22 May 2018

2021 is a Fair Target, so Tear Down that Club!

It does not hurt anymore.  What I mean, is that it hurts, but by this point we have grown accustomed to the burden of that pain.  The Orioles are terrible.  They are terrible qualitatively, quantitatively, and anecdotally.  Their terribleness is an encroaching truth that is now ever-present and swelling.  More so, as we look onto the horizon, we get a clear path to behold that things will be getting worse.  As much as local writers have said that, "Oh yeah, the Orioles farm system is poor, but that is because so many have graduated."  We should all now know how false that narrative was.

Yes, the Orioles system is poor.  Yes, the Orioles have graduated several players from that system.  However, those players who have graduated and become successful are close to leaving.  In the wake of Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, not much else happened.  Behind them are Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, and Mychal Givens.  Behind them are...Trey Mancini.  What lies in the upper minors are somewhat promising players with significant red flags.  The yield has not been high and the franchise had a bit of a drought on the farm.

What that leaves the organization with is an inescapable trough this year, 2019, and 2020.  The hope being that by 2021, guys like Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle will be hitting their stride on the cheap.  Perhaps Cedric Mullins or DJ Stewart breaks out.  Maybe the Chance Sisco hype stays afloat in spite of all the leaks in that boat.  Maybe some of the pitching talent in the low minors rises as starting options instead of the relief support that actually look like.  Anyway, point being, 2021 looks like the first year we could conceive playing meaningful baseball in October again...if it all hits right.

Players who are not in the 2021 plans should probably be cashed in for chips that could impact that year.  Machado and Schoop are prime examples of players who should be dealt for some lottery tickets.  In fact, Machado should have been dealt over a year ago once they realized the team's fortunes were shot and that they were unwilling to plop down a 300 MM contract.  Schoop is a lesser Machado.  A guy who looks like a solid player. but nothing spectacular.  A 100+ MM contract is possible for him, but appears to be something that would be outside of what a rebuilding club should do.  He has a year more of control left, so he has some value but not an overwhelming amount.  The final big piece to deal out this summer would be Kevin Gausman, who has done a decent job with the Orioles but still looks like a player who could do amazing things with a team that understood him.  The Orioles do not appear to understand him.

Then there are a lot of secondary players who probably have some market, but not much coming back in return.  A player like Adam Jones is useful, but likely would not give the Orioles much to speak of.  In this post, I won't discuss those kinds of players.  I will only discuss the big items.

I also think the Orioles should keep anyone who will be with the club in 2021.  Players like Bundy or Alex Cobb should remain on the roster and be re-evaluated at a later date.  If someone gives you the world for either player then, yes, you deal them.  However, I doubt that and would prefer to see how things go in the coming years.

This leaves us with Machado (0.5 years left), Schoop (1.5 years left), and Gausman (2.5 years left).  Keep in mind, the trade examples that follow are explicitly not ones that I have heard from anyone, so be mindful and try not to spread these scenarios as reality.

Manny Machado SS/3B
Machado has been both revelatory at the plate and quite perplexing in the field.  He is putting up incredible numbers at the plate while his play at shortstop has looked rather dead.  Scouts tend to think that the misplays are simply awkwardness and will straighten up as the season continues.  Such a player represents roughly a 40 MM surplus.  He not only provides wins, but he concentrates that in one player.  Machado will be one of the few individuals out there who could literally change the fortunes of a team.  Lately, he has been linked to the Braves, Dodgers, Cubs, and Diamondbacks.  I will not discuss any of them.  Instead, let's have fun with another team doing quite well in the standings with rather abhorrent play at shortstop: the Brewers.

A 40 MM surplus would bring in players on par with Milwaukee's two best players.  This is a steep price, but the Brewers do not exactly have an incredibly deep system.  A strong yet not fantastical trade would be Machado for 2B Keston Hiura and RHP Corbin Burnes.  Both are backend top 100 prospects.  Hiura was drafted last year and is an advanced polished bat.  There is some concern about his defense, but he could compare on par with what Jonathan Schoop brings to the table.  However, a lack of arm strength would see him wander out to left field where the Orioles may soon experience quite a log jam.  Meanwhile, Burns is an advanced arm that will be ready for his MLB debut later this summer or next.  Not an exceptional talent, but he does look like he can be a starting pitcher.

This combination would do two things for the Orioles.  One, it arguably provides them with middle infield depth, which is something they drastically lack in the system.  Second, it gives them another cheap, controllable arm to let loose.  Of course, no one has connected Machado to the Brewers.

Jonathan Schoop 2B
Schoop is not worth as much as Machado, but he does have control for 2019 to give whatever team acquires him.  One option would be the Diamondbacks who have been rather disappointing at second.  Schoop is a hard one to figure with his value as he has a somewhat inconsistent bat to go along with a limited defensive profile.  It makes him a role player when he is off and an all star when he is on.  That looks like a 15 MM surplus to me, but it would not be surprising to see Baltimore try to hold out for a lot more.

