20 October 2017

Blueprint For The 2018 Orioles (Option #5): Play The Veterans

Once the Orioles stop playing, we begin playing around with the roster and look toward the next year.  The Depot's Blueprint Series tries to take a well focused look as to what the potential solutions are to what ails the club.  A subset of our writers take part in this exercise and we invite our readership to submit their own ideas.  You have until October 22 to submit one yourself to CamdenDepot at gmail.

Below is our first reader submission.  I have edited it for clarity.  If I have been too extreme with my editorial skills, we will surely see the author complain in the comments.

Our first submission is from H. Davis.

-----

Okay, let’s be real before I get to the business. A $155 million payroll will not get this done.  But it’s fun to try.

My expectation is everyone who could be back on some form of an option won’t be. Welington Castillo would be a fool to not decline his $7 million player option as he is obviously the best offensive catching option on the free agent market. Declining the club options on both J.J. Hardy and Wade Miley is necessary. Hardy should be able to find a starting job for another team (ala the Padres) and Miley needs to rebuild value back as a bullpen arm. The Orioles do not have the time to wait for this.

All of the seven arbitration eligible players will be offered contracts including Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, Caleb Joseph, and Tim Beckham. After arbitration raises, that'll leave about $41.5 million to use in free agency. Now the fun begins. (113.5 MM)

“Reloading” the rotation…

The last thing the Orioles need this year is another revolving door of a rotation. Currently, I’d argue the SP 1 and SP 3 spots, filled with Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, are written in with pen (as Buck would say) and Gabriel Ynoa is penciled in for now as the SP 5. but I argue that should only be a possibility in case of injury or lack of production.  Of the 41.5 million available, I would expect 25 million to be spent improving the rotation next year.  Now could that afford one front of the line starter? Sure.  But we would still need about one to two more after that. So Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta are out of our price range.  The spread should be two starters each at 10-12 MM AAV for 2018 and one for 5-8 MM AAV for 2018.

Using the given updated BORAS projections, I’d sign:
CC Sabathia: 2 years, $23 million ($11.5M AAV)
Lance Lynn: 2 years, $18.4 million ($9.2M AAV)
Hector Santiago: 1 years, $4 million ($4M AAV)
Total 2018 Costs: 24.7 MM
This rotation setup brings a LOT of question marks.  Can CC Sabathia replicate his 2017 season and be the needed veteran presence in the rotation? Can Lance Lynn transition to the hitter-favored American League?  Can Hector Santiago bounce back from a god-awful injury-plagued season? Those are a lot of question marks.  No doubt it can bring some stability.  This keeps Castro and Ynoa out of the rotation and makes them depth pieces.  I’d be very Duquettian in that I would attempt to bring back Tillman as a NRI and see if Henderson Alvarez and Tyson Ross would be interested in auditioning as NRIs as well. This rotation meets my goal of coming below my $25 MM budget for improving the rotation as well. (138.2 MM)

“Refining” the lineup...

With about $16.8 million left, the priority needs to be adding one (or two) left-handed hitting role players.  With a significantly right-handed hitting lineup, an additional lefty is useful to have either platooning or coming off the bench.  The best five candidates are Curtis Granderson, Jarrod Dyson, Jon Jay, Carlos Gonzalez, and (unlisted on the BORAS model) Ben Revere.  I think the best option of the group given is Granderson (12.7 M AAV) for his required contract range and consistency.  He would represent another great clubhouse presence and a role player to strengthen the daily lineup. Carlos Gonzalez would be an intriguing candidate IF two things which to occur; 1) Mark Trumbo was moved and 2) he was still available on the market as late as mid-February. I think both Dyson and Jay will require multi-year deals which if I am the front office have little interest in right now.

One of biggest glaring holes on our bench is the lack of a reliable bench player.  My advice would be to follow the following steps:
  • One, pursue a super utility player in the Rule 5 draft (which I would do anyway).  
  • Two, give both Steve Wilkerson and Luis Sardinas a Spring Training invites to see how they look in a utility roll.  
With our rotation concerns and budgetary concerns, acquiring a good, all-around bench role player with be difficult.  Names like Jed Lowrie and Martin Prade come to mind but would come at a cost.  Unfortunately, an in house candidate may be the best alternative. (151.4 MM)

"Retrofitting” an already strong bullpen…

With an already strong core, why not improve that core.  My last move would be adding an additional left-handed reliever to bolster the pen.  Fernando Abad had a decent 0.5 WAR season which is definitely worth (2 years, $9 MM).

In Summary:
CC Sabathia 2 years $23 million $11.5M AAV
Lance Lynn 2 years $18.4 million $9.2M AAV
Hector Santiago 1 year $4 million $4M AAV
Curtis Granderson 1 year $12.7 million $12.7M AAV
Fernando Abad 2 years $9 million $4.5 M AAV
Steve Wilkerson minor league, 1 year $550,000 $0.55 AAV
A final total brings me out to 42.45 million in additions to the final roster. I went over by less than 1 million dollars! (draws pinky finger to mouth.)

After everything, the Orioles end up with this 25-man roster...

A Starting Infield of:
C: Caleb Joseph 1B: Chris Davis 2B: Jonathan Schoop SS: Tim Beckham 3B: Manny Machado

A Starting Outfield of:
LF: Trey Mancini CF: Adam Jones RF: Austin Hays

A standard model DH:
DH: Mark Trumbo

And a more respectable bench:
OF Curtis Granderson C: Chance Sisco UTL: Steve Wilkerson COF/DH: Anthony Santander

A balanced rotation:
SP: Kevin Gausman SP: CC Sabathia SP: Lance Lynn SP: Dylan Bundy SP: Hector Santiago

A strong bullpen:
RP: Zach Britton RP: Darren O'Day RP: Brad Brach RP: Mychal Givens RP: Miguel Castro
RP: Richard Bleier/Donnie Hart RP: Fernando Abad

I believe the additions can bring more solidity to the rotation and the bench while adding to our strength. My last advice for the Orioles to not hold back.  Be wise but not fearful of adding to the already present team.  IMO, I would prefer to add a bigger name like Darvish but know the cost would not be had with our limits.  I imagine after under going this exercise that Duquette will do a lot to made improvement through the trade market.  I do expect for two free agents to be signed to fill in the rotation, but I do feel that one may be added via trade (hello Scott Kazmir or Ian Kennedy).  Subtracting Trumbo would be boon to team for many reasons as well.  It’s hard to say what the future holds, heck if one or two of these guys is signed by the Orioles I’d take that as a victory.  

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.

Outfield

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.

Infield/DH

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.

Bullpen:

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.

