13 December 2017

How to Compete without Manny Machado (or not)

This time was to come. We all knew it would happen, eventually.  Good things always end and end more quickly for some.  Manny Machado was going to leave at some point, sooner or later.  Apparently, much sooner than later. 

Last year's increase in payroll led to dreams of a 160-180 MM roster.  The idea that a top ten payroll was indeed sustainable even though the Orioles market area is 25th out of 30 in all of baseball.  That the Baltimore area has not felt that rejuvenating economic jolt that other places have experienced.  That the club's owner demands the club pay for itself after his free wheeling mid-90s spending sprees.  That viewership and attendance has not performed as well as one would hope for a club like that Orioles who largely depend on revenue from those sources.  Perhaps, it was all a grand delusion.

So Manny is leaving, soon or sooner.

Using FanGraphs estimates, the Orioles are roughly an 81 win team (assuming a neutral division, which we know is an optimistic assumption).  Counting deferred pay and buy outs, the Orioles appear to be sitting with a payroll of around 115 MM with perhaps 15 MM in room to spend, so a 130 MM payroll limit.

Losing Manny and replacing him with a replacement level player would be a loss of 5 wins and payroll sinking to 98 MM.  If we assume that the Orioles strike gold and deal him for two cost-controlled 1.5 WAR pitchers, then the team will sit at a 99 MM payroll and 79 wins.

The club could fill in third base with Todd Frazier at around 12 MM a year and push the win total back to 81 wins.  Add in Jaime Garcia, knocking out some inferior pitching, for 12 MM to be at 83 wins.  Slide in Jarrod Dyson as a left handed outfielder in place of Joey Rickard and see the club sit at 84 wins and a payroll of around 128 MM.

Maybe you get adventurous and slip into a fever dream, finding a salary dump location for Mark Trumbo.  Trey Mancini moves into the designated hitter role.  Adam Jones sucks it up and moves to left field.  The club signs Lorenzo Cain for 15 MM a year.  That pushes the win total up to 86 wins.

86 wins.  That is where you can whisper playoff aspirations if everything hits right.  Oh, wait, maybe Buck is still worth about three wins a year.  So, 89 wins.  I am light-headed.

Maybe it all works out.

12 December 2017

The 29 Trades of Manny Machado (AL East edition)

Yesterday, the news appeared to break that the Orioles will now listen intently on what other teams are willing to offer him.  The post will simply look at Machado's value and see how every other club would match up without really considering whether or not they want or could afford Manny.  Machado is currently projected as a 6.9 WAR player, which is roughly worth about 56 MM in value.  This is an underpriced value because a premium would be placed on a player that can give this level of performance while only occupying one slot in the lineup.  That extra value probably ups his true Market price to around 70-75 MM.

However, Manny has to be paid and that cuts down the value of that 70 MM valuation.  He is expected to earn 17 MM in arbitration, so that cuts his value down to 53-58 MM.  It has been reported that the Orioles are asking for two starting caliber players, so that will be a major limitation on any deal.  Anyway, here we go with this issue in which we focus on the AL East:

Boston Red Sox
Eduardo Rodriguez, LHSP
Michael Chavis, 3B
The Red Sox have this left handed starting pitcher by the name of Eduardo Rodriguez.  He has had some health and performance issues in Boston with the club somewhat souring on him (the Orioles soured on him too before sending him there).  He would provide more stability to the rotation for four more years.  Michael Chavis is a solid bottom 100 prospect who can play either third base or second base depending on the Orioles needs.

New York Yankees
Chance Adams, RHSP
Miguel Andujar, 3B
Some of the chatter in National media like to say Gleyber Torres is the best player to target, but he is too good.  He is a top ten guy.  In order to get two starters, there needs to be lower level targets.  Chance Adams is a pitchability guys with a solid breaking ball.  He dominated AAA last year and would be an easy fit into the Orioles' rotation.  Andujar has a gun at third and an offensive skillset where you could hope something develops.  He held his own last year in AAA and could break open with an MLB club.

Tampa Bay Rays
Brent Honeywell, RHSP
Jake Bauers, RF
Don't ask me why the Rays would ever want him.  If they did, then going after one of the better starters in baseball prospect circles would be a good idea.  Honeywell will be pushing for the rotation with the Rays this upcoming year and would almost assuredly get a place with the Orioles.  Jake Bauers has some impressive tools that play well in right field.  Right field is not exactly a place of need, but could be worked out if Hays shifted to left and Mancini could DH.