To me, Schoop screams RHP Jon Duplantier.  Currently, Duplantier is eating up AA ball.  He has had some questions related to his health in the past, but appears to have put that behind him.  He throws a fastball with a lot of movement and a good breaking ball.  Duplantier would be ready for a taste of MLB later this year or in 2019.  This would give the Orioles another strong arm for consideration.

Kevin Gausman RHP
Gausman is a frustrating pitcher.  He will have streaks where he is superb and then others where is he rather pedestrian with a mix of blow ups.  Ask around the league and teams are still intrigued by him and believe that the best thing for him would be to get him out of the Orioles system.  I would be willing to deal him because I cannot see how this team can compete in 2019 or 2020, his last year under control.  Dealing him now will help reset the clock on the value.  Of course, the club will be hard pressed to find the kind of perceived prospect Gausman was seen as three or four years ago.

Here, there are few teams who really need another starting pitcher who are also running for a playoff position.  However, I could see the Braves utilizing Gausman and being intrigued about having him for an additional two years.  The Braves could also acquire him for prospects that are outside of their organizational top five due to their impressive depth.  I am putting a 30 MM surplus tag on Gausman and expecting a return of a fringe top 100 hitter and a fringe top 100 pitcher.

Austin Riley is a third basemen who just made the climb to AAA.  He does not look like a world turner, but he does appear to be a decent starting option.  He would be able to spell Machado at third and let Tim Beckham move back to shortstop.  Riley should be ready toward the end of this year or to start next year.  His aggressive approach at the plate aligns well with the Orioles.  LHP Max Fried would be the other target.  Scouts are somewhat divisive with how they view him.  Some see him as a fringe top 100 and others like him a lot more.  He just made his way into AAA and would be a live arm for the club to add that is close to MLB ready.  Fried's calling card is his breaking ball.

It is important to remember that this is sort of an ideal situation where these teams are very interested partners.  Given that, the Orioles could go from a team with two top 100 prospects on the upper end of the minor league systems to seven or eight prospects and one of the best farms in the league.  These prospects however are somewhat high risk.  None of them are top 10 near can't miss kind of guys.  Elite performance is unlikely for these guys.  That said, perhaps one or two find that next gear and, perhaps, several can provide a foundation for the next wave of elite talent to appear and pull the Orioles up by their bootstraps.


Unknown said...

A tear down in terms of the roster only makes sense if the Orioles first tear down management starting at the top. Their needs to be an organizational philosophy in place before acquiring new assets via trades, outside of players like Machado whose contracts expire after the season.

Jon Shepherd said...

We may not know it, but it seems pretty clear that they already know who will be in charge.

Pip said...

Trade speculation is only worthwhile if the organization agrees on needs, short and long-term goals, and direction. Any management that thinks Tillman is such a sure thing that there’s no need to acquire any depth beyond him is demonstrating a serious problem right there.
There are several other things that don’t make sense.
Dan doesn’t at all seem like the kind of person who would except the role of Puppet.
He also doesn’t seem like the kind of “good soldier” who would fall on his sword for the good of the organization, so there’s no reason to think he would spout meaningless BS such as wanting to keep Manny because he’s on an MVP tear....unless for some reason, known but to God, he really
means it.
Finally, Brady’s problems are easily apparent to anyone. It is unthinkable that anyone would really think that Brady would be a good general manager, Given the bad moves he has already made, his lack of experience, his arrogant meddling, and his apparent unwillingness to participate in the mundane day to day duties.
I don’t know what’s going on, but I do think that the problem is so severe that sabotage might very well be a danger.

Jon Shepherd said...

If the organization thought Tillman was a sure thing then they probably would have gone multiple years.

Dan is under contract and has always had limitations on his control.

Dan has repeatedly not thrown Buck under the bus on issues where he was overruled. Dan has not complained about ownership taking a direction different than what he prefers. Dan has not complained about not being allowed to change infrastructure.

If anyone willfully sabotages a situation then they would have to answer for it in their next front office interview.

Pip said...

That’s the big problem with decisions. There have been many decisions that would be called foolish by a neutral third-party, but calling them calculated Might be going too far.
Trading Manny for a bad return could easily be such a move.
And as I have said, Dan does not seem to be the kind of person who would willingly be a puppet, but everyone seems to think that that is exactly what he is.
Certainly, he is the one who willingly made that stupid comment about not trading him because he’s on an MVP track. There is no planet in the universe on which that is not completely unacceptable.

Unknown said...

Jon so what are you saying...that O's already know who will be running the front office next season? Well that seems to suggest its someone who is in the current management group, which means the Orioles will not be doing a serious roster overhaul. Gauzman and Schoop will be sticking around at least until the year their contracts expire.

Jon Shepherd said...

Aaron...I would not fully presuppose that.