18 October 2017

Blueprint For The 2018 Orioles (Option #3): Shake It Up

Before we get going, be sure to check out the rules of the game, the BORAS contract numbers, and the blueprints my fellow Depot residents have already posted. Did that? Ok, good. So let's talk about this off season for the Orioles. In many ways, 2018 already feels like the end of an era. It is possible that, after next season, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton, Buck Showalter, and Dan Duquette (among others) will no longer be a part of the Orioles' organization. Those men have been integral, in one way or another, in turning around a team mired in 14 straight losing seasons with little reason to think there wouldn't be a 15th. Though the Orioles have not attained the ultimate goal of winning a World Series, and indeed have only won a single playoff series during that time, that the team became even highly competitive is an outcome O's fans would have yearned for around, oh, 2008. It has been a very good run, but barring some sort of dramatic shift in organizational philosophy the team is almost certain to look very different in 2019 than it has for the past half-decade.

In my mind, this should actually be considered a good thing. My template for the Orioles would be to start a rebuild this off season while attempting to sign Machado and Jonathan Schoop to long-term contract extensions. That is problematic for this exercise, however, because trades are the only way to actually complete a rebuild. More to the point, however, I know that the Orioles are not going to do this. Every single thing the team has said has been with an eye on competing in 2018, so unless all of that is just a major smokescreen it is more than safe to say that the Orioles will likely approach this off season in the same way they have approached pretty much every off season under Dan Duquette: avoid huge money free agent deals for pitchers, work around the edges of the roster to build depth, and sign one-dimensional sluggers for triple what anyone else is offering. Ok, that last one might not happen this year. While I don't think this is necessarily the correct path forward for the franchise, I'm very certain that it is the path the team will take. I also do think that it is possible to make this team a contender next season, if probably not a serious threat to win it all. 

Contract Extensions and Options

As a reminder, we have set the projected payroll at $155 million. The Orioles have $53 million committed in 2018, but the big money is tied up in arbitration with seven players being projected to earn a total of $55 million. Given the relatively tight budget after arbitration and the need to significantly upgrade the rotation, major contract extensions are basically out of the question at this point.

The two easiest calls on the roster are the player options on JJ Hardy and Wade Miley. Hardy has a $2 million buyout, but there's just no way the Orioles can pick up his $14 million deal. Miley, who was in the conversation for worst pitchers in the American League last season, has a $12 million option with a $500,000 buyout, so enjoy that cool half a mil, Wade.

Controversies

Nate outlined the case for non-tendering Zach Britton, and in principle, I agree. The preferable course would obviously be to trade him, but given that the Orioles didn't find a suitable package in July and his price has almost surely only gone down since then, it seems likely that Britton will be on the team in 2018. If I were running the team I'd probably non-tender Britton and maybe even attempt to re-sign him, but I highly doubt the O's will consider this. As a result, I am going to tender Britton his deal for his projected $12.2 million. 

Where I will break with orthodoxy is with Mark Trumbo. The no-trade rule hurts me here, though that would be an avenue I would aggressively pursue if it were available. Trumbo was really, really bad this season, producing a nearly incomprehensible -1.2 fWAR and seeing his power evaporate. Trumbo was 20% worse than the league average hitter and provides negative value defensively. While it's certainly possible that he will bounce back to being around a league average hitter again it also seems possible that he's just done. 2017 was the second season in the last four in which Trumbo produced a negative WAR, and even in his "good" years he's barely a league average player. Additionally, he clogs up the DH/corner OF spots that would be better served by other players.

So, my hot take: DFA Mark Trumbo. I know this is very unlikely to happen and it flies in the face of how the Orioles operate (see Ubaldo Jimenez for more information) but sometimes you need to just admit you made a mistake and move on. Trumbo's contract, in a year in which the market for sluggers cratered, was such a mistake and having him on the roster limits flexibility in addition to having to play him almost every day. This doesn't save any money, of course, but it does open up a needed roster spot.

With all that out of the way, our total payroll left is $42.6 million.

Starting Rotation

What, you thought I'd start with backup catcher? Obviously, the rotation was the biggest issue facing the team in 2017, as it posted the worst ERA of any Orioles team in history. Most of the main culprits will not be coming back in my blueprint, as I bid farewell to Jeremy Hellickson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, and Miley. This does mean, though, that three rotation spots need to be filled. The big fish are Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, but I think it's very unlikely the Orioles pursue either for a variety of reasons. What I think is more likely is that the Orioles go after slightly better than average guys that can provide solid innings in the 3/4 spots in the rotation. The big acquisition here should be Alex Cobb, with a BORAS projection of 3 years, $31 million. Cobb has had trouble staying healthy during his career, which should limit his salary upside, but he is a very good to elite groundball pitcher that consistently beats his mediocre peripherals. He doesn't strike out many hitters and his home run rate spiked in 2017, but the price and fit work well for the O's.

In addition, the Orioles should make a run at Tyler Chatwood, with a BORAS projection of 4/42. This is a more significant commitment than Cobb despite Cobb having the bigger name recognition, but Chatwood is in many ways a younger, healthier version. His 2017 numbers certainly wouldn't predict this kind of contract commitment but there are some pretty good arguments that those numbers don't represent his true talent. First, he pitched in Colorado. At home, he was basically what Chris Tillman was this year: a tire fire. On the road, however, Chatwood was excellent, posting a 3.49 ERA in 77 road innings. While Oriole Park is not exactly a pitcher's haven, it is certainly no Coors Field, so I'd expect a stronger performance in 2017 as long as he gets out of Denver. Second, his walk and homer rates spiked but he didn't give up harder contact and he generated similar swing rates to the rest of his career. While I don't know if I'd call this a fluke I also don't think it's necessarily something that will automatically repeat. Like Cobb, Chatwood excels at generating ground balls, and at age 27 there is potentially room for growth in the strikeout department. This is a somewhat risky move, but there's a lot to like about Chatwood outside of Colorado.

Finally, I'd take a flyer on Derek Holland (BORAS 1/1.5). Holland is a lefty starter, and the Orioles have consistently said they really want one (which is a whole other discussion, but maybe another time). Holland was, well, bad as a White Sox this year, but that works in our favor as his market will probably not be robust. Additionally, there are some things to like, as most of his rate stats other than walks and homers (this is becoming a disturbing thing) stayed mostly constant. I don't think Holland is good, but he can be a 5th guy making a tenth of what Wade Miley would have made so I'll call that a win. The Orioles do have other internal options like Gabriel Ynoa and Miguel Castro, but I'd give Holland a shot to win that job out of spring.

