21 June 2017

Top 5 Orioles Trade Chips

Thanks to some home runs and good relief pitching, the Orioles pulled out a one-run win last night to get back to .500. Close wins are still wins, and it's too early to completely write off the O's.

Still, the 2017 season has gone south for the Orioles in a major way. If they were just losing a bunch of close games, that would be one thing. That's not the case, though, as both injuries and poor play across the board have resulted in the O's currently looking up at three teams in the American League East. Additionally, the Orioles now have a run differential of -56, which is second worst in the American League and fifth worst in all of baseball. The Orioles have some serious problems, and some of them are not fixable.

Any rational-minded O's fan knew this squad had a limited window to compete, and it very well may have slammed shut. We will find out soon whether the Orioles can stay within striking distance of the playoff race, and they'll come to a crossroads on how to proceed with this group of players. It'll either be time to push major decisions on players like Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, and Zach Britton to the offseason, or to meet this organization's problems head-on and see what the Orioles can really acquire at the trade deadline by dangling some of their best players.

Let's note two things first. First, I do not expect the Orioles to trade Machado or Schoop this season. Maybe falling way out of the race would change that, but I'd still be stunned. I also do not think ownership will pony up the cash required to keep a superstar talent like Machado, but you could certainly argue they shouldn't do that anyway. There aren't many players like Machado out there, but there also aren't many mid- or small-market clubs who could pay an enormous amount of money to Machado while also paying a huge chunk of change (though less enormous than Machado) to Chris Davis and still be able to put the requisite pieces around them. Doing something like that would require a lot of young, cheap talent, which the Orioles don't have right now.

Second, you can't ignore the contract situations of Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter. Their deals both expire after 2018. Do you really want Duquette orchestrating a tear-down if he's not going to be here soon? And if you jettison Duquette, what about Showalter? An incoming general manager would probably want to pick his own manager, though the Orioles don't really work that way (Showalter was already in place as manager when Duquette was hired as executive vice president of baseball operations). Perhaps the Orioles would just promote from within anyway (obligatory Brady Anderson mention). Would Showalter be fine with that and does he still want to manage; or is he more interested in a front office role? These are all important questions, and I fully expect the Orioles to punt on them until the offseason.

If the Orioles were to be fully active in the trade market, though, how would their trade chips rank? Many of them don't look as good as they did before the season, but let's take a look at the top five:

1. Manny Machado
Jon's value approximation: $42M (based on 1.5 years, 8 projected WAR, $22M in salary)
Potential trade partner: Astros
Potential price: A lot
Potential deal: Machado for Alex Bregman, Francis Martes, Franklin Perez, Forrest Whitley, and Colin Moran

Machado isn't hitting up to his abilities (last night's two-homer, 4-4 game was a good sign, though), but there's no doubting his talent. He's an elite defensive third baseman, an above-average defender at shortstop if a team wants to use him there, and his offensive struggles will only last for so long. Machado would be a game-changer for any team looking for a significant upgrade for the rest of this season. That team could keep him through 2018, his last year of arbitration, or flip him in the offseason.

In all likelihood, the O's won't be able to keep Machado in Baltimore, and while dealing Machado would be difficult to stomach, it could also be a way to replenish a farm system in serious need of top-level talent. Players like Machado don't become available often, and the price to acquire him would and should be enormous.

2. Jonathan Schoop
Jon's value approximation: $36M (based on 2.5 years, 6 projected WAR, $20M in salary)
Potential trade partner: Unclear
Potential price: Top 25-50 pitcher and B-level hitter or 50-100 hitter and 50-100 pitcher

Britton probably would have gone here a few months ago, except he now has a forearm injury that's caused two trips to the disabled list this season. The Orioles and Britton have taken a more patient approach this time after an earlier setback, and he very well may be fine and look like the Britton of old when he is scheduled to return in a couple weeks. But that injury cloud matters, and maybe the O's couldn't get as much as they'd like.

