29 May 2017

Everyone's Available: Going for It in 2017

Photo Credit: Keith Allison
Considering the Orioles have lost 7 games in a row and now sit in 3rd place of the AL East, this probably isn’t the best time for this post. But since I’ve already started it and the Orioles are by no means out of the race (and I don’t have time for a last minute pivot), I’m going to post it anyway. Following the Jimenez/Wilson induced train wreck of last week’s game against the Minnesota Twins, I was reminded how badly the Orioles need to improve their starting pitching. This is not a new thought for me or most other people who follow the Orioles. In fact, I’m sure that “the Orioles need more starting pitching” is something I’ve thought and/or discussed at some point before or during every season since I started writing about the team. In most of those previous years however, the team has found ways to win with at best an average rotation by having a lights out bullpen. While this year’s bullpen isn’t bad, it has clearly been a step below other Baltimore bullpens in recent years (currently ranked 12th in fWAR), although some of that has been due to Zach Britton’s extended stint(s) on the disabled list. Before we get any further, let’s look at the state of the Orioles’ starting rotation.

Orioles Starting Rotation Rank (2017)
Clearly, the Orioles rotation is not good and could use some reinforcements. And based on what we’ve seen so far, it’s unlikely that those reinforcements are coming from within the organization. On Wednesday, Jon explored the possibility of trading Trey Mancini for Kendall Graveman. Within Jon’s piece, he mentions that the “untouchables” list for 2017 trades may include Hunter Harvey, Chance Sisco, Cody Sedlock, Ryan Mountcastle, and (maybe) Jomar Reyes. While I am on board with the idea trading Mancini as Jon suggests, I would take it one step further and make everyone available in order to get the best starting pitching upgrade possible (note: that doesn’t mean it will be [insert ace pitcher here]).

It’s been a generally accepted notion that things are likely to get bad for the Orioles after the 2018 season. Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Zach Britton, and Brad Brach are all free agents. This is on top of the potential losses of Chris Tillman, Seth Smith, and Wade Miley (if his option is declined) after this season. Additionally, the contracts of Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter end after 2018. Even if the Orioles can bring back Jones, Machado, and Britton, they likely won’t have the payroll flexibility to add the needed role players, and there currently doesn’t look like there will be enough impact talent coming up from the minor leagues to fill the void. It may be a while until the Orioles are as good (or better) as they are right now, so now is the time to push whatever chips they have remaining to the center of the table.

It’s important to remember that when considering trades, quantity does not get you quality, but pairing any of those “untouchable” players (or a couple of them) with Mancini could potentially bring back a starting pitcher of higher value than Kendall Graveman. I agree with Jon that the focus should be on someone who has team control, at least through the 2018 season, as the Orioles plan to (and should) be competitive next year as well. At the moment I’m not sure who that starter might be, and it’s entirely possible that the inclusion of Sisco, Mountcastle, etc. to a Mancini deal may only bring back someone marginally better than Graveman. But they should not be automatically excluded from trade discussions.

Additionally, the potential loss of any of those “untouchable” prospects doesn’t have any bearing on 2018 other than the possibility that they become slightly more valuable as a trade chip next year. All of these players have question marks and in my opinion are better used to help the current MLB club than as foundations for the future.

  • Hunter Harvey – High ceiling; has been injured more than he’s played
  • Chance Sisco – Great hitter; questions on power and defense
  • Cody Sedlock – Mid-rotation ceiling; struggling in High-A Frederick
  • Ryan Mountcastle – Good hitter; probably needs to play LF (putting more pressure on his bat)
  • Jomar Reyes – Good hitter; probably needs to move to 1B (putting more pressure on his bat)

Sisco is the one guy who could arguably contribute next year, as Welington Castillo’s player option doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll be back after the 2017 season. Having said that, Sisco’s not off to a great start in AAA either, and he may not be quite ready for the big league club at the start of next season. If the post-2018 landscape continues to look bleak, no one in the minor league system (or Trey Mancini) should be untouchable. And in fact, they should be aggressively shopped to help the 2017 team, preferably for starting pitching.