Amount Remaining: $22.6 million

Bullpen

The bullpen was good last season, if not quite as good as it's been in the past, and better health from Zach Britton could be a huge improvement on its own. I leave the bullpen essentially unchanged from 2017, with Ynoa as a long man/swing starter. I personally do not believe in Miguel Castro and think he's in for serious regression in 2018, but the Orioles very clearly like him and I doubt they would send him to AAA, so he stays as the 6th inning guy. The one change I'd make is to replace Donnie Hart with Tanner Scott. Scott had a nice year in Bowie in 2017 and he brings a big-time strikeout arm to the pen, something the Orioles lack outside of Mychal Givens. I'd also take a look at non-roster guys, but there are no major bullpen additions in my blueprint, with Givens, Ynoa, Castro, Scott, and Richard Bleier making a combined $2.7 million.

Amount Remaining: $19.9 million

Infield

Most of the infield is set, with Machado, Schoop, Tim Beckham, and Chris Davis all returning. At catcher, we are assuming that Wellington Castillo will not pick up his 2018 option, and as a result will leave as a free agent. Castillo was solid enough, but there are too many holes to fill on the club to spend anything significant at the catcher position, especially because I'll be calling up top prospect Chance Sisco. While there are still some questions about his defense, his bat has the potential to be above average for a catcher, and it's not as though Castillo was a defensive whiz either. This will probably mean that Caleb Joseph sees more significant playing time this season, but with his offensive improvement in 2017 and his generally solid defense that seems fine.

My big acquisition for the infield will be Eric Sogard, with a BORAS projection of 2/17. Ryan Flahery has been the utility infielder since the dawn of time, but his usefulness to the team has declined dramatically, culminating in just 23 games played in 2017. Sogard brings a decent bat and above average defense and played second, third, short, and left field for the Brewers last season while racking up 1.9 fWAR. He probably had a career year offensively, but you don't need your utility infielder to post a .393 OBP like Sogard did in 2017. If he only produces his career average of .245/.341/.348 that would a huge bonus, and his left-handed bat gives the Orioles more flexibility as well. Given that there was some discussion about how various players may have run out of gas in September, Sogard playing 4-5 times a week at different positions could be huge.

Amount remaining: $11.5 million

Outfield

Given my "this will definitely, totally happen" release of Mark Trumbo, there are a lot of interesting options in the outfield. Adam Jones will obviously be a big part of that, but given his defensive struggles in center and overall concerns about losing a step it may be time to move Jones over to a corner. While I don't doubt he would be resistant to this on a personal level, he could be sold on it as a way to save wear and tear on his body as he looks to get his last significant contract after 2018. Jones was actually quite good offensively this year and I think he would be at least average in left field defensively, so I'm making the move. Trey Mancini had a nice year and was better in the field than many thought he would be, but the metrics hated him and improving the outfield defense should be a priority this season. With Trumbo no longer on the team, I'll move Trey over to full time DH.

Right field was manned by a rotating, mediocre at best crew in 2017, but the Orioles have a top 50 prospect who tore up the minors who happens to play in right. So, yeah, maybe let's give Austin Hays a shot. Anthony Santander has to be on the team for at least the first 44 days of the season, and once he goes down the O's could bring up Joey Rickard to replace him, though perhaps Santander does enough to stick around.

This leaves a pretty big issue in center field, of course, which I will solve by signing Jarrod Dyson to a 2 year, $16 million deal. This is clearly below his BORAS projection of 2/25, but given that he is a platoon guy whose main value comes from defense I'm comfortable lowering the projection a bit (look to Luis Valbuena and even Pedro Alvarez last year to see how being a platoon player impacts your market). Indeed, Dyson got a paltry one year, $2.8 million deal last off season despite coming off an arguably better 2016 than 2017.

The big draw, here, is Dyson's defense, which consistently grades out as elite, as well as his speed and baserunning ability. Both defense and baserunning prowess were in short supply in the Oriole outfield last year, and Dyson's skill set would work well in an offense that desperately needs some diversification. Since he is a platoon player, however, I think the O's need one more piece in the outfield, so I'll bring in Peter Bourjos to serve as the right-handed side of the center field platoon. He made $1.5 million in 2017 and I'll give him that same salary for 2018. Bourjos was having a decent season for Tampa Bay before an awful September and brings a similar profile to the table as Dyson, so he is worth a little more than a league minimum type guy. In combination, there's a possibility of +3 WAR center field platoon.

Amount remaining: $0

2017/2018 Off Season Moves

Tyler Chatwood, SP: 4 years, $42 million
Alex Cobb, SP: 3 years, $31 million
Eric Sogard, IF: 2 years, $17 million
Jarrod Dyson, CF: 2 years, $16 million
Peter Bourjos, OF: 1 year, $1.5 million
Derek Holland, SP: 1 year, $1.5 million

2018 Roster

C:  Caleb Joseph
1B: Chris Davis
2B: Jonathan Schoop
3B: Manny Machado
SS: Tim Beckham
LF: Adam Jones
CF: Jarrod Dyson
RF: Austin Hays
DH: Trey Mancini
Bench: Chance Sisco, Peter Bourjos, Anthony Santander, Eric Sogard

SP: Dylan Bundy
SP: Kevin Gausman
SP: Alex Cobb
SP: Tyler Chatwood
SP: Derek Holland

Bullpen: Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Darren O'Day, Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, Gabriel Ynoa, Tanner Scott

Final Thoughts

In a vacuum, this would be a fairly underwhelming off season for a team that finished in last place in 2017. That said, what the Orioles have long thrived on is the ability to avoid playing really bad players. They may not have had stars at every position, but the successful Orioles teams of this era rarely gave replacement level guys significant amounts of playing time. In 2017, the Orioles had five offensive players who played relatively significant roles that posted fewer than 1 fWAR. On the starting pitching side, there were four. Simply bringing in players with decent floors would improve the team, and subtracting Trumbo, Miley, Hellickson, Jimenez, and Tillman gives the O's a good chance of enduring fewer of the disastrous outcomes we saw this past season.

I'm not sure this restructured team would be a legitimate World Series threat, but if you squint, you could imagine Machado bouncing back to his +7 WAR self, Chris Davis getting back to being at least somewhat of a threat, progression from Gausman and Bundy, better health for Zach Britton, and suddenly this could be a team with legitimate playoff aspirations. Even if this isn't the off season I'd want if I had my way (and, really, everyone should just listen to me all the time) I think it's about as good as one could expect given the budget constraints facing the team.


17 October 2017

Blueprint For The 2018 Orioles (Option #2): Upgrade The Rotation, Or Nothing

Here's the second option in our offseason blueprint series. If you haven't done so yet, make sure to  read Jon's introduction to the series along with Nate's Option #1 post from Monday. Remember, we're working with the assumption of a $155 million team payroll.

