Saturday, December 24, 2011
The Orioles have plenty of holes to fill this offseason and seemingly every offseason. But there is one critical position that they do not have to fill. Shortstop.
You could make the argument that the rarest commodity in the free agent market this season is a shortstop who can hit and field his position well. (OK, good all-around catchers and starting pitching is probably a rarer commodity.) But thanks to the dealings of former team president Andy MacPhail over the last year, the O's don't have to overpay for that talent now.
Last December, MacPhail dealt a couple of minor league relievers to the Twins for SS J.J. Hardy. For a couple of spare parts, Hardy turned out to be a low-cost, low-risk gamble that paid off big for the O's. Hardy played a good defensive shortstop, posted an .801 OPS and had 57 extra base hits. It was a performance from a Baltimore shortstop that we haven't seen since the early days of the Miguel Tejada era.
Knowing how tight the shortstop market would be after the season, MacPhail and the Orioles signed Hardy to a 3-year extension for a total contract of $22.5M. Given Hardy's age and skillset the contract stacks up very well to what other free agent shortstops are getting this offseaon.
AGE 3-year OPS+ 3-year WAR total Total Contract Yearly Average J. Reyes 29 120 9.9 $111M $18.5M J. Rollins 33 91 9.3 $33M $11.0M R. Furcal 34 98 8.2 $14M $7.0M Y. Betancourt 30 77 -0.7 $2M $2.0M J.J. Hardy 29 98 8.7 $22.5M $7.5M
In a market where Ronny Cedeno is now considered a hot commodity and other free agents are going for much more, Hardy's extension looks like a relative bargain.
And unlink some other free agents signed last offseason to play in Baltimore, Hardy actually will be a tradeable commodity come July.
No, Hardy is not the player Reyes is when he's healthy and Hardy certainly has some injury risks of his own but he is very likely to fill the shortstop position until Manny Machado is ready to take over or bring back some other prospects to replentish the farm system. And the Orioles don't have to overpay this offseason to get a competent shortstop.
Thanks, Andy. You had many good moments as GM but Hardy may turn out to be one of your better ones.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
The Orioles made it official and announced the signing of veteran outfielder Endy Chavez. The deal is reported to be worth $1.5M with another $500K in incentives.
My enduring memory of Chavez was from a game I saw him play against the Astros in Montreal in 2003. He was manning center field for the Expos and made a couple of really nice plays defensively and stroked an RBI double to tie the game. (The Expos won in the bottom of the 10th as Jose Macias, of all people, hit a walk off homer.)
He's not the fielder he was 9 years ago but he might just be the best defensive outfielder for the Orioles in 2012. His 6.6 UZR/150 score for the Rangers would have led all Oriole outfielders in 2011. His bat is not horrible and he is a decent, if not great, baserunner. As far as 4th outfielder candidates go, Matt Angle and Kyle Hudson are the only players on the roster who could fill that role and I don't think either is ready for that job in 2012 (if ever). Chavez fills a need and he is likely to be worth every penny of the contract the O's pay him.
The signing of Chavez has led to much grumbling from fans who were awaiting a more siginificant signing from the team this offseason. But upon his introduction to the press, Dan Duquette all but said that the O's would NOT be big players in free agency this offseason:
A lot of teams spent a lot of money on those major league acquisitions and didn't get the kind of production they are looking for. Here in Baltimore we have to work smarter to invest our money, so that we getter better bang for our buck. We have to work smarter.
And the thing is, he's right. Say what you will about the acquisitions made this offseason are not exciting but at least they do fill needs. There was nobody to be the backup catcher, they found a good one in Taylor Teagarden. The desperately needed a 4th outfielder, they sign Chavez. The pitching staff, especially the rotation, needs a lot of help. I do not like the Dana Eveland signing but that is an area where the O's need bodies. The low cost gamble on Tsuyoshi Wada is very likely to help the rotation.
More importantly, they haven't taken on much in payroll and they haven't given up anyone from the farm system who is likely to help the MLB club at any time in the future. Nor have they acquired any player who is likely to block any young players/prospects this season. Nor have they given out multi-million, multi-year deals to middling relievers.