Obviously, a lot can change in the next two months before the trade deadline. The Orioles could fall completely out of contention and look to sell some pieces in an attempt to re-load for 2018. However, if they stay in contention (and by taking care of business within the AL East so far, they’re in a good spot to do that…despite the recent 7 game losing streak), they should go all in on the 2017 season, and do whatever they need to do to make the major league cub as strong as possible. There appear to be dark times coming after 2018, and those “untouchable” minor league players aren’t likely to prevent that.


Unknown said...

Why can't Mountcastle play 2B?

Jon Shepherd said...

No range, has difficulty getting down on balls, not much of an arm.

Unknown said...

What Jon said...

Boss61 said...

I love the idea of pushing metaphorical chips into the middle of the table. This also makes sense considering Angelos' age and that one can take one's fortunes into the after-world (near as we know). The "win now" philosophy means not caring about player's ages or contract structures either. Surely there are some aging but still-contributing guys on second-division teams, who may be able to be acquired. Our prospects may not have great scout-rated skills, but perhaps they are worth something if we accept loaded contracts of whom we trade for.

Anonymous said...

Jon, second base is a great place to stash a guy with not much of an arm, got me by just fine!

Jon Shepherd said...

You likely had other things going for you.

Unknown said...

I still like the concept of exploring a Trumbo for Rich Hill swap. The Dodgers have an excess of starting pitching somehow, and specifically too many lefties. Hill has been held to a really tight pitch count this year, but in reality he's been reasonably effective in 3 of his 5 starts (and awful in 1). The guy has shown that he has some upside, even at his age. Not a guy you like to depend upon, but potentially an opportunity to get a clear upgrade for the rotation without mortgaging the future or taking a big step back anywhere. Even with his recent resurgence, Trumbo doesn't offer a lot that can't be covered by Kim and Mancini. Of course, that option is dependent on Adrian Gonzalez remaining poor and the Dodgers remaining comfortable with Bellinger playing in the outfield for the next 3 seasons. Maybe they're not interested. But there's certainly a possibility of the Dodgers looking for a bat.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Jordan Zimmerman is available....D'OH! Poor Tigers and all those terrible contracts!

Mr. Diggz said...

"...so now is the time to push whatever chips they have remaining to the center of the table."

I completely disagree with this sentiment. If the O's do resign their core of Jones, Britton and Machado, there's a possibility their top prospects could be available to contribute either in 2019 or not much longer after that. Hunter Harvey could end up taking a similar pathway as Bundy. Suppose Sisco and Mountcastle prove to be above average hitters at the MLB level. Maybe sprinkle in an unexpected hitting surge from a player like Schoop and you might have a competitive lineup. It seems like a lot would have to go favorably for the O's, but this scenario isn't that unrealistic.

In the meantime the Orioles have to nail their first round picks over the next few years. We can't afford anymore DJ Stewerts.

Anonymous said...

At this point, I would prefer starting a full rebuild right away since the "all in" approach is unlikely to succeed when you're starting from a 0.500 team in terms of baseline talent level.

(Read: "Do you want to trade Jones, Britton, Machado, etc. ASAP for the maximum return on your own terms--i.e. to a team outside the AL East--or do you want to be out-bid by the Yankees and/or Red Sox and stay irrelevant for the next decade?")

Anonymous said...

Missed the boat on Britton past off season, value will never be as high, damaged goods. Brach proving he can close.

Anonymous said...

Manny is approaching Mendoza!!!

Unknown said...

This is a hindsight argument. Seeing how bad the O's bullpen has been without Britton, he is essential to a pennant race. So trading him without foresight of his injury, and with the team aiming for the pennant earlier in the season, would have been foolhardy.

And Brach a closer makes team significantly weaker. We know that now.