19 October 2017

Blueprint For The 2018 Orioles (Option #4): Coach Them Up

Per Camden Depot tradition, a number of writers write up their blueprints for the upcoming offseason. Here are the rules and the BORAS contract numbers.

Like the rest of the writers, I would decline the player options for JJ Hardy and Wade Miley. Wade Miley had a terrible season last year, and I don’t think he has good enough stuff to be a starter in the American League. JJ Hardy has failed to play more than 120 games in a season since 2014, and had a terrible .217/.255/.323 line. I can’t justify paying him an extra $12M to put up those kinds of numbers.

I would tender all of the Orioles arbitration eligible players’ contracts. There has been some debate over whether to tender Britton a contract, but I don’t recommend dumping one of the best relievers in 2015 and 2016 simply due to having a terrible 2.89 ERA in 2017. That stated, the Orioles know more about Britton’s health than myself, and I could change my mind if his health was a concern.
By decree of Jon, the Orioles projected payroll has been set at $155 million. The Orioles have $53 million committed in 2018, and MLBTR projects the Orioles to spend another $55 million in arbitration. I’m not a fan of the MLBTR arbitration model, but it’s an objective way to determine arbitration salaries. In addition, $2.5 million goes towards buyouts. This leaves me eleven players and $45.5 million to complete the roster.

Backup Catcher

I think the best way to start something like this is give people what they're really interested in and talk about the backup catcher. The Orioles have Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco, so one could be persuaded to go into 2018 with just these catchers. However, I’m not convinced that Sisco is ready for MLB right now, and even still the Orioles need some help in Norfolk. So, I’m going to suggest adding Orioles’ favorite Francisco Pena to the club on a minor league deal. Ideally, Pena would be the backup catcher until Sisco is ready for a promotion, but it’s possible that the Os will decide to promote Sisco regardless because of the importance of this upcoming season, before a number of key Orioles hit free agency.


I’d have liked to sign a player to play right field so that I could store Austin Hays in Norfolk. This would give the 2018 Orioles some depth and give Hays a bit more seasoning before he goes to the majors. Adding Lorenzo Cain would make a good deal of sense, as he could play RF in 2018 and take over CF from Adam Jones in 2019. The problem is that I’m not willing to go to 5/90 in order to add him. Other decent defensive options like Dyson, Gomez and Jackson are projected to earn more money than I’d be willing to spend. Curtis Granderson is getting to be too old and slow to be effective in the majors, and Carlos Gonzalez is unable to hit left-handed pitching or have success on the road. I’m going to suggest starting the season with an outfield of Trumbo/Jones/Rickard/ Santander. Ideally, Hays will start the season in Norfolk, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Orioles call him up to the majors to play right field.


The Orioles already have a decent infield/dh with Mancini, Davis, Schoop, Beckham and Machado. However, Beckham had his huge month in 2017 against poor pitchers and I’m not sure that I want him as a starter. That’s why I’m going to recommend going after Moustakas for 3/34.

I can understand why BORAS has Moustakas receiving less than I’d expect. He was injured in 2016, has limited defensive range and is only a good offensive player. If his range gets worse and can’t play 3B, then he’d be yet another addition to the Orioles collection of 1B/DH type players. Having four of those guys is not a good thing. Still, he was able to show significant power in Kansas City and will still be in his prime for the length of this contract. He has decent plate discipline, isn’t terrible against left handed pitching and may see significant improvements in a hitter-friendly stadium like Camden. It’s hard to find a player with his offensive abilities that isn’t a 1B/DH that will earn just $10M. I expect him to get a richer deal than BORAS expects and for him not to fit into the Orioles’ budget.

Adding Moustakas pushes Machado to shortstop and lets Beckham become a poor mans’ Ben Zobrist – especially if he can play a passable center field. This would allow him to get a significant amount of playing time and keep other players fresh. He could also play a good bit of right field until Hays is called up.

Starting Rotation:

The Orioles current starting rotation is Gausman and Bundy, with minimal help available in Norfolk so clearly the Orioles need to focus on this.

It would make sense for the Orioles to go after one of the top arms on the market – either Darvish or Arrieta. However, I don’t see the Orioles taking that big of a risk. I think signing Rick Nolasco, Jaime Garcia and Chris Tillman is a more plausible scenario.

Ricky Nolasco has not had such good performance over his last contract. In the four year period, his best ERA was 4.42 and last year he had a 4.92 ERA and a 5.10 FIP. In 2017, he had ok numbers (wOBA of .376 or about average) when left handed batters put the ball into play but had a poor 14.3% k-rate and an 8.2% walk rate. Against right handed batters, he had a strong 22% k-rate to a 6.6% walk rate, but they had a .487 wOBA against him – ranking last out of 56 qualified pitchers.