Current roster decisions

For me, this part is pretty straightforward. We're assuming that Welington Castillo declines his $7 million player option (and I'm fine with a Caleb Joseph/Chance Sisco catcher combination), which only leaves a couple of decisions. Passing on J.J. Hardy's team option is a no-brainer, and Wade Miley's disastrous 2017 season forced him into that category as well. Bringing Miley back for $11.5 million - the difference between his $12 million option and his $0.5 million buyout - wouldn't be the worst decision ever, but it's time to move on. The Orioles/Miley experiment did not work.

I'm also offering all seven arbitration-eligible players: Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, Caleb Joseph, and Tim Beckham. I'd bring back Ryan Flaherty and Craig Gentry on minimum deals for $0.8 million (or something close to that). After accounting for everything - guaranteed contracts, buyouts, and arbitration raises - that'll leave about $42-43 million to use in free agency. Now the fun begins.

Free agency - starting pitchers

This current O's roster is far from one that only has one or two holes. There are things that must be addressed, including upgrading team depth. Having $44 million or so is probably not enough to address all of those issues sufficiently, but we can try. So let's just work our way through this.

There is no question that the biggest need for the Orioles is at starting pitcher. Any series of offseason moves that does not include multiple rotation additions should be considered a massive failure. As a reminder, here's how bad the O's rotation was this past season:

- AL worst in total innings pitched (846)
- AL worst ERA (5.70) by a half-run
- AL's second-lowest FIP (5.23)
- Sixth-highest K/9 (7.74), second-highest BB/9 (3.74)
- Only two regular starters with ERAs under 4.70: Dylan Bundy (4.24) and Gausman (4.68). Others ranged from 5.61 (Miley) to 8.12 (Chris Tillman). The average starter ERA in the AL was 4.54.

With that in mind, here are the pitchers I'd sign (using Jon's updated BORAS projections):

Alex Cobb: 3 years, $31.2 million ($10.4M AAV)
Lance Lynn: 2 years, $18.4 million ($9.2M AAV)
Jason Vargas: 2 years, $17.2 million ($8.6M AAV)

I know these blueprints are individual, and we have the flexibility to do whatever we want within the set guidelines. But I also try to keep them relatively realistic, keeping in mind things the O's are likely or unlikely to do. When the Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez in 2014 for four years and $50 million, he became the most expensive pitcher in franchise history. There's no way the Orioles ended up being very happy about either the length of that deal or the total. I would be surprised if they signed another pitcher this offseason for close to what it took to land Jimenez, especially since it's a necessity that they add multiple starters. That puts Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta out of reach.

Still, even though they might not get four-year deals, it's not like these three starters are without risk. In fact, Cobb, Lynn, and Vargas all had Tommy John surgery in 2015. That can't be something the Orioles would be thrilled about. But then again, there's risk for every free agent starting pitcher, and those previous injuries will likely help to keep their contract value down. Orioles ownership is also confident in the team's vaunted physical process being able to identify areas of concern. Love it or hate it, it has a pretty decent track record.

Of the three, Vargas is my least favorite choice, but I also think the O's will add a lefty (that's why they made the move for Wade Miley last season). Regardless, Cobb (2.4), Lynn (3.1), and Vargas (3.8) all had a better bWAR than Gausman (1.9) last season. Of the three, only Cobb was below Bundy (2.7). There's nothing amazing here, but there is improvement.

I'll admit, some of the contract numbers here seem low. It would be pretty surprising if the Orioles were able to upgrade the rotation with three quality veterans for $28.2 million AAV. Still, sometimes feelings can throw things off, and ignoring injury history and overestimating value can inflate perceptions. Jon has also discussed how well the model has performed for pitchers, so while the numbers seem low, they could end up being pretty accurate.

With three competent starters added to Bundy and Gausman, the Orioles won't have to rely on Miguel Castro and Gabriel Ynoa for the No. 5 starter job. Those two look much better as rotation depth or bullpen options anyway.

Free agency - outfielder

With about $16 million left to spend, the Orioles should look to add a proven outfielder with a left-handed bat. With Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Mark Trumbo, Trey Mancini, Adam Jones, and Tim Beckham, the O's could use another lefty to help balance out the lineup. Some options include Jarrod Dyson, Jon Jay, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and Carlos Gonzalez.

Of that group, I'd lean towards Granderson (one year, $12.7 million). As Nate noted, Jay is intriguing (as is Dyson), and I'd be fine with adding either. But I also think I'd begin the year with Austin Hays as the starting right fielder, meaning Granderson would be used in a more complementary role. He'll be 37 in March, and he is probably reaching the point in his career when he can't handle a full-time workload.

Fortunately, there will be plenty of room for him. Hays should play a lot if he's on the roster, but he could struggle and eventually be sent down. Adam Jones will also need time to sit some, and Hays could occasionally shift to center while Granderson handles right field. Granderson could still play some center field if needed, but he'd be better utilized in a corner. Plus, even with Mark Trumbo (likely) still around, he shouldn't find his name in the lineup every day, especially if he keeps hitting like he did this past season. That means there will be some DH opportunities available.

Anthony Santander will surely find himself on the O's bench for 44 more days during the 2018 season until he meets his Rule 5 requirements, but then he'll likely be sent down and the O's can fill that spot with a speedy/defense type like Craig Gentry or Joey Rickard (I'd favor Gentry).

Free agency - infielder

If you look around the majors, there aren't a lot of appealing options for infield depth. It's not like the O's are in a position to spend a bunch on a bench infielder, but they are in a good position of not having to worry about signing a starting infielder. That will likely all change very soon with Machado, but for now, they're set.

O's beat reporters keep pushing the idea that Steve Wilkerson could be the utility infielder next season, and maybe that ends up working out. But even if that happens, I don't see the harm of inviting someone like Ryan Flaherty to spring training and seeing if he can stay healthy. He's not a good hitter, but he can play all the infield positions reasonably well. He's a replacement-level player, and that's what the O's would be paying for.

Recapping the signings

Alex Cobb: 3 years, $31.2 million ($10.4M AAV)
Lance Lynn: 2 years, $18.4 million ($9.2M AAV)
Jason Vargas: 2 years, $17.2 million ($8.6M AAV)
Curtis Granderson: 1 year, $12.7 million ($12.7M AAV)
Ryan Flaherty: Non-roster invite, 1 year, $800,000 ($0.8 AAV)
Craig Gentry: Non-roster invite, 1 year, $800,000 ($0.8 AAV)

This is a little under $44 million, which is fine in case it takes some extra funds to bring in three starting pitchers. When it comes down to it, the Orioles either need to upgrade the rotation in a significant way, or they should stop saying they're trying to compete next season.

