Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why Baltimore Would Be Better Off Without Paul Konerko

From Dan Connolly's post in the Baltimore Sun's Oriole Insider blog, regarding Paul Konerko and the aggressive offer the Baltimore Orioles are reported to have made:

That said, the Orioles really could use Konerko. He fills several needs: a legitimate power hitter who plays first base, bats right-handed and brings winning experience and a veteran presence. He is one of the more well-respected professionals in the game.

Yes, he’ll be 35 and people have been waiting for his body to break down or his skills to erode for a few years now. And there’s a concern that his huge 2010 – which included 39 homers, 111 RBIs, a .312 batting average and career highs in on-base percentage (.394) and slugging percentage (.584) – was the product of a walk year and that he’s setting up his next team for an expensive fall.

But the Orioles have little choice. Their perfect free agent first baseman – Victor Martinez – is off the board and the other candidates are left-handed hitters, flawed or both.

That first paragraph, I have no issue with. Konerko would be an excellent addition to the Oriole lineup...if this were fantasy baseball. But this is real baseball and you have to account for the contract it will take to get Konerko to Baltimore.

There have been no details about the offer the Orioles made but I think we can make a few assumptions. Konerko just came off a contract where he was making $12 million per season. Anyone think he will leave the White Sox for a pay cut? Doubtful. Does anyone think the Orioles can lure him to Baltimore on a 2-year deal? A 3-year deal? I think the club will have to offer him at least a 4-year deal. So the 4-year, $48 mil offer they made to Victor Martinez seems to be a good jumping off point for Konerko. If anyone thinks we can sign him for less, please let me know.

So, should the Orioles offer this kind of money to Paul Konerko? Well, Konerko is a 34-year old first baseman coming off his career year. Yes, the stats for 2010 were fantastic (a .977 OPS in addition to all the stats Connolly recounted) but those were the best numbers he has ever put up by a good margin. Who wants to wager that he will put up those numbers again during his age 35-38 seasons? Not I.

Much of Konerko's season was fueled by a career-high BABIP (one that is not supported by his Line Drive percentage) and I think it's safe to assume that the composite of the previous three seasons (2007-2009) are a better indicator of what he will look like going forward. Top performances in terms of OPS+ from 2007-2009 for 1B/DH types:

    2007-2009         OPS+
1.  Pujols            178
2.  Fielder           151
3.  Teixeira          147
4.  Pena              145
5.  Berkman           143
6.  Gonzalez          142
16. Matsui            119
17. LaRoche           117
18. Butler            111
19. Konerko           111
20. Loney             110

There's Konerko, way down there with the 111 OPS+, under Adam LaRoche.

Guess who else isn't on this list (because he was a LF during much of this span)? Luke Scott who had a 114 OPS+.

So there's Adam LaRoche again, a player who could match Konerko's production over the next four years but would be available for less years and less money. Anybody think the Orioles need to give him $48 mil? How about extending Scott with that deal? And wouldn't you have to think twice about giving that kind of cash to Carlos Pena as well?

Konerko's going to be 35. He's due for a big decline over the course of a 4-year deal. And his 31-33 seasons were no great shakes to begin with. He has just come off his best season by far.

In the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar, "It's a trap!"

Giving Konerko a contract as I described would be a disaster at worst and a huge overpay for a slightly above average player at best.

But Connolly (and a lot of fans) think it's a disaster the Orioles have no choice but to walk right into. Why? Why should the Orioles do something that will be to the ultimate detriment of the team. They don't have to do this. There are other options that are good bets to produce like Konerko but come at far less financial risk. LaRoche is one. Derrek Lee is another. Adam Dunn is still another, given the talent gap between the two. (Yes, Dunn is a better player than Konerko...)

This is not the Konerko of 2005. Not even the Konerko of 2000. This is a soon-to-be 35-year old first baseman coming of a season we will never reproduce and heading for an age induced decline. Don't believe the hype and hope we dodge another bullet.


escheinersold said...