Meanwhile, there's Schoop, who seems to have taken a much-needed step forward offensively. He's walking more than ever, chasing less often, and being much more selective. Because of Machado's struggles, Schoop has arguably been the team's best position player so far.

One the one hand, Schoop is 25 and a homegrown talent, and you'd like to keep those guys around (especially when they're showing promise). On the other hand, the Orioles, as if often the case, did not lock Schoop up to any kind of team-friendly extension. He has two arbitration-eligible years left, making him a free agent in 2020. He's going to get more expensive in 2018 and 2019, and there's no guarantee he sticks around beyond that.

On top of that, he may need to move off of second base soon. There's no doubting the strength of Schoop's arm, but his range may be becoming an issue. Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating both have him as a far below average defender this year, and there have been more than a handful of groundballs that have bounced off his glove or escaped his reach that a second baseman with average range would have gobbled up.

If the Orioles aren't going to explore an extension, then it's time to start thinking about what he could bring back in a trade.

3. Zach Britton
Jon's value approximation: $12M (based on 1.5 years, 4 projected WAR, $20M in salary)
Potential trade partner: Rangers
Potential price: An A-level (25-75) and B-level player
Potential deal: Britton for Yohander Mendez and Brett Martin

There is not much to add here. When healthy, Britton is simply one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball. But that healthy part is key, and he will need to get through his current rehab assignment and come back and demonstrate that he is still that same dominant force. If he does that, teams will come calling.

4. Brad Brach
Jon's value approximation: $17M (based on 1.5 years, 3 projected WAR, $7M in salary)
Potential trade partner: Rangers
Potential price: A-level (50-100) and B-level hitter
Potential deal: Brach for Andy Ibanez and Brett Martin

Even though he's more affordable than Britton, Brach comes in below the lefty closer because he doesn't have the same ceiling. If you want the best, you want Britton. If you want someone who's still very good when he's not being overworked (and can fill in at closer some, if needed), then Brach is more than a worthy alternative.

Brach has rebounded nicely after a shaky couple of weeks, and he's showing that although he's probably not as good as last year (2.05 ERA, 2.92 FIP in 79 innings), he's still a very good late-game relief option (currently, 2.67 ERA, 3.32 FIP in 30 1/3 innings).

5. Mychal Givens
Jon's value approximation: $36M (based on 4.5 years, 7 projected WAR, $20M in salary)
Potential trade partner: Rangers
Potential price: A-level (50-100) and B-level hitter
Potential deal: Givens for Andy Ibanez and Brett Martin

Givens's inclusion in the top five completes the troika of relievers after Machado and Schoop. Like Brach, Givens is a solid but not amazing reliever, plus he has the benefit of being under team control for several more seasons. Unlike Brach, Givens does have platoon concerns that are at least worth mentioning. Because of his extra value, Givens could net a similar return to Brach or maybe even more depending on the team, but he's probably just a notch below him and doesn't have the same kind of upside. (Also, in case you can't tell, Jon thinks the Rangers will add a reliever or two.)

Players Who Should Go

Welington Castillo

Castillo is having a nice season for the O's at the plate (105 wRC+), and he hasn't been terrible in terms of pitch framing either (Baseball Prospectus has him at -1.6 with its framing runs metric). Still, with a $7 million player option (essentially an opt-out even though the Orioles would never offer an opt-out), Castillo can choose whether he becomes a free agent after the season. The Orioles also have Chance Sisco in Triple-A Norfolk waiting in the wings for catching work, and Caleb Joseph is a serviceable backup option. It wouldn't be the worst thing for Castillo to return, but the O's don't need him and should get what they can (maybe a B-level pitcher and C+ hitter).

Wade Miley

Like Castillo, Miley has a 2018 option as well; his, though, is a team option for $12 million (with a $500K buyout). Miley has been the team's second-best starter, though that's no great feat considering Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, and Ubaldo Jimenez have ERAs over 6. Miley isn't the worst pitching option to have around, even for $12 million, but if the O's can move him for a B-level pitcher and C+ level hitter, they should take that offer.