After everything, the O's end up with this 25-man roster:

C: Caleb Joseph
1B: Chris Davis
2B: Jonathan Schoop
SS: Tim Beckham
3B: Manny Machado
LF: Trey Mancini
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Austin Hays
DH: Mark Trumbo
Bench: Curtis Granderson, Chance Sisco, Ryan Flaherty, Anthony Santander

SP: Dylan Bundy
SP: Alex Cobb
SP: Lance Lynn
SP: Jason Vargas
SP: Kevin Gausman

RP: Zach Britton
RP: Darren O'Day
RP: Brad Brach
RP: Mychal Givens
RP: Miguel Castro
RP: Richard Bleier
RP: Donnie Hart/Gabriel Ynoa

Explaining the Qualifying Offer for the Orioles

This short post will do its best to explain the new qualifying offer rules that came out with the new CBA.  Previous rules were deemed as restrictive for players to find new clubs, a situation that Dan Duquette tried to take advantage of in years past to mixed results.  So here we go.

Who can be designated as a Qualifying Offer player?
The player must have (1) spent the entire year in the organization and (2) has never before been designated as a Qualifying Offer player.

What is the value of the Qualifying Offer?
The offer is the average salary of the 125 highest paid players in baseball.  For the 2017/18 offseason, the value is 17.4 MM, an increase of 200k over last year's average.

When are Qualifying Offer designations made?
Teams have five days (5 pm deadline) after the conclusion of the World Series.

How long does a player have to consider the offer?
The player has ten days after the Qualifying Offer deadline to make his decision to accept or not.

What is the compensation earned by the former club?
If the qualifying offer player is signed before the 2018 draft, then a couple things could happen.
(1) If the club receives revenue sharing (the Orioles do) and the player signs a contract paying over 50 MM, then the former club gets a compensatory draft pick after the first round and before the Round A Competitive Balance picks.
(2) If the club receives revenue sharing and the player signs a contract for less than 50 MM, then the former club receives a pick between the Round B Competitive Balance picks and the beginning of the third round.
(3) If a club pays into revenue sharing and the player signs a any deal, then the former club receives a pick between the Round B Competitive Balance picks and the beginning of the third round.
(4) If the club's previous (e.g., 2017) payroll exceeds the Luxury Tax threshold, then the former club gets a pick between the 4th and 5th rounds.
***note - thresholds are 2017 (195 MM), 2018 (199 MM), 2019 (206 MM), 2020 (209 MM), 2021 (210 MM)***

What is the compensation lost by the new club?
(1) Clubs, like the Orioles, who receive revenue sharing lose their third highest selection.
(2) Clubs who pay into revenue sharing lose their second highest selection and 500k of their international signing bonus pool.
(3) Clubs who have crossed the payroll tax in the previous year (e.g., 2017) lose their second and fifth highest draft selections along with 1 MM in their international signing bonus pool.

What if a club signs two Qualifying Offer Players?
(1) Clubs, like the Orioles, who receive revenue sharing lose their fourth highest draft selection.  I think. It may be their 4th and 5th selection. So, it either goes third, fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. or it goes fourth and fifth, sixth and seventh, eighth and ninth, etc.
(2) Clubs that pay in to revenue sharing lose their third and sixth, then fourth and seventh, then fifth and eighth, then ninth and tenth, etc. They also lose an additional 500k in international bonus pool money for each signing.
(3) Clubs that have crossed the Luxury Tax threshold lose their third and sixth, then fourth and seventh, then eighth and ninth, etc. along with 1 MM in international bonus pool money for each signing.

Hope that helps.

16 October 2017

Blueprint For The 2018 Orioles (Option #1): So Yu Think Yu Can Pitch

Well, we’re finally here. The 2018 season has long been considered the likely last year that the Orioles will have a legitimate chance at competing for a playoff spot with their core players for the foreseeable future. Maybe “core players” casts too large of a net. This idea largely centers around the fact that, as of now, Manny Machado and Adam Jones will be free agents at this time next year, and those are two players that are difficult to replace. Though with several players in the minors taking big steps forward this past season, the post 2018 landscape may not be as bleak as it once seemed.

With that being said, having a (mostly) consistent 6+ WAR third baseman and an All-Star centerfielder on your roster doesn’t happen very often. So with the two of them possibly departing after the upcoming season, it’s extremely important to pull out all of the stops and make the 2018 Orioles as competitive as possible. And that’s what the Camden Depot writers (and some of our readers) will be trying to accomplish over the next week or two in our annual “Orioles Blueprint” series. I’m up first, but before we get to my proposal, let’s go over a couple of things.

Jon laid out the rules last week (along with Camden Depot's BORAS salary projections for pitchers and hitters). Here’s a quick recap:
  1. No trades
  2. Camden Depot’s BORAS salary projection model will be used to sign free agents
  3. MLB Trade Rumor arbitration projections are used for arbitration eligible players
  4. All team-controlled non-arbitration eligible players are assumed to have a salary $550,000
Budget: $155 million

Between Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and Darren O’Day, the Orioles have a total of $53.33 million in salary committed for the 2018 season.

Remaining Funds: $101.67 million

Team Options


First thing is first; there are some decisions to be made on a couple of options. One of the assumptions we made was that Welington Castillo would decline his player option, making him a free agent. If anyone wants him on the 2018 Orioles, they’ll need to pay him market price.

J.J. Hardy has a $14 million team option that would have vested if he received 600 PA’s in 2017 or 1,150 PA’s combined between 2016 and 2017. He reached neither. Hardy has had a great career in Baltimore, but there is no chance I’m picking up that option. Declining the option means I buy him out for $2 million.

Wade Miley also has a team option for $12 million. With the free agent market for starters the way it is, I did not think Miley would have to perform all that well for me to pick up his option. He ended up not even meeting the low bar I set. Fortunately, his buy out of $500,000 is cheap, so declining his option was a relatively easy decision for me.

Remaining Funds: $99.17 million

Arbitration Eligible Players

Seven Orioles players are eligible for arbitration. I’ll be tendering contracts to all of them in 2018 except…Zach Britton. I know, it sounds crazy, and I actually can’t believe that I am typing these words right now. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Zach Britton is a good pitcher, but there are a lot of reasons why I decided to not tender him a contract this offseason. I am planning to explain this decision in more detail in a follow up post. In short, it boiled down to my opinion that his trade value has been greatly diminished coupled with the thought that the extra $12.2 million saved can be put to better use.

Remaining Funds: $56.27 million

Qualifying Offers

None of the impending free agents are even close to being in consideration for a qualifying offer. This is the easiest decision of this entire exercise.