No, there have been no trades of the like that brought J.J. Hardy or Mark Reynolds to town. But there have been no silly Vladimir Guerrero or Kevin Gregg signings either. The Orioles are just not going to make a big splash in free agency this offseason. And it won't help them anyway.
Lest we forget, signing Albert Belle or Miguel Tejada didn't exactly make the Orioles perennial winners. One big free agent or two or three won't assure a winning season. Especially with the team Baltimore has right now.
Andy MacPhail brought this farm system out of the abyss but the system still has a long way to go. O's fans don't want to hear about patience after 14 seasons of losing but that's what you're going to need.
If that doesn't work for you, go down I-95 and watch Jayson Werth.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Matt Wieters is finally starting to fulfill the massive promise he showed in the minors.
His bat finally started to come around and he flashed some of that power we expected to see from Day 1. He smacked 22 homers, and easily set career highs in slugging percentage and ISO. I don't think anyone believed that Wieters would be such a good defensive catcher but he delivered Gold Glove caliber defense and has cemented himself as one of the better defensive catchers in the game. No regular delivered such a combination of bat and glove from the catcher position in 2012. (OK, Arizona's Miguel Montero comes close.)
So this is it right? He just keeps getting better and better and multiple MVPs lie in his future. Well, not exactly...
He did only hit .262 last season. He lowered his strikeout rate for the third straight season but his walk rate dipped a bit as well, contributing to his .328 OBP. And he only OPSed .662 against right handed pitchers.
Which is what concerns me. Over the first two seasons of his career, Wieters has hit fairly well against righties while struggling mightily against lefties. This season, while he was posting that .662 OPS against righties he was clobbering lefties to the tune of a 1.124 OPS.
Leaders in wOBA against left handed pitchers in 2011:
wOBA Bautista .475 Wieters .472 Kemp .462 Napoli .445 Braun .443
After struggling against lefties for his first two seasons, Wieters hit them, literally, at MVP levels in 2012.
Which is great...but it screams fluke.
Is Wieters going to keep OPSing 1.124 against lefties going forward. Not a chance. His OPS against lefties prior to last season was sub-.650. There's just no way he can sustain that. He career OPS against righties is .725. There is reason to believe that 2012 will see a slight hiccup and/or regression in Wieters' offensive production.
But there are still reason to believe in the bat. The power surge is likely legit and more in line with what we expected from him all along (.188 ISO in '11, a 60 point jump from the previous year) and the .276 BABIP was probably a little unlucky. With the power likely to keep on an upward clip and a few more balls falling his way, the regression against lefties that is likely to occur can be offset.
The bat is very good for a catcher and I think ultimately he will be an elite hitter but 2012 may be a bit uneven and a struggle for our Gold Glove catcher.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Where we distill all the recent baseball chats down to their Oriole essence...
Jason Parks, Baseball Prospectus
Will T. (Cary, N.C.):
Upside of Orioles RHP Parker Bridwell?
Could be an innings horse, but he still has a long way to go. He's a Texan, so that helps.
Has Chris Davis officially become Chris Shelton (please say yes, please say yes), or does he have a bounceback in him?
He could bounce back, but he's probably a 4A
Tim Dierkes, MLB Trade Rumors
2:08 Comment From Dathan
What are the chances the Cardinals end up with either Adam Jones or Carlos Beltran, and which do you think is the better fit in St. Louis?
2:08 Tim Dierkes:
Jones for sure, but I don't see any indication he's available.
2:16 Comment From DumbBravesFan
Is Prado/Jurrjens (2 arb guys not in Braves' future plans) too much to give up for Adam Jones (a potential cornerstone)?
2:16 Tim Dierkes:
I'd move those two for two years of Jones, but he's not a cornerstone unless you extend him to a huge deal.
2:28 Comment From Lonely Non-Tender list
Who's the best value out there from the recent non-tender list?
2:29 Tim Dierkes:
Hong-Chih Kuo, maybe Luke Scott.