Seth Smith
Hyun Soo Kim

Let's just lump these two together. They're both left-handed platoon bats in the corner outfield, and they're both scheduled to be free agents after the year. Together, they could bring back a couple of B-level pitchers and C+ level hitters.

Bad Timing Or Little Value

Adam Jones

Do you really want to see the Orioles trade Jones? I'm not sure that I do. However, that might not matter anyway; Jones can reject any deal because he has 10-and-5 rights (given to major leaguers with 10 years of service time who have played the last five consecutive years with the same team).

Jones is also not the same player. At this stage in his career, he's basically in the 90-100 wRC+ range with defensive abilities in center field that rate somewhere between average and below average. That's not awful for an up-the-middle position, but the final two years of his contract don't provide much of a bargain (the rest of $16 million this year and $17 million next season). Jones's contract extension was a great move for the team, but the surplus value from it has already been received. Now they're dealing with the rest of it, and it's not clear what the next step is.

Kevin Gausman

Arguably no player has had a more underwhelming couple of months than Gausman. Instead of helping to anchor the staff with Dylan Bundy, Gausman has been dreadful. Following a promising season - his first with a full workload (30 starts) - he has a 6.60 ERA and 5.50 FIP in 75 innings. His strikeouts are down, and his walks and home runs allowed are up. Gausman just can't shake his pre-Cubs Jake Arrieta impression, and some fans are tired of it and ready to cut bait.

What type of return could he fetch? Perhaps a 50-100 hitter and 50-100 pitcher, though, in the moment, that seems like a lot. Maybe that works for you. Gausman seems too talented to be this terrible, but he wouldn't be the first player to meet that qualification. There's no guarantee he'll improve, but he still seems like a hold.

Chris Tillman
Ubaldo Jimenez

Let's get this over with quickly. Tillman has been horrible, doesn't seem fully recovered from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the start of the season, and is a free agent after this season. Unless he goes on some sort of miraculous run, he has next to no trade value.

Even though Jimenez had a nice start in his undeserved return to the O's rotation, he also barely has any trade value. The O's have been trying to unload his contract for years, and maybe the only reason why they'd be able to do so now is because his deal expires after the year. On any team with even the bare minimum of pitching depth, Jimenez would have been designated for assignment long ago. But, remember, this is Birdland.

Jon Shepherd contributed values and potential landing spots to this article.


Unknown said...

I couldn't agree more. As a lifelong O's fan (who's yet to witness a World Series) I'd love nothing more to make another run. Let's face it, that's not happening. Simply put, the pitching stinks and the farm system is worse. Add all of that up and now is the time sell off the peices to rebuild similar to what the astros and cubs did a couple years back. I'd gladly sacrifice a couple years to become perrenial contenders. Otherwise another year of "going for it" by trading a couple prospects for Scott Feldman and Gerardo Parra type players... then add in losing Machado in free agency this city and franchise is heading for another multi decade stretch of losing. Act now and rebuild while you have the peices.

Lincoln Steele said...

I agree as well. One solution to the whole Showalter/Duquette contract ends is Cal Ripken. I've heard he is interested. Just sayin'. He could fill either role. And he could help find better pitching coaches!

Jon Shepherd said...

I have long said the worst idea would be to put Cal Ripken in there. No evidence he can build a team or put together the infrastructure. No experience. You could easily have a Michael Jordan situation where the guy is out of his element and is somewhat unfireable.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Why do so many people mention Cal Ripken, Jr. as a manager or GM option? Is it just nostalgia? He might do well in either role, but it's certainly far from a guarantee. And he's never held any major league coaching or front office position. He's undoubtedly an Orioles legend, but it just seems... odd to keep bringing him up over and over again. Does he even have interest in taking on a full-time role?

One-Account Rhodes said...