2018 Roster

The figure below will be the starting point for my Orioles blueprint.
As you can see, there are quite a lot of positions to fill (3 SP’s, 5 RP’s, 2 corner OF’s, 1 catcher, and 3 bench spots). Of course, some of them will be filled with players who are under team control and are not yet eligible for arbitration. I’ll outline that in the upcoming sections.

Before moving on, let's factor in Dylan Bundy's assumed $1.50 million salary for 2018.

Remaining Funds: $54.77 million

Infield

With the (pretty great) acquisition of Tim Beckham before the 2017 trade deadline, the 2018 infield was pretty much set. While I think Chance Sisco (probably) showed enough to make the opening day roster as the second catcher, I wouldn’t be opposed to sending him down to AAA to start the season. In the event of that, I would sign a strong framer/defender (someone like Rene Rivera) on a non-roster invite to spring training for a low base salary (< $1 million) if they make the major league club. For now, though, we’ll pencil in Caleb Joseph as the starting catcher to begin the season, with Sisco ($550,000) getting semi-regular playing time as the backup until at some point their roles hopefully reverse.

You can swap Davis and Trumbo between 1B and DH. While Davis grades out as the better defender there over his career, Jon will occasionally mention on Twitter that Trumbo hits much better when he’s playing the field (Matt K. also posted about it).

Remaining Funds: $54.22 million

Outfield

Trey Mancini had a great year offensively and did not embarrass himself out in left field. At an assumed cost of $550,000, he’s going to be the starting left-fielder.

Austin Hays had a much better 2017 season than anyone probably thought he would have. Putting aside his small sample size struggles during his brief cup of coffee in the majors last year, I think it would be asking too much for him to come up and be the team’s everyday right fielder. I think he needs to spend a little bit of time in AAA before he’s ready to be in Baltimore full time. With that in mind, I would fill the right field position with Jon Jay. I actually advocated for the Orioles to sign Jay in my blueprint for 2017. Here’s what I said:
“…Jay is essentially your league average hitter (career 106 wRC+) and fielder (career -1 Defensive Run Saved), can play all 3 outfield positions adequately…”
Jay ended up signing a 1-year deal with the Cubs last offseason and put up another average season (this is a reminder that average is good). Jay’s going to play the 2018 season at age 33, so his defense is going to start trending slightly below average, but BORAS only sees a 1-year deal for $9.2 million for him, so there is limited risk in signing him. And if Hays plays well enough to get called up early in the season, Jay can easily shift into a supporting role, where his league average bat can adequately fill in at any outfield position.

Remaining Funds: $44.47 million

Pitching Staff

I may be publishing my blueprint first, but I think it’s safe to say that everyone’s blueprint will be focusing mainly on starting pitching. And that’s not just a coincidence, as the Baltimore rotation was absolutely dismal in 2017, ranking 27th in fWAR (29th in bWAR), 30th in ERA, 28th in FIP, 28th in innings pitched, etc, etc, etc. After declining Miley’s option, I’m left with Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy as my only 2 starters. There are (in my opinion, very questionable) internal options to fill those slots, and while at least one of them may emerge as a decent end of the rotation starter, I don’t want to go into the 2017 season depending on any of them. I’m ideally looking for an ace, a mid-rotation starter, and a flyer on a high risk starter.

Yu Darvish (photo via Keith Allison)
There are 2 pitchers on the free agent market that come close to being called an ace. One is Jake Arrieta, who is in no way coming back to Baltimore. The other is Yu Darvish, and he is my main target. BORAS projects Darvish to land a contract of 4 years and $69.26 million ($17.31 million per year)*. Darvish had a rough second half of 2017, which (as Jon noted in the BORAS projection for pitchers), significantly hurt his free agent standing in our projection system’s eyes. Other than a spike in his BABIP and HR rate in July and August, the rest of his peripherals appear to be in line with the more successful months of his season, so I’m not too worried.

For a mid-rotation starter, I would target Alex Cobb, who, according to BORAS, can be signed for 3 years and $31.14 million ($10.38 million per year)*. Performance wise, Cobb has been a really dependable middle of the rotation starter since coming into the big leagues in 2011. Outside of an injury shortened 2016 where he pitched only 22 innings (he also missed all of 2015 due to a torn UCL requiring Tommy John surgery), Cobb has averaged 2.8 fWAR per 180 innings pitched. The problem is, Cobb’s never reached 180 innings in a season, so there is some risk in this signing (he had a career high of 179.1 IP in 2017). Cobb is not a high strikeout pitcher, but he doesn’t walk many either and for the most part keeps the ball on the ground, which is good when one pitches half their games at Camden Yards.

I’m going to fill out the starting rotation by taking a flyer on Derek Holland for a BORAS projected 1 year deal for $1.5 million. Holland has been both injured and mostly ineffective since 2014. A spike in his home run rate and an inability to find the striekzone (leading to a 2017 walk rate of 12%) led to a 2017 where he was nearly an entire win worse than replacement level. However, I’m hoping I can get a little bit of productiveness out of the 32-year-old left-hander. I’m not expecting him to return to his 2013 form, but it’s not crazy to think he could provide some production as a 5th starter. During the 2016 season, he was worth 0.9 fWAR in 107.1 innings pitched when his walk and home run rates were more in line with his career levels. He doesn’t have to be great, and even if he’s terrible, the $1.5 million guaranteed will easily allow the team to cut their losses if needed. In that event, Baltimore can use one of Gabriel Ynoa, Jayson Aquino, Alec Asher, or Miguel Castro to fill the 5th spot in the rotation.

In the bullpen, I’ve got Brad Brach closing and Darren O’Day setting up. As in years past, I’m filling in the remainder of the relief corps with internal options making the league minimum. Mychal Givens, Miguel Castro, and Richard Bleier have certainly earned spots in the bullpen based on their 2017 performance (although Castro and Bleier’s peripherals do worry me). I’ll go with Donnie Hart as my second left-handed pitcher. Gabriel Ynoa is out of options, so he’ll likely get the last spot in the bullpen as a long man (I’d rather keep him as starting pitching depth than risk losing him to waivers). Other internal options such as Tanner Scott, Alec Asher, and Chris Lee can be in the mix as well. I’ll admit, that group does not inspire a lot of confidence, but bullpens can be fickle and it’s the one place where you can find something that sticks if you throw enough at the wall. With that in mind, I’m also handing out a bunch of non-roster invites to spring training to flawed relievers.