2:58 Comment From Tim
Just to be clear, the Orioles would need to get a better return than Prado/Jurrjens for AJ, correct? At least younger, more controllable players?
2:58 Tim Dierkes:
Yes, I'd want a much different return for Adam Jones as well. We have to get a feel for Dan Duquette though.
2:58 Comment From Omazing
Some Orioles sites are saying there is tons of interest in Luke Scott.. any truth to this?
2:59 Tim Dierkes:
I think Dan Connolly said ten teams called. Certainly makes sense to me, get him for one year and $5MM plus incentives not too far removed from some .500 slugging seasons.
Keith Law, ESPN
Profar or Machado? Or are we splitting hairs?
Klaw (1:25 PM)
Machado. But it's not a huge gap. Pretty strong crop of SS prospects right now.
Why are we hearing nothing about the japenese free agent pitchers Wei-Yin Chen and Iwakuma?
Klaw (1:26 PM)
Haven't we heard Baltimore with Chen? I also assume that we need to get Darvish cleared from the market before those guys get more interest, just because they're second-tier (not just because they're also international FAs).
Michael (San Jose, CA)
Lots of disappointment in Oakland right now for us A's fans? With the emergence of the Rangers and Angels, we're basically the Baltimore Orioles without the nice ballpark.
Klaw (2:08 PM)
But you have competent management. I'm not sure we can say that for Baltimore given ownership's clear intention to meddle.
Keith, O's pitching moves (Eveland, Wada): reasonable gambles to see who might have a decent enough year to stick, or near-guaranteed 5-ish ERA flameouts? Hope for the future obviously lies with Matusz, Britton, and guys still in the minors, but they could do worse than try Wada every fifth day, right?
Klaw (2:20 PM)
I don't see it. Low upside guys in a tough division.
Jason (St Louis)
The no on Palmeiro is because he was a consistent stat builder and not a hof, not because he used peds right?
Klaw (2:21 PM)
Correct. Really never among the best players in his league.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Name: Miguel Socolovich
Socolovich is a Venezuelan native who started out in the Red Sox organization and was traded to the White Sox for David Aardsma in 2008.
Although this whole feature is meant to be tongue in cheek, Socolovich is actually an interesting pickup. So much so that Jon Shepherd at Camden Depot mentioned him as a potential target for Baltimore more than a month ago. In 74 AAA innings over the past two seasons, the numbers look like this:
G IP K BB HR WHIP ERA Socolovich (AAA) 47 74.0 93 43 4 1.50 3.65
That's an 11.3 K/9 rate at AAA which is pretty impressive. He also keeps the ball in the park which is always good. The only thing to be concerned about is his walk rate (although it was better in 2011 than it was in 2010) and that WHIP (which the walk rate is contributing to).
As many questions as there are around the Oriole bullpen this offseason, I actually see no reason why Socolovich might not get a chance to pitch in Baltimore in 2012, assuming he can continue his AAA performance for Norfolk, of course. Having spent parts of the last two season in the IL with Charlotte, I would imagine he will.
Grade: Potential Nugget
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Where we distill all the recent baseball chats down to their Oriole essence...
Fangraphs After Dark Chat
Comment From Kyle
Guthire and Reimold for Volquez and Alonso. Moldy is underrated, 1.5 WAR in 80-ish games with a .261 BABIP
9:06 Jeff Zimmerman:
To the Brewers , but I agree with Paul that he stays.
9:07 Jeff Zimmerman:
I would keep Volquez for one more season on the potential
9:07 Paul Swydan:
Not sure I see the upside of the Reds acquiring Guthrie.
Comment From Baltimoron
HBT says the Cubs are trying to dump Soriano on the O's. Are the O's so bad that even Soriano could help?
9:10 Paul Swydan:
Probably not, no. But can't blame the Cubs for trying!
9:10 Jeff Zimmerman:
I think Theo want Soriano gone and the Cubs can't dump him. Trade him to a team that has no problems doing it.
Dan Szymborski, FanGraphs.com
12:46 Comment From kyle
zips thoughts on brian matusz?