I am dumbfounded that the article starts with suggesting that any sane Orioles fan could foresee these flaws. Yet, somehow our "genius" GM completely ignored just about all voids on this team. I've been saying for 2 years that Gaussman has no movement in his fastball and no true 3rd pitch. A MLB pitcher could throw 120 Mph and an MLB hitter would hit it! The beat reporters continue to say things like, "What Free Agents did you want Duquette to sign?" My point has been, a good GM would step outside the box and leverage assets to get pitchers. Hardy has been on the decline for a few years but he's still a good SS. Duquette should have dangled him the last 2 offseasons. Now he's hurt and doesn't hold much value. Brach was another one. Anyone could see some of the big moments he messed up in last year but he was still an All Star, so he has solid value. He should have been offered in trade this offseason for a starter. That's the creativity we need from a GM, so this patchwork approach. Duquette also did not address the lack of speed, lack of leadoff hitter or the need for a few hitters who actually make pitchers work and throw more pitches. Now we are at the point of which they'll be forced to move historically great players. Manny will be a Hall of Famer and retire on another team. That is a travesty! Fire Duquette, bring in Cal, keep Brady and sit Buck down and tell him he'd better start figuring out how to manufacture runs instead of relying on the HR all the time! Whew, I'm done.

Jon Shepherd said...

Hardy was not a useful trade piece. His contract make his option a fourth year if traded and he dealt with a blown non throwing arm labrum injury that zapped his strength in 2015 and last year some back issues began creeping up that are now full blown.

The other bit, Duquette certainly knows these things. He simply is willfully leverage the resources of the club for the here and now. This is something we have noted for years. Duquette has done a great job working his patchwork approach...except it kills the club long term.

Cal is not a solution. Why does anything think he would solve anything? Why does anyone think Brady and Cal want to work together? Just because we have a bunch of Orioles who did well does not mean you just throw jobs at them.

Lincoln Steele said...

Touche on the Cal comment. That's a good point. It was just an outside the box idea. Seems like a bad one now.

tony2302 said...

just one question, well maybe two. when is Epstein's contract up? and what would it cost the Orioles to get him? lol

Mr. Carbaugh said...

I would throw Mark Trumbo on this list as well. With Mancini playing well, Rickard, and Gentry the Orioles could afford to trade a guy who is under contract for a few more seasons at a very reasonable number.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I'd agree on Trumbo, except it's only a reasonable number if he's hitting competently. Right now, he has a wRC+ of 92. That's not completely terrible, but he brings nothing else to the table. He's basically a DH, and the league average DH has a wRC+ of 108.

Trumbo is possibly movable in the AL for very little, but an NL team would probably want him at 1B. That's why it's a little odd that the Orioles have opted to use Mancini at 1B instead of Trumbo. Then again, the O's aren't going to sell off everyone anyway, but it's interesting to think about.

Unknown said...

Is there a button that we can hit to just make these trades happen now? It's time to start to rebuild, even if they didn't want to commit to a full rebuild they could trade Britton (once healthy), Brach, and Castillo and get good hauls to retool for one last run next year and at least still have some young controllable talent for 2019 and beyond.

Brent Upham said...

Step 1. I think we do everything in our power to keep Machado (a lot of money comes off the books after 2018 season) and you have to at least make him an offer.

Step 2. Build around Bundy, Mancini, Schoop (and probably Sisco too)

Step 3. Bring Adam Jones back on a Tori Hunter type leadership role (Move him to RF) 3/36-40Mil after 2018 season.

Step 4. Hope Harvey, Sedlock, Aiken, Hall, Mountcastle, Mullins, Hayes can become solid starters at the Big League Level

Step 5. Trade Chris Lee, Tanner Scott, Jomar Reyes, DJ Stewart, Drew Dosch, Clevinger, to improve the 2017-2018 Big league club.

Brent Upham said...

2019 Line up

Mullins - CF
Schoop - 2B
Machado - 3B or SS
Mancini - 1B or DH
Davis - DH or 1B
Jones - RF
Hayes - LF
Mountcastle - SS or 3B
Sisco - C


One-Account Rhodes said...

Brent Upham, I like your approach!

Brent Upham said...

Side note. Still shocked the O's didn't give Andrew Miller 4/36Mil but a year later gave Darren O'Day 4/31

I love Darren, but I would of ponied up for Miller long before DOD

Matt Kremnitzer said...