Remaining Funds: $12.53 million

Bench

We need 3 players to round out the bench. There is no real infield depth, so finding an infielder will be a priority. Furthermore, unless you want to count Mark Trumbo, there isn’t really much outfield depth either. I’m going to use the bulk of my remaining dollars to sign Howie Kendrick, who BORAS projects can be acquired for 1 year and $10.6 million. Kendrick solves some of the depth problem by being able to adequately play both infield and outfield corner positions, as well as his natural position of second base. Additionally, he’s a career 107 wRC+ hitter, who just finished up a very productive season at the plate, hitting .315/.368/.475. Of course, that came in only 334 plate appearances, as Kendrick has been somewhat of injury prone the last couple of seasons. Hopefully playing the role of part-time super utility player (something he’s done the last 2 year) will help keep him healthy.

The next bench spot goes to Anthony Santander over Joey Rickard. While I think Rickard can be a useful player, I think Santander has more promise, and I’d be interested to see if he can fulfill some of that. Plus, as a Rule 5 draft pick who spent most of the 2017 season on the 60-day DL, Santander needs to be on the active roster in 2018 for 44 days before he can be optioned to the minor leagues. The Orioles have stuck with him this long, I think it makes sense to get to the finish line.

The last bench spot should go to someone who can play shortstop, as currently, the backup shortstop options are moving Manny Machado or Jonathan Schoop off of their positions. I don’t think there is an internal option here, and without much money left, I’ll need to take the cheap route. I’ll sign Cliff Pennington, who will get a 1 year contract for $800,000 if he makes the team out of spring training. Pennington isn’t much of a hitter (career 79 wRC+), but not only can he play an average shortstop (career +3 DRS in nearly 5,000 innings), but can also play an average or better 3B and 2B as well, giving Buck Showalter a little more flexibility when giving guys some extra rest.

Remaining Funds: $580,000

Conclusion

Here’s the final tally:
OF Jon Jay – 1 year, $9.20 million
SP Yu Darvish – 4 years, $69.26 million
SP Alex Cobb – 3 years, $31.14 million
SP Derek Holland – 1 year, $1.50 million
UTIL Howie Kendrick – 1 year, $10.60 million
INF Cliff Pennington – NRI (1 year, $800,000 if makes team)

I always love doing this exercise because it demonstrates just how difficult it can be to try and build a winning team while sticking to a realistic budget. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made. It was a difficult decision to non-tender Zach Britton, but with the starting pitching being as bad as it was, I felt that reallocating the $12.2 million owed to Britton was needed in order for me to adequately address the holes in the starting rotation and outfield/bench.

*Author's Note: The original version of this post used incorrect/outdated BORAS projected contracts for Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb. Their projected salaries have been updated. As a result of this change,  there was not enough money remaining to sign SP Francisco Liriano. Instead, Derek Holland was signed as the starting pitcher characterized as a high risk flyer. The paragraph on Liriano has been replaced by one discussing Holland.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Postscript: I realize that my blueprint this year is not as realistic as some of the blueprints I have completed prior to previous seasons. I am under no sort of impression that the Orioles would even dream of non-tendering Zach Britton this offseason. I also think that Darvish may get more than what BORAS projects for him (possibly Cobb as well), which likely puts him out of range for the Orioles, considering the other holes they need to fill.

Having said that, a more realistic option of my blueprint would be to tender Britton a contract ($12.2 million) and not sign Darvish. The extra $5+ million would then be used to sign someone more dependable than Holland, possibly Clayton Richard (2 years, $17.50 million) or Jason Vargas (2 years, $17.20 million)...or it can be used for a more attractive offer for Alex Cobb. In this scenario, the 5th spot in the rotation is open for someone in the Asher, Aquino, Ynoa, Castro group to win out of spring training.

13 October 2017

2017/18 Baltimore Orioles Blueprint Series

Just like every other offseason, the Depot will kick things off with our long running annual blueprint series.  A subset of our writers will tackle the club and try to do what they think is best for the Orioles while staying under the budget.  Additionally, we are asking you, our dear readers, to feel free to submit your own plans using our rules to CamdenDepot@gmail.com for me to consider.  Once everyone has posted or emailed their ideas, I will act as Lord Supreme GM and make my final determination.

Some rules:

1) No trades. Trades are hard to predict and these exercises seem to be a bit optimistic about returns.  We have recently had someone state that Mark Trumbo and Zach Britton could be dealt for Julio Teheran and Matt Kemp.  I am unsure how exactly that works for the Braves in any way.  That said, whoever would have imagined that the Orioles would have been able to deal Yovanni Gallardo for Seth Smith.  Now that did not exactly work, but it was at least a better fit for the club than Gallardo was.

2) 155 MM payroll.  Payrolls are hard to figure out.  Sources I have vary from 152 to 185.  The reason why those numbers fluctuate so much is due to bonus clauses, buyouts, deferred money, partial payments in trades, and roster bonuses from veteran MiL signings.  From my terribly incomplete count, I found about 5 MM in potential roster bonuses from MiL signings last year, which is somewhat astounding.  So, we decided to go on the lean side of the payroll tallies and choose an aesthetically clean 155 MM.

3) Contracted Money (53.33 MM)

  • Chris Davis 17 MM (ignoring 6 MM deferred)
  • Adam Jones 17.33 MM (ignoring performance bonuses)
  • Mark Trumbo 11 MM (ignoring 1.5 MM deferred)
  • Darren O'Day 8 MM (ignoring 1 MM deferred)

4) Choose Your Options (2.5 MM to 26 MM)

  • J.J. Hardy 2 MM buyout (or 14 MM club option; ignoring performance bonuses)
  • Wade Miley 0.5 MM buyout (or 12 MM club option)
  • Welington Castillo PLAYER OPTION (7 MM 2018 salary, assume he declines)

5) Arbitration Tender or Not (0 MM to 55.1 MM)

  • Manny Machado (17.3 MM)
  • Zach Britton (12.2 MM)
  • Jonathan Schoop (9.1 MM)
  • Kevin Gausman (6.8 MM)
  • Brad Brach (5.2 MM)
  • Tim Beckham (3.1 MM)
  • Caleb Joseph (1.4 MM)

6) Peculiarities (1.5 MM)

  • Dylan Bundy (est. 1.5 MM, non-arbitration inflated salary)
  • Chris Johnson's 1 MM buyout is from an old contract, not current one.

7) Assume all other non-arbitration players at 0.55 MM.

8) Fill up only the 25 man roster.

9) Use BORAS contract projections for pitchers and position players even though some look unrealistic in our eyes.  If a player is not listed, comment on this post and I will run the numbers.

10) Contract money cannot be deferred and must be evenly distributed by years.

Let me know if you all who wish to contribute have any questions.

12 October 2017

2017/18 BORAS Position Player Contract Projections: I Tried

As much as I have been impressed by the performance of my BORAS pitcher contract projections, I have been pretty equally unimpressed with last year's position player projection.  To be clear, the models are different.  Different inputs, obviously, which for pitchers track well, but is still a mess for position players.  One of the major issues is that fielding ability is measured differently by each team and can vary significantly over the years even within one club.  There may also be some deviation in what kind of skills are appreciated over the years being more dynamic than it is for pitchers.