Toronto Blue Jays
Anthony Alford, CF
Logan Warmoth, SS
Well, the two starters idea fell apart with this club.  Alford is an obvious get, but nothing much sticks out beyond him.  He would be a great heir apparent to Adam Jones.  Beyond that, the Jays system is thinned out in comparison to what they had in the past and is pretty much concentrated in low minors positional talent.

Trade the Pen: Rusty Trucks Do Not Need Shiny Rims

Let us get one thing quickly out of the way: the Orioles have a few interesting bullpen arms, but they no longer have an elite bullpen.  That good, but not great, pen backs up a starting rotation that currently is filled with craters, whispers, and tissue paper.  The club has announced they are looking for starting pitcher, two to be exact with one being left handed, and could not secure either Tyler Chatwood or Mike Fiers.  Yes, if we take things at face value, Mike Fiers was expected to be half of the starting rotation overhaul.  And, yes, it appears the solution to the fifth slot is internal. Somehow.

And that leads us to this: trade potentially extra weight in the bullpen for starting pitching elsewhere.  That really just boils down to once and potentially still great Zach Britton and once and still potentially very good Brad Brach.  Both can slide into a closer role or a set up job.  Darren O'Day last year effectively pitched to his contract after being a bit subpar in 2016.  With two years and 18 MM coming to him, it seems unlikely that he could bring back much.  Mychal Givens is someone who would be highly desirable to other clubs, but the Orioles still are trying to compete somewhat and that means to me that he remains and takes over the closer position.  Then again, Buck and Duquette are in their final contract years, so maybe they go for broke choosing Britton over Givens.  In this post though, we will assume that the Orioles are acting somewhat rational.

The suitors for Britton and Brach would be as follows.  The Cubs, Dodgers, and Rockies are known to have pinged the Orioles about Zach Britton.  The Mets are known to have inquired on Brad Brach.  The Cardinals are actively looking for late inning help.  The Diamondbacks and Astros are also looking for suitable pairings in their respective pens.  I think we can safely ignore the Nationals as a trading partner even though they are still looking for relief help.  So, who can the Orioles pry from each club?

The Britton Market
Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are said to be looking for another starting pitcher, which would make one think they would not have a player available in a trade.  Though it may also suggest that the club is willing to deal out someone like Eddie Butler or Mike Montgomery.  Both have shown promise at times and both are likely strong components of a 2018 bullpen that provide backup options in case they have trouble with a member of their starting rotation.  That said, adding Zach Britton may be a cause worth going after.  The team is often thought to be made of money, but often try to be rather prudent at times.  Britton's salary, along with his uneven 2017, might give some pause.  Brad Brach might be of interest, but the club would likely have to tack something on.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles has eight starting pitchers and a few in their pen capable of starting.  The obvious arms to be dangled would be Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda, and even Julio Urias who is not held as tightly as he was before the season.  The Dodgers were one of the finalist last summer for Britton before the Orioles ghosted them and they turned their sites on Yu Darvish.  They still have a need for relief arm and have comparable salary ballast to exchange.  Pitchers like Kazmir and McCarthy have injury and physical concerns, so the Orioles might focus on Urias but then settle for Ryu.  Maeda would be a pie in the sky option who has pitched well despite having some potential shoulder concerns when he initially signed.

Colorado Rockies
The Rockies have called to check in with the Orioles and have been aggressively contacting closer arms in the market.  The two arms the Orioles would likely target are Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman, the pitcher who the Orioles tried to get from the Blue Jays when the Jays wanted Dan Duquette.  Of those two, the rumblings are that the Rockies have considerable doubts about Hoffman, so that could present him as a potential get.  The Rockies have the payroll space to acquire Britton's 12 MM salary, but would probably want the Orioles to buy down on it or to include someone else in the mix like Hunter Harvey or Tanner Scoot but more likely Cody Sedlock or Keegan Akin.

The Brach Market
New York Mets
The Mets seem to always be calling the Orioles about Brad Brach.  The really like him, but do not exactly love him.  So, the market is there, but the market may be somewhat limited in interest.  The Orioles, at this point, are also known to be inquiring on Matt Harvey.  Harvey, the once insanely promising starting pitcher, has fallen in the Mets doghouse on several occasions for reasons often not related to how dreadful he has been the past couple years.  The Mets value him, but seem to prefer to be in someone else's clubhouse while also getting something of similar value without the headaches.  A Brach for Harvey deal straight up seems to be a decent match between the two, but I imagine that the Mets also really like Givens and would try to pry him from the team.