The reason why he’s an interesting pitcher is that he has good enough stuff to strike lefties out. His splitter has a 22.5% swinging strike rate against lefties. He’s able to get a decent amount of swinging strikes with his slider and knuckle curve. He just can’t seem to convert his success at getting swinging strikes early in the count to getting swinging strikes when the batter already has two strikes.

Part of the problem is that left-handed batters were able to put his splitter into play at very high rates in 2017. Part of the problem is that left-handed batters swung at pretty much every slider and sinker he threw in the strike zone. Part of the problem is that his splitter has a higher swinging strike percentage without two strikes than with two strikes. If you can just find the minor tweak that lets him have success with two strikes, then he’ll be dangerous against lefties.

Against right-handed hitting, he just needs to throw his splitter more often. His two-pitch repertoire of fastballs and sliders seems to be enough to get him strikeouts, but not enough to avoid getting drilled. Make opposing batters guess a bit more about what’s coming, and they should hit him less.

He hasn’t performed well where it counts over the past four years, but he does have good enough stuff to be successful. In the worst case scenario, he averaged nearly 5.5 innings per start in 2017 and over 6 in 2016, which suggests he can at least eat innings. For 2 years and $16 million, that seems fair enough. If he didn’t have issues, he’d be earning more than $16M a year.

Next, the Orioles should sign Jaime Garcia. Garcia is another pitcher that hasn’t had much success lately. He’s been pretty solid against left-handed batters with a 26% k-rate, 4% walk rate and just a .303 wOBA against. His problem is that he didn’t face many of them last year --- just 21.3% of the batters he faced were left handed. His bigger problem is against right handed batters who have a .342 wOBA against him – in part because he has a decent 17.3% strikeout rate and a high 11% walk rate against them.

One of his problems against righties is that he uses six pitches, but not all of them are effective. Resorting to a Fastball, Slider and Changeup repertoire will allow him to use his most effective pitches more often and let him focus on his best pitches.

With the money they have remaining, they should sign Chris Tillman to a one year $4 million deal. BORAS has Tillman signing a two year, $7 million dollar deal, but I can’t see Tillman agreeing to sign a multi-year deal at that low of a salary. Tillman probably isn’t a great option, and I don’t have high hopes for him. But he may have a bounce-back season and is probably a better option than Wright/Wilson.


With Britton, Brach, Givens and O’Day on the team, it doesn’t make sense to add a free agent reliever. I see Bleier, Castro and Hart making up the rest of the bullpen.

Remaining Cash:

At this point, I have about $3.5 million remaining for one bench spot. With that cash, I’d be looking for either a player with good speed that could be used as a pinch runner/defensive replacement and preferably could play corner outfield. Perhaps someone like Craig Gentry? Most likely, this money would be saved to make a move at the trade deadline. It doesn’t hurt to have a bit of extra cash to make a splash at the trade deadline like trading for Hellickson, Parra or Norris.

2018 Roster:

Final Thoughts:

The problem with free agency is that there’s never enough cash to get everything you want. If the Orioles had kept some of their young pitching prospects that have panned out for other teams, their situation would be different and they’d be able to use their cash on Darvish or Arrieta. Instead, I recommended free agents that haven’t had much success lately but that I think have potential. If I’m right about these guys, then they could easily solidify the Orioles rotation, while helping their offense become elite. But many of these guys haven’t been effective the past few years, and that’s probably a bad sign.


Pip said...

Are you willingly throwing Trumbo into the outfield?

Unknown said...

You make really compelling arguments, but if you're right about Nolasco, Garcia and Tillman, then I'll set my alarm for 2019. It's amazing what albatrosses the contracts of Davis and Trumbo are--that money could be dumped directly into pitching so we'd be talking about guys like Arrieta not talking about guys like Nolasco.

Matt Perez said...

Willingly? He's unable to hit when he's a DH. I already have Davis at first base. Not sure what else there is to do.

Agreed, if it was so easy to fix Nolasco and Garcia, it would be done already. I don't think Davis and Trumbo are the problems. I think the problem was trading guys like Davies and watching Bridwell do well elsewhere. If the Os had kept the right starting pitching prospects, they could also afford Darvish or Arrieta. Oh well.

Unknown said...

Trade Brach or O'day if you can. That would be a really UGLY outfield to start the season with.

btwrestler119 said...

Not a fan of this blueprint at all. Rickard is not a starting caliber player, Trumbo shouldn't play in the outfield, Beckham was a better player than Moustakas in 2016 and 2017 so I don't understand why he would put Beckham on the bench. Garcia is solid, but Nolasco and Tillman in 2018 may remind you of Ubaldo and Tillman in 2017.