Friday, January 28, 2011

Why Signing Vlad Guerrero is a Bad Idea

As much as I hate commenting on hypothetical moves, it seems I'm already arguing about them on Twitter. So now I will elaborate as to why I am not thrilled with the idea of Vladimir Guerrero coming to Baltimore next season.

1. Vlad Guererro isn't Vlad Guerrero Anymore

From 1996 to 2007, Vlad was a monster. He hit .325/.391/.591 with 365 home runs and an OPS+ of 148. However, for the last 3 seasons he has hit .300/.350/.496 with 71 homers and an OPS+ of 121. That's a good hitter but not a great one. In addition, he can no longer play the field anymore. So given that he is no longer a monster at the plate...

2. Vlad Won't Help This Team That Much

If I believed the Orioles were going to contend this year, loading up on veteran help would make a lot of sense and would be banging the drum loudly for this signing. But this team is not a contender. Not this year. I figured that if everything goes perfectly and Vlad repeats his performance from last year, he might be worth a couple extra wins. Dan at Camden Crazies broke it down some more and figures Vlad would only be worth one win, maybe. So will it make that big a difference if this team wins 73 games instead of 71 or 72? I don't see how. Besides...

3. We Already Have A DH Who Hits Like Vlad

Over the past three seasons, Vlad has an .845 OPS. Luke Scott also has an .845 OPS over that span. In addition, he can still play the outfield or first base making him a versatile and valuable player. But why couldn't the team move Scott back out to left field and let Vlad DH full time? Well they could but...

4. Vlad Robs Young Hitters of At Bats

Vlad's signing would push Scot to left field, Felix Pie to the bench and Nolan Reimold to Norfolk. And that's fine. But what if Reimold goes to AAA and starts tearing it up for a couple months like he did in 2009? Assuming health for all the OF/1B/DH's involved, there is nowhere for him to play. Or by some chance, Brandon Snyder puts it together and tears up the International League. Without Vlad, Snyder could come up and DH with Scott moving to left. Not possible with Vlad on the roster. Ditto for Josh Bell.

At this point, it's more important for Pie and Reimold to get the at bats so the team can see if they will be useful nuggets going forward and to have flexibility to call up hitters from Norfolk who are deserving of promotion.

This team isn't going to win or lose because of Vlad Guerrero. Its fortune ride on the offensive development of Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold and on the advances Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta and (possibly) Zach Britton make on the mound. An aging DH isn't going to make or break this team. So leave him alone and let the guys who are a decade younger play ball.

16 comments:

Chris said...

I would be excited about the signing of Guerrero; even if it means my favorite positional player (Reimold) is now ticketed for AAA, and Felix Pie becomes the de facto 4th Outfielder.

I enjoy watching Reimold as a player, because I believe he plays the game correctly. I also think he is closer to the player he showed to be as a rookie in 2009, vs. the player that deal with the Achilles and off-field issues in 2010. At 27 years-old, it is disappointing that Reimold has only had 474 at-bats as a Major Leaguer. Ideally in a 2011 season where contention is not expected, you would use that time to give Reimold further ML at-bats to help further determine what you have in a player. If someone wants to make the argument that is a better use of time vs. signing a player in Guerrero (who may not be part of the team when you expect to contend) I can not disagree with the logic.

Still, I think you can understand the rationale used by the O's here. Reimold's 2010 season was such a complete loss (.610 OPS in Baltimore over 116 at-bats, .738 OPS in Norfolk over 337 at-bats) that you can not blame the Orioles for seeking a level of production more likely to occur. Having had losing seasons from '98 through '10, at some-point it does matter to try and win every game possible. Even if the difference with Guerrero over Reimold is just a game or two in terms of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a game or two of improvement should not be discounted for an organization seeking to change perceptions.

The same discussion points above also relate to Pie. Pie turns 26 in a couple of weeks, and based on what he has shown as both a Minor Leaguer and during his 183 games with the Orioles; you would like to see what he could produce over the course of an entire season of at-bats. With Guerrero (and the assumption that Scott is not traded) Pie is destined to start 2011 as the 4th OF. It will be up to Showalter to make sure he finds at-bats for Pie. Again, while being able to pencil in a regular opportunity for Pie in 2011 might be ideal, you can not blame the O's for taking a step to improve today.

If the ramifications to Reimold and Pie are part of the equation of the Guerrero signing, the other part is an evaluation of the type of production you can expect to receive from Guerrero himself.

Guerrero will turn 36 on February 9th. As a 35 year old in 2010, he produced the following numbers:

152 games, 593 at-bats, .841 OPS, 29 homers, 115 RBI, .300 AVG, 60 k's.