12:47 Dan Szymborski:
ZiPS has his mean down to an ERA+ of 80, but still sees him as being nearly 1-in-4 of being league-average or better.
12:47 Dan Szymborski:
2011 was pretty much an unmitigated disaster for Matusz.
12:52 Comment From AC
Do you buy that the O's will really bid on Cesepedes? Also what is max you would offer him for contract?
12:53 Dan Szymborski:
I'd go a bit higher than Chapman, but I'd stop before we start talking 8 figures a year. There's a lot of uncertainty. Cespedes projects as a solid 3 win player a number of years, but we have so few Cuban translations and natural uncertainty as to his age.
1:06 Comment From Teddy
What does ZiPS have to say about Zack Britton? Is there a curse on all Orioles' pitching prospects?
1:07 Dan Szymborski:
ZiPS has Britton at 10-12, 4.85.
1:17 Comment From Archer
Dan Duquette noted that Dana Eveland had won 15 games last season between AAA and the Majors (12 in AAA), and that not a lot of lefties could say the same last season. This has to make the Os a huge threat this season, no?
1:18 Dan Szymborski:
Eveland's Baltimore projection is 7-11, 5.44. He's a lousy pitcher.
Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus
Could Adam Loewen become an everyday MLB outfielder?
No. Could end up a bench guy though.
Keith Law, ESPN
Matt (No Cal)
Do Schoop and Story both end up at 2B and what kind of players do you see them developing into both offensively and defensively? Thanks.
Klaw (12:00 PM)
Schoop is a 3b, Trevor Story stays at ss. Schoop is raw but very young, chance to be an above-average regular or better. I have real questions about Story's bat, but I think he's a legit SS.
Thoughts on DD as GM in Baltimore?
Klaw (12:01 PM)
I think this is going to go very poorly. Latest thing I've heard out of there is that, despite an industry trend where teams have decoupled amateur and pro scouting, he's recoupled them in Baltimore because ... that's how they did it in Boston.
The discussion that is being held in my office is that although Bundy's ceiling is higher than Hultzen, it is offset by the ballparks they pitch in. We are using you as the tiebreaker....
Klaw (12:14 PM)
Ballparks affect superficial stat lines, but not ceiling. Bundy is better.
Moki Dugway (Korea)
Who is the safer pick for future success, Machado or Sano?
Klaw (12:14 PM)
Mike Newman, FanGraphs.com
5:18 Comment From GTW
Thoughts on Baltimore's pickup of Ryan Flaherty in the Rule 5 Draft today? Projected any better than replacement level?
5:19 Mike Newman:
When really bad utility players go for a couple of million, I love the move. In all honesty, he's an asset as a replacement level, minimum salaried player.
5:35 Comment From Marver
What prospects are you looking forward to seeing in person the most?
5:36 Mike Newman:
In 2012, Josh Bell and Dylan Bundy head that list.
6:04 Comment From Tommy
Thoughts on Matt Antonetti?
6:05 Mike Newman:
I liked him in AAA when I saw him and wrote about his being a guy who should receive another shot. The market for utility infielders was pretty expensive all things considered and the Orioles made a strong signing with very little risk.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
The Orioles have reportedly signed NPB pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada. Wada is a soft-tossing lefthanded starter from Japan and will be 31 this season. Quite frankly, that's all I know about him but Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker and FanGraphs.com has a short write up about him here.
I don't know if Wada will work out but given that he will make only $8.15M over the next two seasons, it's the right idea. The Orioles need to get creative to augment their pitching staff and this is a cost effective way to try.
Patrick also posted a link to video of a game Wada pitched in 2010. Here it is. You be the scout! (Remember, 1 km = .62 miles)
And the Japanese commercials are entertaining too. What else are you going to watch in the offseason?
Watch live video from MATRIX CHANNEL on Justin.tv
|"I should be in Atlanta..."|
Scott has been an underrated slugger (in my opinion) for several years. Despite derision from some fans for his "streakiness", he always ended up his seasons as one of the better hitters on the club and did it at reasonable salaries. But a serious shoulder injury has put his future in question and the Orioles did not feel comfortable paying him $6M or more in 2012.