A couple things:
- Schoop is a free agent after 2019, so the Orioles need to figure out what to do with him soon.
- The Orioles would love it if Mountcastle could stick in the infield, but he's likely going to be a future corner outfielder.
- That's a whole lot of hope in homegrown talent: Sisco, Mountcastle, Hays, Mullins, Hall, Sedlock, Aiken. I think only one of this group right now is a top 100 prospect (Sisco), but Hall could be soon.

I think if you do sell off right and add some intriguing talent to the improving though still not great young group the O's have in the minors, then things get interesting. Still, the Orioles need more promising players, period.

vilnius b. said...

I'm late to this conversation (again).
I agree that hoping that Cal Ripken Jr. or Brady Anderson can be saviors without any significant front office experience is a mistake. Did Harry Dalton---one of the best GMs in Orioles history and pretty good with the Brewers too---have any playing experience? Nope.
When Duquette's tenure is over, I hope the Orioles consider moving Buck to the front office to assist with player evaluations. Given his record with helping build good teams in NY, Arizona and Texas, I suspect he'd do a good job---assuming he wants the job.
I'd like to see a Cashman type take over the reins at the GM position. Somebody who is young, tireless and understands the value of patience and the importance of keeping the farm system stocked. As we've seen over and over, prospects have trade currency. Sometimes an important deal is completed when a prospect is thrown in.
As for trade chips, IMHO we should move Machado sooner rather than later. His BA may be low now, but most teams probably understand that some of that is luck and that he'll certainly bring power and the best glove available on the market to either third base or shortstop (his natural position).
With Tillman probably hurt, Gausman lacking a third pitch and Bundy probably having to skip starts because it would be insane to have him throw 200+ innings given his injury history, I just can't see how the Orioles have enough starters to make the playoffs again.
We should remember that other teams will be sellers at the trade deadline too and since few teams have so little in their farm systems as the Orioles do, they might ask for less in return and we lose a golden opportunity to acquire a couple of blue chip prospects.
Throw in Britton (if healthy when he returns) or Brach and we should be able to get some pretty good young players and begin the rebuilding process.
Same with Castillo, Givens and possibly Trumbo. Get what you can for them and hope you get lucky since those guys can't bring back top prospects.
One trade---I like the game of make-believe too---I was thinking about: would the Nationals balk at a deal that involved Machado, Britton and Brach in exchange for Trea Turner and Victor Robles? They could slide Machado into the SS position and significantly upgrade their bullpen with the additions of Britton and Brach. We'd get their top prospect and a decent shortstop with speed and club control and not gut their system. With Harper certain to leave after 2018 too the Nats might look at this trade as an opportunity to win it all before their window closes. Maybe we can throw in an arm that's not as valuable as Scott or Hall.
And there wouldn't be this concern about trading with a division rival.

Unknown said...

Manny is part of the reason why the O's are in this mess right now. If Machado, Gausman, Tillman, and Britton were performing as we expected them to, do you think the O's would be in last place or at/near the top? Just flip a handful of games and we would be talking about which of our minor leagues to package for another solid starter, while fretting about whether we'll get fleeced again by a smarter GM. I keep thinking about how if we kept Nelly and Arrieta and those two guys performed with the O's as they have with other teams (i know, huge if), O's probably have at least one WS championship the last three years.

Unknown said...

You're assuming Andrew Miller wanted to play for the O's. Don't assume.

Unknown said...

Everyone presumes Big Dan does not see problems. He sees more his 2018 contract running out. Will anyone hire him?? He will try to sell the farm for a One More Year Run

Schoop is a Core Building Block

Scott D. Upham said...

The proposed O's-Astros Machado deal is laughably lopsided. Alex Bregman alone is worth more than 1.5 years of Machado let alone 5 other top prospects.

Jon Shepherd said...

I actually floated the deal by someone familiar to the Astros operations. So, eh.

Andrew said...

For your potential deals for brach and givens, both say Britton for the listed players...

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Thanks. Fixed.