St. Louis Cardinals
The front office seems to think that Oh's troubles last year spelled post season issues for the club, so they have been active in the closer market.  Looking at their starting pitching situation, they are not really filled with options.  The only one I see that could fit is the 23 year old Jack Flaherty, but I think that is a stretch.  He is a hard throwing righthander who has glided through the minors.  His ceiling is limited, but that is a good sixth or seventh option to have.  I figured you would need to see a Brach plus a prospect trade to pry him from the Cardinals and they would have to really want Brach, which is something I have not heard at all.

Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks are also looking to create an intimidating bullpen and have some cost concerns, so a pitcher like Brach fits right into their wheelhouse.  That said, there are not any easy matches here for the Orioles needs.  One interesting name would be Shelby Miller.  He had Tommy John surgery last May, but has experienced an accelerated rehabilitation and is already throwing well off flat ground.  It might be difficult for him to make opening day, but he may be an option for May.  Miller will make about the same as Brach in arbitration this year and has one more team controlled year for 2019.  This might make a lot of sense.

Houston Astros
Last summer, after a great deal of hemming and hawing over whether Zach Britton was really worth his deal, the Astros were in on him and were waiting for the deal to be finalized.  But, it was not.  In the aftermath, the portion of the front office that was against the move felt pretty vindicated yet they still recognize that the pen was a weakness that needs to be addressed.  Without copious amounts of money at their disposal, Brad Brach may look like a good match for them.  A piece supposedly in the deal was Francis Martes, who is a decent prospect who lost a bit of luster last season.  I could see a potential one for one deal on this or the Orioles would have to hand over an additional low minors lottery ticket.

What Happens?
I have no idea.  However, I think you could see a number of ways the Orioles could deplete their bullpen while securing starting pitching.  Doing so would likely decrease their payroll by an additional 10 MM or so, perhaps opening up space to sign one more starting pitcher or to find a few veteran arms in the pen.

Rolling the dice, let us say the Orioles were able to deal Zach Britton and maybe some international bonus pool money to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Julio Urias.  People will be shocked that Urias, who was recently a highly touted pitching prospect, would be gotten for only one year of Zach Britton.  However, the Dodgers figured Urias was not a major piece moving forward and that Britton would bring them closer to the World Series.  The Orioles then press their luck with Urias and hopes he is more than the frustrating late inning relievers some scouts are beginning to think he is.  He also ticks the box for a left hander.  On the Brach market, the Orioles trade contract for contract and acquire Matt Harvey from the Mets for a one year rental.  They see a lot to like, such as the low cost for a potentially useful starter, and figure he is worth the performance and injury concern for just one year.

Now, the club has a bullpen problem having dealt out two of their four best relievers.  However, they have an additional 12 MM from dealing Britton and a lot more from not having to sign a free agent starter.  What do they do?  To replace Brach, they sign Brandon Kinstler to a three year, 21 MM deal.  To replace Britton, they sign Tony Watson for two years and 15 MM.  At that point, they probably have enough money to sign someone like Andrew Cashner or Jaime Garcia.

OK, Duquette.  Do that.  Convert your potentially elite bullpen into a potentially decent starting rotation with some dependable arms.

11 December 2017

Pick One, Orioles: Trade Manny Machado Now Or Pay For Pitching

Last January, Jon did an excellent job of framing the Orioles' dilemma with Manny Machado and laying out the difficulties and possibilities. Of course, we know the O's have held on to Machado and now have him under control for just one more season, and that they're unlikely to sign him to an extension.

The Orioles have gotten off to a slow start this offseason to address their needs, and there's nothing surprising about that. Under Dan Duquette, the O's typically wait out the market while they search for potential bargains and players they feel have slipped through the cracks. Sometimes it works, and it seems to fit how O's ownership operates.

There are a few differences between the team's situation now and previous years, though. The O's clear weakness is starting pitching, and they currently only have two starting pitchers they can rely on for 2018: Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. There's nothing new about this deficiency, and there was no question that the Orioles absolutely, positively had to address this to have any chance to compete for a playoff spot in the upcoming season.