That is an understandable decision. What is less understandable is why Scott was on the club in 2011 and why they have to make this decision in the first place.
I'll never fully understand the free agent strategy during the 2011 offseason. The club signed a mediocre reliever for $10M and a 2-year commitment (I will not speak his name...). They signed not one, but two aging veteran reclamation projects in 1B Derrek Lee and DH Vladimir Guerrero committing more than $15 million on the gamble. (The only signings that kind of made sense were low money deals to SS Cesar Izturis and SP Justin Duchscherer. Neither worked out for the club but they weren't bad risks to provide potential depth.)
I've beaten the horse well past dead explaining how signing Lee in conjunction with Guerrero was unnecessary at best and would block promising (and cheap) prospects like Nolan Riemold at worst.
But lets say that you did want to sign those two and that you felt Guerrero still had enough left in his bat to be a serviceable DH.
Why keep Luke Scott?
Scott was coming off a career season at age 32. His trade value had been and never would be higher. With Lee and Guerrero on board, Scott was going to be pushed to leftfield where he was going to be only a fair fielder in the best of scenarios. The O's had Reimold and Felix Pie to platoon in left. Once you've made those other signings, Scott was a luxury that a rebuilding team could no longer afford.
Surely Scott could have brought back a couple of middling prospects. Maybe a cheap major league reliever. That would not be an ideal scenario but once you've pulled the trigger on Vlad, why not? As it stands now, Scott can sign with any team and the Orioles will receive nothing.
I just don't get it. Sign Lee. Or sign Vlad. Or sign both and trade Scott. But to sign both and keep Scott in 2011? It just didn't make sense. It was almost as if Andy MacPhail was gearing up for a playoff run. But could anyone look at last year's roster and truly believe this was a contending club? It was a stretch to view them as a winning one. There was so much that needed to go right for just a shot at a .500 record. But The Warehouse didn't treat the club as a rebuilding entity. Were they pandering to the fan base? Did they really believe the team was better than it was?
They needed to get some value for a guy that was made redundant by free agent signings but the Orioles refused to sell high.
Non-tendering Scott now makes a lot of sense. But keeping him a year ago, given the other free agent signings, certainly did not.
Friday, December 9, 2011
...but we're not sure why.
The Orioles sent minor leaguers Jarret Martin and Tyler Henson to the Dodgers for LHP Dana Eveland.
First, a look at the prospects the Orioles gave up. OF Tyler Henson is not any kind of prospect to speak of. He will be 24 next season, OPSed .634 in AAA Norfolk last season and throughout his minor league career has shown very little power, bad on base skills and a .263 batting average. He is no defensive whiz either and is basically an org guy, maybe a fourth outfielder someday. No great loss.
LHP Jarret Martin is another story. I've had the chance to watch him a few times in his short career and his stuff is pretty good. His fastball sits in the low 90's and he has an 8.7 K/9 rate over his minor league career. The problem is that he has no idea where the ball is going most nights. For his career he also has a 5.9 BB/9 rate, a 1.53 WHIP and can be completely hittable when he's missing his spots. I watched one such performance against the Rome Braves last season where a very unimpressive Braves lineup shelled him for 6 earned runs in 4 innings. The guy isn't 19, he will be 22 in 2012 and unless he made some kind of quantum leap in terms of his control in Frederick, he projected to be a reliever in my eyes. So I can't get that upset about trading away an A-ball level future reliever.
But did they have to? For Dana Eveland? Eveland is my kind of pitcher in many ways. Lots of grounders and low home run rates are always a good start for a pitcher. But he also walks nearly as many as he strike out (4.5 BB/9, 5.4 K/9), has been very hittable (.808 career OPS against) and outside of 2008 and a short stint with the Dodgers in 2011, has been a bad pitcher.
Can't you find a guy like this on waivers? Or sign a free agent off the scrapheap? (That's how the Dodgers got Eveland...) Do we really need to trade pitcher who might someday help the bullpen?