He had a .932 OPS against LHP (151 at-bats), and a .810 OPS against RHP (442 at-bats).
He had a .882 OPS at-home in Texas, vs. just a .797 OPS on the road.
Before the All-Star Break he had a .919 OPS, after the Break he had a .748 OPS. (Though he did have a .880 OPS in September)

Here is a look at some of the advanced metrics for his 2010 season vs. his career averages:

2010 BB% (BB / PA) = 5.4%
Career BB% = 8.5%

2010 K% (K / AB) = 10.1%
Career K% = 12.2%

2010 BB/K% = 0.58%
Career BB/K% = 0.78%

2010 ISO (SLG - AVG) = .196
Career ISO = .243

2010 BABIP (Batting avg balls in play) = .292
Career BAPIP = .317

2010 wOBA (weighted On-base average) = .360
Career BAPIP = .394

The numbers show that while 2010 was another wildly successful season for Guerrero, he is in a decline from his career averages. (Though it is interesting that his strikeout rate was lower) Clearly his career averages are Hall of Fame caliber, so even in a decline he is capable of producing more than most others. The question as he turns 36 is how quickly will he drop from his 2010 numbers to what will become the end of his career?

The answer to that remains to be seen, but what I do know is that the Orioles are a better team today than they were yesterday without him.

As to the team the O's are today, the consensus of the 5 National people I've talked to this week is that the O's are currently a 77 win team.

Phil G. said...

We've been waiting for Reimold to "tear it up" at the major league level for years. It's time to get someone who has more than just potential.

SeanP said...

"Assuming health for all the OF/1B/DH's involved, there is nowhere for him to play."

Why would you assume that? That doesn't make any sense to me. You're talking about several athletes with injury histories. Why would you assume that nobody gets hurt?

"But what if Reimold goes to AAA and starts tearing it up for a couple months like he did in 2009?"

Then you trade Vlad. Or you trade Luke. Or you trade Derrek Lee. Why are you making this sound like a bad thing? It would be great if we had too many good players.

Sorry if I sound snarky, I just don't understand why people seem to see this as a problem. Vlad might fall right into our hands for $4mil or less. This is how MacPhail's strategy of "letting the market play out" works to our benefit.

Heath said...

For years? You mean a combined 541 PA's over the past two seasons? I hardly think that's enough, especially considering he wasn't healthy last season.

Not to mention, he did "tear it up" in 2009. He OPSed .831 during his rookie season. It was an impressive performance.

What you haven't told me is what bringing Vlad on board accomplishes. How does that help the team in 2011? In 2012 and 2013?

Heath said...

Sean: But what's the upside to signing Vlad? What's the end game? Sure, he could make the team a little better but I don't see what the point is.

And Pie, Lee, Scott and Vlad don't have a big history of injuries. They could happen but it's not THAT likely.

Signing Vlad wouldn't be the worst move in the world, I just don't see the upside given where the team is right now. This is a move a contender (or a least a winner) would make. That's not this team. Not yet.

And snark is welcomed and encouraged. Makes for a better debate!

SeanP said...

Good quote from Jonah Keri: "Following the Rays has taught me that having multiple options is an asset, not a problem."

If the O's sign Vlad, I see the season playing out as one of these scenarios (or a combination of them):

1) Luke Scott, Derrek Lee, Adam Jones or Nick Markakis gets injured.
2) Luke Scott, Derrek Lee or Vlad gets traded during the season.
3) Nolan Reimold or Felix Pie gets injured.
4) Vlad plays a full season for the O's and ranks as a Type A.
5) Vlad plays a full season for the O's and ranks as a Type B.
6) Vlad gets injured.

If Vlad signs for $5mil (or less) and any of 1-5 happens, I would call this a good signing. If option 6 happens, then there is $5mil of sunk cost. That seems like a fairly small risk for the potential reward.

You said that these guys don't have big injury histories, but we're talking about athletes - and athletes get injured out of the blue all the time.

It's not about going from 76 to 77 wins. It's about capitalizing on an inefficiency in the market. Nobody wants him (for now), so you pick him up on a cheap deal and it nets you either prospects (via trade at the deadline) or a Type B free agent (i.e. a prospect.) That's why the Jays have so many picks in the upcoming draft - they've offered arbitration to a bunch of Type B's.

So if the O's can get a Type B on a low cost 1-year deal without disrupting the development of any of their core players, why not go for it?

The bottom line: if someone gets injured, we have a backup plan in a Type B; if nobody gets injured, we have a nice trade chip at the deadline. In other words, we get to watch better baseball, but we're not making this move for the sake of watching better baseball.

If any of that makes any sense.

Heath said...

I get where you're coming from but scenario by scenario:

1) Even without Vlad, if any of those guys gets hurt, the Pie/Reimold platoon would just split and fill the hole.
2) You can still trade Lee or Scott during the season if the price is right. Not sure why a team would trade for Vlad when they can have him so cheaply now. There are only 13 trading partners.
3) If Pie or Reimold gets injured, the other just become the primary LF. No harm.
4) and 5) I can't believe any team will give up a draft pick for him even if he has a great year. He had a great year in 2010...and look where he is now.
6) If Vlad gets hurt, we are exactly where we were without him.

Sure, maybe MacPhail could get something of worth for him trading him midseason or we garner a draft pick. He's been a master at maximizing trades. But I just don't find those scenarios all that likely given that Vlad's still sitting out there. Nobody else seems to value his services enough to stash him on their bench on the cheap. Why would they give up something for him later?

(I think your trade/draft pick scenario is very applicable and possible with Derrek Lee though.)