There's also the matter of the team's impending free agents. It's not just Machado, whose probable departure would be stressful enough on its own. There's also Adam Jones, Zach Britton, and Brad Brach who could be on the way out of Baltimore. Again, none of this is a new development. Duquette talked a couple months ago about the team's need to reload, not retool. Considering the weight of the roster decisions, then, you'd figure that would lead to some sense of urgency. It hasn't.

It's almost mid-December, and the O's haven't done anything to address the rotation. Tyler Chatwood seemed like a sensible target, and he signed with the Cubs on Thursday for three years and $38 million. The Cubs, apparently on a mission to destroy O's fans' dreams, also have strong interest in Alex Cobb to complete their rotation. There are other free agent pitchers out there who the Orioles could pursue -- Lance Lynn, Jhoulys Chacin, Jason Vargas, Jaime Garcia, Andrew Cashner, CC Sabathia, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, and others -- but Cobb and Chatwood are two of the better choices after the top two options in Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, who the O's will avoid because they're going to command lots of money and plenty of years.

You're already hearing some of the same, old things from years past: that the O's "had interest" when someone signs with another team (Chatwood, Mike Fiers), and now that improving the rotation is going to be a challenge. This is the problem when the O's version of going "all in" is more or less the same way they operate in a typical offseason. How can you reload if you're going to sit out while the best starters go elsewhere? The O's don't just need to add a fifth starter or some maybe underappreciated, low-tier pitching option. They need multiple accomplished starters.

If the Orioles are not going to do everything possible to upgrade the starting rotation, including outbidding other teams for desired players, then why hold on to Machado, Britton, and others and pretend like they have any real chance to compete? The Yankees just added the reigning NL MVP in Giancarlo Stanton. The O's won't even pay for three or four years of Tyler Chatwood. Considering the full picture, why would anyone think this is going to end well?

The Orioles are not going to pay what it takes to keep Machado. It would be painful, but if they trade him right now, at the very least the O's could get a few valuable prospects in return. Machado is currently healthy and will be in demand for some team. The same goes for Britton, Jones, and Brach, just to a lesser extent. Don't want to trade Britton and hope that he re-establishes his trade value enough to deal at the trade deadline? Sure, whatever. The others have value, but Machado is the big piece.

One problem with this whole thing is the O's can't be trusted to rebuild in any meaningful way. A fire sale is not the organization's style under Peter Angelos. But besides that, they're not going to reverse course and start spending in the international market. They're not going to tear everything down in an effort to correct whatever has been wrong with their pitcher prospect development for years. And they're not going to get the most out of whatever promising pitchers are currently in the lower levels of their system. In that sense, maybe you can see why the O's would be stubborn and just roll the dice one more time. But how in the world can you expect to tangle with the rest of the AL East and come out on top when you're not going to give Bundy and Gausman some major help?

Scared of signing the next Ubaldo Jimenez? Not going to pay what real starter upgrades cost? Planning to count on Miguel Castro, Gabriel Ynoa, or Mike Wright to be meaningful rotation contributors? Trade Machado and co. right now and jump-start a possible rebuild. The Orioles had a wonderful run under Buck Showalter and Duquette, and it was a lot of fun. But those two might not even be in Baltimore after next season. It's time to stop punting and make some real decisions.

10 December 2017

Sunday Comics: Thank You, Mr. Halladay

After a lengthy hiatus for graduate school and weird library work hours, I'm finally back with art! I've missed everyone here and it's nice to be back working on baseball cartoons again.

Kevin Gausman's tweet about his uniform number change definitely made me emotional, so this week's drawing was to be expected.

07 December 2017

Baseball America's Orioles Prospects Top Ten

In years past, I would present my own top ten as well as composite top tens.  I do not really do that anymore.  I am a novice evaluator at games, but a pretty decent source aggregator.  It helps develop my view, but I think I should more tip my hat to those who are investing far more energy than I am into these lists.  One of the first things to remember with any list is that the ranking numbers do not represent equidistant distances in value between the players.  The space between a number 1 ranking and a number 2 could be narrower than 3 and 4.  It may well be that someone ranked 7th could easily be ranked 15th.  Things get jumbled, so try not to be so narrow in your focus.