Long story short, we will be using these contract projections, but the model is not the strongest.  Anyway, we will still be using these figures to inform our 2017/18 Blueprint series.  Tomorrow, I will post more information about that and invite our readers to provide their own blueprints in addition to the ones our writers are developing.  At the end, I will review them and choose what I think makes the most sense moving forward.

Here are the position player projections:

AGE YR 2017 AAV
Alex Avila 31 3 34.1
Welington Castillo 31 2 24.4
Nick Hundley 34 1 8.9
Chris Ianetta 35 1 8.7
Jonathan Lucroy 32 1 10.9
Yonder Alonso 31 2 18.7
Lucas Duda 32 2 19.6
Eric Hosmer 28 4 61.2
Adam Lind 34 1 7.9
Mitch Moreland 32 2 21.4
Logan Morison 30 3 34.8
Mark Reynolds 34 1 9.5
Carlos Santana 32 3 45.2
Howie Kendrick 34 1 10.6
Neil Walker 32 2 22.3
Zack Cozart 32 4 59.3
Todd Frazier 32 3 50.6
Mike Moustakas 29 3 34.2
Eduardo Nunez 31 2 20.8
Jarrod Dyson 33 2 25.2
Curtis Granderson 37 1 12.7
Jonathan Jay 33 1 9.2
JD Martinez 30 4 64.8
Cameron  Maybin 31 2 21.8
Justin Upton 30 5 83.9
Lorenzo Cain 32 5 92.2
Carlos Gomez 32 2 21.2
Austin Jackson 31 2 21.8
Jay Bruce 31 3 30.1
Carlos Gonzalez 32 1 8.6



10 October 2017

How Much is That Pitcher in the Window?: 2017/18 FA SP BORAS Projections

After the 2015 season, the Depot decided to get more organized with our off season blueprint series.  To make things more standardized, I developed a model, BORAS (Ballplayer Observation-based Remuneration Assumption System).  There are actually two models, a pitcher model and a position player model.  The models use a variety of data and considers player performance against the 2017/18 adjusted contract money.  Players are limited to those who pay reflected a value of 1 WAR or more.  In the first year, both models outperformed other projection estimates (e.g., Bowden, Heyman, MLBTR, Cameron, FG Fan Model).  Last year, the pitching model performed second best of that group and the position player model was the second worst.  This year,my sniff test is telling me that the pitcher model might be a little conservative, but will be much more on the nose than the position player model.  In my next article, I will discuss my concerns with the position player model, but this post is about the pitchers.

This pitching post is likely of particular interest to Orioles fans.  With about 50 MM in spending room after arbitration and assuming that payroll will remain steady, the club has the opportunity to revamp their starting rotation.  As the Orioles enter into this offseason, they effectively have Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman in the rotation.  Some have suggested that Gabriel Ynoa or Miguel Castro should be given a 5th slot competition, but when you have 50 MM on hand you probably should aim higher.

BORAS Projected Contract Terms (updated 10/16)


Age Years Total
High
Jake Arrieta 32 3 51.8
Yu Darvish 31 4 69.3
Andrew Cashner 31 3 33.9
Jhoulys Chacin 30 3 37.4
Moderate
Jaime Garcia 31 2 22.9
CC Sabathia 37 2 23
Alex Cobb 30 3 31.1
Miguel Gonzalez 34 2 20.9
Lance Lynn 31 2 18.4
Tyler Chatwood 28 4 41.9
Low
Wade Miley 31 2 15.8
Jeremy Hellickson 31 2 15.7
Jason Vargas 35 2 17.2
Extrapolated - Poor
Clayton Richard 34 2 17.5
Ricky Nolasco 35 2 15.8
Francisco Liriano 34 1 5.8
Hisashi Iwakuma 37 NRI
Scott Feldman 35 1 5
Trevor Cahill 30 2 8.4
Yovani Gallardo 32 1 4.6
Brett Anderson 30 2 10.2
Hector Santiago 30 1 4
Chris Tillman 30 2 6.8
Tyson Ross 31 1 3.4
Matt Cain 33 1 2.4
Derek Holland 31 1 1.5


The strength of the model has really been driven by accuracy in players with three or more years projected.  Additionally, there is more strength in the model when players are projected to earn between 10-25 MM in 2017/18 dollars.  With that in mind, the model expresses a high level of certainty for Arrieta, Darvish, Cashner, and Chacin.  One wrench is that Marco Estrada also fell into this sweet spot and wound up get two years less on his extension, but for the same average annual value.

Several players seemed to drop off from their midseason expectations with less than stellar second halfs.  Yu Darvish went from a projected 6/118 deal to 4/59 as he scuttled.  It will be interested to see if his struggles in the second half will put a major damper on his value.  Jason Vargas, as I was expected, had his value collapse as he came back down to earth.  He dropped from a stunning 4/80 (man, that first half was good) to 2/16.  Jake Arrieta delivered a stronger second half and saw a modest increase from 3/45 to 3/53.

Below are the changes from midseason (which projected a continuation of first half performance throughout the season) and the end of year projection.


AAV
ASB End %
Miguel Gonzalez 6 10.1 68
Jhoulys Chacin 9.3 11.5 24
Alex Cobb 13.3 10.2 23
Jake Arrieta 15 17.6 17
Wade Miley 8 9.3 16
Andrew Cashner 12.7 11.8 -7
Jeremy Hellickson 10.3 8.9 -14
CC Sabathia 12.5 10.5 -16
Francisco Liriano 7 5.4 -23
Brett Anderson 6 4.6 -23
Jaime Garcia 14 10.7 -24
Yu Darvish 19.7 14.8 -25
Hector Santiago 5.5 4.1 -26
Lance Lynn 14 9.9 -29
Clayton Richard 11 7.7 -30
Tyler Chatwood 14.3 9.9 -31
Yovani Gallardo 7 4.8 -31
Chris Tillman 6 4 -32
Tyson Ross 6.5 3.4 -48
Scott Feldman 11 5 -55
Trevor Cahill 15.7 5 -68
Jason Vargas 20 8.2 -69
Derek Holland 5 1.5 -70

It certainly amazing how much a second half can change the trajectory of overall performance. Anyway, based on these figures, the Orioles should be able to acquire three new starting pitchers. No, not much looks to be available which is similar to last year.  With each free agent season, it appears that incredibly enticing free agents are typically locked into deals before they hit the market.  Maybe without a top tier of pitching available yet there still being a need for pitchers, we might see these contracts wind up being on the low end.

We shall see.