Just because Vlad represents an inefficiency doesn't mean the Orioles are the team that needs to exploit it. It's not a great fit IMO.

The ONLY reason to sign Vlad is to watch better baseball in 2011. And while I see some potential upside in flipping him or getting a draft pick, I don't find those scenarios all that likely.

And don't forget, the guy only OPSed .730 from July 1st on in a very good hitter's park. There's a reason teams are steering clear.

Heath said...

Chris: Nice breakdown, you've said all there is to say about Vlad's stats. (You should blog it if you haven't already!)

But look at that number above. .730 OPS from July 1st on. It's not a good harbinger.

Much more excited to see a Reimold/Pie platoon. Even when he was struggling, Reimold OPSed .735 against lefties last season, nearly .800 for his career.

I don't know. I'd rather see the kids play some more. Especially on a 77 win club.

SeanP said...

"Nobody else seems to value his services enough to stash him on their bench on the cheap."

If he were willing to take a bench role and bench money, someone would have signed him already.

"Why would they give up something for him later?"

Why does any team made a mid-season trade? Because injuries create gaps in lineups. Nobody was going after Russell Branyan last offseason, but Seattle traded for him. Scott Posednik, Rick Ankiel, Will Ohman - there are tons of examples of players who had to sign cheaply because they couldn't find anything on the market. Why not take the chance that Vlad has a good start to the season and can be flipped to another team?

"But look at that number above. .730 OPS from July 1st on. It's not a good harbinger."

Sure, that's not a pretty number, but how about about Reimold's .610 OPS over 39 games last season? Come on, we're not going to get anywhere if we play the sample size/selection bias game all day.

Anonymous said...

what if we try to trade luke for a starting pitcher if we do get vlad? reimold could man left with pie the 4th of

Heath said...

Anonymous: If MacPhail has a deal up his sleeve for a decent pitcher who's under control for two or more years, he should do it and sign Vlad today. But Scott seems to be a bit undervalued in the market. I'm all for trading anybody if it helps the team.

Sean:

"If he were willing to take a bench role and bench money..."

That's all the O's are going to offer in terms of money. If I were Vlad I'd rather take a smaller role on a better team but maybe I'm wrong about that.

"Why does any team made a mid-season trade? Because injuries create gaps in lineups."

This is a fair point but I still doubt they would get much for him. However, I suppose even getting a relief arm back for him would be something. It's a good argument but I still like letting Pie/Reimold play from the jump.

"Come on, we're not going to get anywhere if we play the sample size/selection bias game all day."

A) Reimold was not healthy last year. I want to see what he can do when/if he is.

B) I wouldn't call half a season a small sample size, especially the second half of one from a guy who will be 36 this season. That cries out injury or wearing down as the season went. With your plan, you don't care as much about the 2nd half, I know. I hear what you're saying about signing and flipping him but it's risky and the upside doesn't seem that great to me. I'd still leave him alone.

Now, if the O's pull off the surprise of the century, challenge for the wild card and lose by a game or two, I'll have to eat all these words...

Phil G. said...

Completely agree with Sean. Don't see how signing Vlad is a bad thing. No offense but the baseball nerdiness needs to stop. Vlad would make the Orioles better. Bottom line. If he signs with another team I guarantee he knocks in more runs than any Oriole player. In the AL East you need to score runs to compete. The better our offense the better chance for our young pitching to get wins and gain confidence.

Heath said...

If looking beyond the upcoming season makes me nerdy, then pass the pocket protector and the glasses.

Would Vlad make the Orioles better in 2011? Probably. (Not assuredly, but probably) But I don't think he makes them THAT much better. Sorry, I don't. And I have outlined those reasons.

Are you saying that Vlad will have more RBIs than any Oriole if he goes elsewhere? Well, that depends on the team and how many people are getting on base in front of him, doesn't it? And if he does sign elsewhere, I might take that bet.

Yes, we need to score runs but we need to prevent them too. The cost to the defense and the stagnation of other young talent is too much for me to live with just a couple extra wins in 2011. Gotta look at the big picture here.

Dean said...

If Andy have a chance to improve the line-up for next year he needs to do it. If it means sitting Pie on the bench; well, he's no better than a bench player for any number of teams. Riemold starts tearing it up in Norfolk? OK, that's a good thing; let him keep doing that for a whole year and then he's ready for a starting role next year after Vlad leaves (maybe bringing us a supplemental pick or two.) Riemold could benefit from another year in AAA. As for moving Scott to LF, I would argue that he does a fair job there. Pie has more range, sure, but he also seems lost at times, takes horrible routes and tries to make up for it with his speed. Vlad simply makes us a deeper, more dangerous team. I say bring him on.

Heath said...

Dean: Everyone seems to want to pull the trigger to get better for next year. But to what end? Do you believe this team is a winner if we add Vlad?

SeanP said...

"This is a fair point but I still doubt they would get much for him. However, I suppose even getting a relief arm back for him would be something. It's a good argument but I still like letting Pie/Reimold play from the jump."

I'm fine with that. I feel satisfied if we can agree that we both have good arguments. As you've said many times, the difference between signing Vlad and not signing him doesn't push the team into contention.