The List

Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun is the messenger of news this year and it has been pretty refreshing.  He shows a great deal of inquisitiveness and really tries to nail down what we know or what we do not know.  Enjoy him.  I imagine he is going on to better things, so read it.

Major points:
  • Austin Hays has emerged as the best Orioles prospect.  It is good to remember that does nothing particularly well, so he snuck up on a lot of evaluators.  In general, average tooled players tend not to be able to keep all of their tools at level as they move forward.  Scouts like to see a loud carrying tool to serve as a bearer for the rest of the player.  That does not describe Hays.  That probably still follows him with his top 100 ranking which will be released next year.
  • Mountcastle also leapt over Sisco.  I have been a long pessimistic voice on Sisco.  His defense still aspires to be adequate behind the plate.  He has improved in framing and blocking, but his arm still looks simply passable.  If he gets pushed out from behind the plate, the suggestion is that he is stuck to left field.  My read on him is probably more pessimistic on his catching and more optimistic that he could play second or third where the bat would not need to carry him as much. Mountcastle though looks like a strong bat first player who should be able to hit enough to play any position.  I think finally people have stopped repeating the company line of him being a shortstop since the company finally moved on with what everyone with any knowledge of him had already concluded.
  • I think the top ten works in a couple ways.  Now, it is important to note that scouts' opinions can vary widely.  For the most part, you have a top tier of Hays, Mountcastle, and Sisco.  Harvey, for some, dips into that group. Scott, for some, does as well.  The next group are guys with lower ceilings or are a little bit further away with Harvey, Scott, and Hall.  All of these guys have some measure of high ceiling, but have distance ahead of them.  After that you have a list that probably jumbles back to 15 with names like Keegan Akin or DJ Stewart not present on the top ten, but likely there in the next five.
  • The club's minor league situation looks light years better than it was a few years ago.  The club has several good position player prospects and really a legion of interesting arms below that.  One of the deficiencies is that the pitching largely is located in the low minors, but it certainly seems more robust than it has been for the past decade or so.  It may have taken five or so years, but Duquette's group has really stabilized the minors to some extent.  That said, being handicapped in the Latin American market really hurts, but so far they have adapted well.  It is an impressive change of events to what things looked like in 2015 or 2016.

06 December 2017

With No Limitations, Can Dylan Bundy Be Even Better In 2018?

Dylan Bundy's performance in 2017 was a welcome sight. It's indisputable that the Orioles, for an extended period of time, have not done a competent job of developing starting pitchers. But this past season, while Bundy was not great, he was pretty good. It just so happened that much of the rotation surrounding him fell apart.

Considering Bundy's injury history and the uncertainty of what his right arm could handle, about 170 innings of pretty good was more than acceptable. Going in, the O's apparently had an innings limit of around 180 in mind. It never seemed like they drew a line in the sand with that number, and that maybe it was more of a target to reach.

Bundy fell about 10 innings short of 180, but how well did the Orioles handle him? They gave him extra days off. They seemed to be on the same page with him. An early September report indicated the O's would remove Ubaldo Jimenez from the rotation and potentially keep Bundy on regular rest, but that didn't happen. Bundy was even held out of what was supposed to be his last start of the season with a (fortunate?) hamstring strain. Oddly enough, Buck Showalter said that he "had some apprehension quite frankly about pitching him" that day. So, uh, it worked out.

That doesn't mean there were no eyebrow-raising moments. Again, the O's gave Bundy more space in between some starts, but he did throw a lot of pitches during those starts. He threw 101 pitches per start, tied for 10th most in the majors. He also threw between 110-119 pitches 16 times, which tied for 21st most. That might not seem too bad, but it's maybe a little surprising since it was his first full year as a major league starter.

Bundy's excellent outing on August 29 against the Mariners also became a topic of discussion. That night, he allowed one hit (a bunt single), struck out 12, and walked two in a 116-pitch, complete game shutout. It was a masterful performance. It even led to this Jeff Sullivan post at FanGraphs.

I was surprised and conflicted to see Bundy pitch that final inning, but I admit it was still cool to see (and he surely appreciated the moment, if you care about such things). Some, like Keith Law, noted that Bundy was still in the game in a questioning way. In a reply to a follower's tweet, Law mentioned that Bundy "hasn't been the same since he was worked hard at the end of last year." That's a weird thing to talk about after someone throws a one-hitter!

