloo about Sisco ignores his lousy defense, and nothing is more important for a catcher, but Dan seems ok with that.