You have your detractors too . And I know some think I drink the cool aide. But I continue to think Andy Macphail is on target with his approach. He continues to believe we have to find the necessary pieces for a contender. We still are 5-7 pieces away. So he needs to while doing this balance finding long term pieces with fill in pieces. He needs to at the same time make sure the young talent is not jealous of the salary differential. Egos are lorge at a young age. He needs to make sure he does not bring fill in for too long a term deals. This said
1.Macphail said they would probably let the free agency play itself out. Let the standards for salary be set for players they may be interested. V Martinez and Garland have been marks for the set.
2.Macphail said he thought the trade market would be more active due to a weak free agent market.
3. MacpPhail and Buck did make a very reasonable offer to V Martinez. They did expect a counter. Not their fault or error .
Perspective and Predictions for next 8-10 days:
1. The O's will orchestrate a better than minor deal for a player. I think they have been setting the ground work for such a deal. Maybe some one we have not even mentions. I still hold hope for them to trade with the Brewers for Casey Maghee. A 3b with power and RBI and possible big potential if he continues. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO to Fielder. Age- Conditioning- Falling Apart.
2. Yes I think they have made a run at Konerko. It will need to be over $15 mil per year for 3 years to catch his attention. I think Arizona and the White Sox will be at approx $13- 15 mil for 3 years. But as a back drop La Roche will be signed to play 1b. This will setup a possible dean for number 5 Adrian Gonzalez. NO NO NO to Pena. No more praying for a rebounds.
3. Wigginton, Iztsuris and Koji will be resigned. Bartlett will cost too much ( Hernandez) and I would put Hernandez (regretfully) in the deal for number one Casey Maghee. If the O's do not sign these 3 during this time they will be GONE. Wiggington improved his value this year. Koji is an attractive setup or closer to most teams with some money.
4. They O's will jump in a make an offer to Pavano. He fits as an innings Problem is he is a high ball pitcher (oops HR) eater. It Britton can make it this year Pavano then can be a fit to the long relief.
5. They will check in but [B][I]no trade [/I][/B]to be made now for Greinke and Adrian Gonzalez. These two will be available in July. I expect major attempts then should the O's prove to themselves their pitching in the majors and minors is abundant and worst of consideration. Both will be tooooo expensive during this time of the year though both teams will regret not taking less.

The Oriole Way said...

I don't disagree with any of this analysis, but I'm really curious to see what was actually offered. I'm trying to give the O's the benefit of the doubt, because it's painfully obvious that a deal of this size is a bad idea. Victor Martinez, who was 4 years younger and apparently regarded as a superior player by the Orioles, was offered 4/$48. The O's wouldn't make the same offer to an older and inferior player, right?

Heath said...

Oriole Way: Right, which is why I don't usually do analysis on these types of reports. But I think 4/$48 would be a reasonable number to lure him out of Chicago. Anything less probably isn't a serious or aggressive offer. I hope you're right.

escheinersold: Lots of predictions! I don't dare try to guess the trade possibilities as it's almost impossible to figure out but I would expect a trade or two to try and fill at least some of the needs. And that would obviously change some thinking about the free agent market.

Sean said...

@escheinersold: First, why do you think the Brewers would want to trade McGehee? He's relatively young, he's cheap and he's good. Is he blocking someone in their system? I don't really follow your logic on this one.

Second, why sign Pavano if you expect him to be pushed to the 'pen? MLBTR says that he'll probably be looking for something around 3 years, $33 mil. Why would it be a good idea to pay that kind of money to an eventual long reliever? The O's will probably have 7 younger, cheaper pitchers pulling for spots in the rotation.

Heath said...

@Sean: Which is why I stay away from trade speculation. Sure, they could trade McGehee but not for any reason I can fathom. But if the O's gave them the right player...maybe? Too much guesswork.

I'm OK with signing a vet for the rotation, an insurance policy for Zach Britton or others to not get rushed in to the rotation. But a multi-year deal would seem like a waste of resources.

escheinersold said...

I am suggesting find the player that fits long term and make a equal offer of plyers to have hole fixed. Obviously MacPhail is a grow the arem gm. This means going ahead contiinue to draft and grow arms. Buy with free agency and trades.

Maghee is somone I identify as wotrth a STRONG shot. Here is my proposal-Hernandez, Tillman, Bell and If need be Jones. To get something you need to give up something. Signing Patterson ten fits for the short term in centerfield. Cenerfielders are more avaialable than 3b.

Let's be BOLD. ANd let take the initiative.

Heath said...

First, your proposal that includes JOnes is a HUGE overpay for McGehee. Second, it's nice to think that a package that includes Hernandez, Tillman and Bell could bring us a 3B for the next 10 years but we have no idea how much the Brewers value McGehee, no idea what they think of our prospects, no idea how much MacPhail would covet McGehee or what he really thinks of his own prospects. Guessing at trades is folly. Most trades happen without anyone guessing the exact package. I didn't know the Astros would make Luke Scott available for Miguel Tejada, few did.

There may be trades in the works but we won't know about them (not the exact details anyway) until they happen.

Sean said...

@escheinersold: Okay, I'm starting to follow what you're saying now. But Jones, Tillman and Bell don't belong in that kind of deal. In fact, I wouldn't package them together for anyone on the trade market. None of them are failed players. Being bold for the sake of doing so is detrimental.

@Heath: I agree about trades. However, I do think that signing a starting pitcher is probably a bad idea. If I were in McPhail/Showalter's place, I would let VandenHurk begin the season in the rotation until Tillman knocks him to the bullpen.