Anyway, is it true? Bundy didn't start a game last year until after the all-star break. He began the year with an average fastball velocity of 94+ mph, and that ramped up to 96 in June and July. In the last two months of the season, when he was exclusively a starter, his velocity dipped back down to 94.

If you were expecting Bundy to remain in the mid-90s with his fastball in 2017, you were probably disappointed. Bundy averaged 92.5 mph on his fastball this past season. Maybe that's what Law is referring to.

Even still, without that extra velocity, Bundy was better in his starts in 2017 vs. 2016. Take a look:

2016: 71.2 IP, 4.52 ERA, 5.24 FIP, 9.04 K/9, 3.77 BB/9
2017: 169.2 IP, 4.24 ERA, 4.38 FIP, 8.06 K/9, 2.71 BB/9

Bundy's ERA and FIP were both team bests for the Orioles. He lost a strikeout per nine innings, but he cut down one walk, too. He broke out his vaunted slider (or cutter), and it was easily his best swing-and-miss pitch. His fastball, curveball, and changeup all generated fewer whiffs, though.
Did the reintroduction of the slider to his pitch repertoire lead to lower velocity? (Dan Duquette might tell you that, though there doesn't appear to be much proof.) Is this what fans can expect from the Bundy who's a full-time starter, let alone one who (hopefully) approaches 200 innings in 2018?

If that's the case, that's perfectly fine. Even though he's shown flashes, maybe Bundy won't be a true ace. But it's still worth being hopeful that he was good in his first full year as a starter, and he didn't break down. There were signs of fatigue, yet worrying about Bundy's health is something that won't go away anytime soon.

At the moment, he's the one starting pitcher O's fans can count on the most, and there likely won't be much talk of an innings limit on him next season. Considering everything that's happened with Bundy in his O's career, he has to feel pretty good about where things are for him. Fans should feel the same way.

05 December 2017

Four Unprotected Rule 5 Pitchers

Last week, I took a look at a few left handed outfield bats that might be appreciated by the Orioles in the Rule 5 draft.  As noted then, the Orioles are fairly active in this draft and do their best to retain who they select.  However, they have also shown the ability to walk away from a player when that player does not provide them with the looks they were hoping to see.  In this post, we will take a look at four available pitchers.  I did have a fifth one, but for various reasons I was requested to not mention him when I was doing my typical call around. (oooh, intrigue).

So what do I look for in a Rule 5 pitcher?  Well, it is the same thing I look for in a MiL free agent.  I want to see a lot of swinging strikes and a good peripherals.  My approach is a little more complex (just a tad), but a simple way to look at this is whether there are any pitchers on a AA or AAA launchpad to the majors who have shown above average performance with metrics like swinging strikes, weak contact, groundballs, etc.  This collection of four pitchers are those who I found who have excelled at these.

The Lefthanded Option
Jordan Guerrero
Register Pitching
Year Age Lev DRA IP BB9 SO9
All All
AA (AA (Minors
A (2A (2Minors
Rk (Rk (Minors
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2017.

Jordan Guerrero has some knocks against him.  He does not throw hard, whihc means he has less room for failure as he faces more advanced hitting.  Throwing 90 or 91 mph is playing around the threshold of effective starting pitching.  Guerrero has also shown a need to repeat leagues, though that may be a product of his age.  For a club like the Orioles who have some post-season hopes, a pitcher who has major issues in his first taste of more advanced hitting might well find most if not all of his time sitting on the bench unused.  While Duquette may have employed the log view at times, it often seems as if Buck tolerates far fewer shows of below average production and a suspiciousness to players who may be on the roster for reasons other than good play.

He also relies heavily on his fastball/changeup mix.  Even with uneven breaking material, he still manages to handle left handers rather well with good mechanics and control.  Most see him as a pitcher who could be implemented well out of the bullpen with an eye to a 5th starter role post-2018.  For the Orioles, this might be intriguing as the club as a major lack of MLB ready starters and may need to implement more of a revolving doors of arms this year.

The Righthanders
James Farris
Register Pitching
Year Age Lev DRA IP BB9 SO9
All All
AA (AA (Minors
A+ (A+ (Minors
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2017.

James Farris is an interesting pitcher.  He was a rock bottom senior sign for the Cubs, receiving a paltry $4,000 signing bonus (his four years of professional play have netted him somewhere around $36-44K total).  This past fall saw his second outing in the Arizona Fall League, which went way way worse than the first time around.  His performance in Arizona, is largely attributed to him having terrible BABIP issues.  He comes across as a right handed version of Guerrero.  He throws around 90-91 and relies heavily on his changeup and a change of pace breaking ball.  Farris may be a reverse splits pitcher due to his fastball/changeup interplay.

A potential drawback for the Orioles selecting Farris is that there really is no reason to think he can work deep into games.  His usage has been more or less as a crafty right handed closer for the Cubs and, last year, Rockies.  That said, it is hard to look past his double digit strikeout rates that he has accomplished in spite of his lack of velocity.  The club could see a strong fit with him as the fourth or fifth right hander in the pen.

Jake Reed
Register Pitching
Year Age Lev DRA IP BB9 SO9
Year Age Lev
All All
AAA AAA Minors
AA (AA (Minors
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2017.

Jake Reed has a more compelling repertoire to stick as a reliever than Guerrero or Farris.  He employs a heavy mid 90s fastball with a slider and change up that at times appear useful.  He does not give up home runs, tends to keep the ball on the ground, but has bouts of control issues.  He is a player who when you look at him, he looks far more like a successful reliever than he actually has been in practice.  2017, though hindered with an oblique injury, left some hope with him tossing 30.2 IP of 2.05 ERA ball in AAA.

Reed is an arm that might strike the Orioles fancy. He is a hard thrower. He puts the ball on the ground.  Although these attributes are not hard requirements to be an Orioles pitcher, the club tends to lean in these directions and Reed shows promise with both of those.  Of course, there is not multi-demensionality of his pitching role.  He is a bullpen arm and nothing other than a bullpen arm.  That could be useful, but, again, the club is likely to look toward arms with secondary potential to fill in the rotation.

Burch Smith
Register Pitching
Year Age Lev DRA IP BB9 SO9
Year Age Lev
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2017.

There is an old scouting adage about prospects: if they flash it, they own it.  It is an idea that basically means that if a prospect flashes a plus tool that, with maturation, they will grow into a more consistent ownership of that tool.  That perspective bleeds into other assessments and when it does it gets a bit worrisome.  This year, Burch Smith has been the recipient of that perspective.

Smith is coming off a very long Tommy John surgery and rehabilitation.  His surgery was on April 2015, but he suffered several setbacks and did not get back out into competitive play until midway through this past season.  He would enter games pretty hot.  He was capable of touching mid to high 90s, but would very quickly lose that and settle around 91-92 and cratering if left in longer than once through the lineup.  This is not new and was a trait that plagued him pre-surgery, too.  He throws a curve with decent movement, but that movement comes in a way where bats should rarely miss it.  He has some trouble getting much out of his changeup, which poses some issues for him profiling as a long reliever.  He has also played around with a cutter, but it is uncertain to what extent he will try to utilize this pitch in the future or how well it will be used.

That all said, he was particularly devastating to the first couple batters he would face before fatigue would erode his mechanics and velocity.  To those who think he can be a starter, that is based on his having been a starter once and carrying the residual starter's collection of pitches.  What is probably in front of him is like as a fastball and curveball heavy pitcher with emphasis on the fastball.  You might be able to see something Tommy Hunter-ish if you squint.  But, yes, he looks like a decent Rule 5 pickup, but there certainly are reasons why he was left off the 40 man roster.

As always, no one really shines forth in this draft as an amazing talent.  You have talents who have major red flags; be it talent, performance, or injury based.  The above are all interesting.  They are all arms that a club would like to have in their system, but perhaps no so much as to have to put them on an active roster or even a 40 man roster.

04 December 2017

Non-Tendered Candidates for the Orioles to Consider

During our blueprint exercise, a common theme in the comments was that it would be interesting to include players who were non-tendered into our analysis, as it would be an additional way to sign players and improve the team at what would likely be a modest cost, at least in comparison to other free agents. Baltimore recently had success in taking this approach last year, when they signed Welington Castillo to a 1 year contract, with a player option (Castillo declined his player option and signed with the White Sox on Friday). The only problem with including non-tendered players in our blueprint analysis was that at the time we wrote our blueprints, the deadline to tender arbitration eligible players contracts had not yet arrived. However, as of the early hours of Saturday morning, this is no longer the case.

Nothing of note has really happened yet for the Orioles this offseason (or the rest of baseball really), so the Orioles still have the same holes to fill as they did when the 2017 season officially ended. With the infield set, the Orioles would still be focused on starting pitching and the outfield, while also maybe dabbling in the relief pitching or backup catching market to add some depth. Unfortunately, the non-tender list doesn’t really have any potential improvements other than pitching, but some of those pitchers could make sense for Baltimore.

Mike Fiers is the biggest get here, but that’s not necessarily a surprise given that he’s been mentioned as a non-tender candidate prior to the deadline, with several members of the Orioles media and blogosphere discussing him as someone the Orioles should/will target. Fiers had been projected to make $5.7 million in his second year of arbitration according to MLB Trade Rumors. He wasn’t good last year, but outside of an injury shortened 2013, he has been a quality starting pitcher since 2012.

Standard Pitching
7 Yr7 Yr42474.15141123726.0954.
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/3/2017.

What obviously jumps out in 2017 are the increase in walk and HR/FB rates. That’s not a good combination, especially in a park like Camden Yards. However, if you look a little closer, he also struck out more batters (resulting in a K-BB% similar to 2016) and had a lower FB% than his career rate. So he’s not giving up more fly balls, though a higher percentage of those fly balls left the yard in 2017. This could be chalked up to some bad luck. Compared to his career levels, he gave up hard contact 2% less in 2017. That remaining 2% was redistributed to a 1% increase in soft and medium contact each. A look at some of his supporting statistics show that he’s been the same pitcher he’s always been. Even his velocity hasn’t changed.


Still, Fiers is a bigger gamble than he otherwise would be considering this new era of increased home runs. However, he’s the best non-tendered starting pitcher available, and even with the risk that accompanies him, he definitely would make the Baltimore rotation better.

Baltimore could also look at Tom Koehler, whose situation is very similar to that of Fiers, in that he has historically been a dependable starter until he was done in by walks and home runs in 2017. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Koehler was expected to make $6.0 million in 2017. Koehler is just not as good as Fiers, and his 2017 season was pretty much a disaster.

Standard Pitching
6 Yr6 Yr36554.39161133784.1884.491.13.76.9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/3/2017.

He’ll provide fewer strikeouts, more walks, with a similar batted ball profile as Fiers. At the right price (not $6 million), he’d be a decent depth piece for the Baltimore rotation with a small chance at a bounce back, but he shouldn’t be someone they should depend on. At the very least, he proved to be effective in the bullpen if he once again struggles in the rotation.

Pitching Role
as Starter132833251.296.393.525.918.320108
as Reliever1451311.250.294.417.711.30660
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/3/2017.

Another interesting option could be Chi Chi Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a former first round pick from the 2013 draft who has struggled during his major league career. He underwent Tommy John surgery in July, so the team could take a 2 year flier on him to see if they can get any value. Combined with his injury, he wasn’t even eligible for arbitration yet, so he should come cheap. The team shouldn’t count on getting anything from him at all, but he’ll only be 26 next season, and is only 4 years removed from being a first round draft pick.

The Orioles don’t necessarily need to sign relievers, but they make up the bulk of the non-tender list this year, so it’s worth taking a quick look at them. The most well-known is former Cubs closer Hector Rondon. Rondon will strike out a lot of batters, but he’s been prone to giving up the home run the last two seasons, with nearly 20% of fly balls given up leaving the park. If the Orioles were to sign a reliever, they’d likely want to target Jared Hughes instead. Hughes was expected to make $2.2 million in his last year of arbitration. Hughes doesn’t exactly have the strikeout and walk rates you typically want to see out of a reliever (career 15.3% and 8.1% respectively), but he keeps the ball on the ground (career 61.2% GB rate) and owns a 2.85 ERA in 369 career innings. His peripherals don’t exactly line up with that ERA, so like everyone else here, he’s not without risk.

Admittedly, it’s tough to get excited about these options. There is definitely some potential in each of these players, and most of them have at least one season on the back of their baseball card that makes one say, “if only they could have another season like that…”. But since they’ve had several other seasons that haven’t been so good, a productive 2018 season is far from a sure thing, which is why they ended up on this list to begin with. These players were not wanted at the salary they were expected to receive. That doesn’t mean they’re bad, it just means there is a higher likelihood of them not being good. Still it wouldn’t hurt the Orioles to take a chance on one (or more) of them.