If Eveland is above replacement level in 2012, I'd be shocked. I will call Dan Duquette a mad genius. But unless there's something here that I don't see, I don't get it at all.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
This was not a big surprise as Guerrero had the worst season of his career and was generally one of the most disappointing free agent signings by the O's in recent years. Of course, most of this was forseen.
Not by the mainstream media who cover the team. His signing was hailed by most of the final cog in what would be a formidable offensive lineup for Baltimore, one that might just lead them to a winning season. Obviously, that was not the case.
But most of my fellow bloggers viewed this move with extreme skepticism or downright outrage. That's not me tooting my own horn (though I certainly hated the signing) because many, many of my colleagues pointed out the same poor logic and risks that went in to bringing Vlad on board.
There was something about Vlad that the fans loved though. At least the concept. Signing a veteran slugger who is on his way to the Hall of Fame seemed sexy and signaled a shift in the teams committment to winning. Unfortunately, that didn't generate results on the field.
It was a divisive signing from the start. I have never received such backlash as I did to my posts (or tweets) opining that Baltimore would be better served, for 2011 and for the future, to let Vlad sign elsewhere and have LF Nolan Reimold get regular playing time instead.
But the O's did sign him. For $8 million, even when it was doubtful that there was any other place for him to play.
The jury is in. It was pretty much a disaster.
How bad was he? Of all the Orioles players who played in more than half of their games, only Felix Pie was worse.
fWAR Pie -2.1 Guerrero 0.0 Reynolds 0.3 Lee 0.5 Reimold 1.5
Yes, Vladimir Guerrero was a replacement level player last season. And Baltimore paid him $8M for that.
In more traditional terms, Guerrero failed as well. Billed as a "proven cleanup hitter", Guerrero was dead last in home runs and RBI among Orioles who appeared in at least 100 games. His slugging percentage and ISO was third lowest among Oriole regulars (only Nick Marakkis and Robert Andino proved more punchless). Guerrero, the "proven cleanup hitter" and "RBI machine" failed on all fronts, by any measure you want to use.
(As an aside, Vlad was supposed to have all these magic RBI in his equipment bag but in 14 more games played, he came up 9 RBI short of Luke Scott's 2010 total. Sure, most of us understand that RBI sucks as an individual stat but if you have not been convinced yet, look at this example. Lineup, lineup, lineup. That's what produces RBI, not individual players. Of course, if you want to drive in runs, it also helps if you don't suck as a hitter in general...)
Despite this, Buck Showalter kept trotting him out there and letting him hit cleanup. In 87.5% of the games Guerrero played, he was #4 in your lineup. This fact alone has to make you suspect of Showalter's managing skills.
With Guerrero on the roster (coupled with the signing of Derrek Lee), Reimold was relegated to AAA. Nolan eventually returned from exile and acquitted himself well but I am still not sure we saw exactly what he can or can't do as a majpr leaguer as he only appeared in 87 games. It would have been much more beneficial for Reimold to play in 150+ to see if he has a future in Baltimore.
Finally, Guerrero brought back no prospects at the trading deadline as many fans thought he might. Nobody wanted him before the season and his poor performance did nothing to change that.
So when the team is rumored to be kicking the tires on an aging slugger this offseason, remember old Vlad. Thankfully it's all over now. But it could happen again!
Thursday, December 1, 2011
The Orioles have finally added a second catcher to the roster as they traded a minor league pitcher and a player to be named later to the Rangers for Taylor Teagarden.
I have spent way too much time over the past 5+ seasons worrying about who the Oriole backup catcher would be but Teagarden might be the best of the bunch over that span.
According to Beyond the Boxscore's 2011 catcher defense ratings, Teagarden ranks 22nd in baseball in just 360 plate appearances. At worst, he is an above average defender and at best, he's pretty damn good behind the plate. In the majors, Teagarden strikes out at Mark Reynolds-like levels but without the sweet double-digit walk rates. But he does have .197 ISO over his 392 MLB plate appearances and 16 homers over that span. A .700 level OPS from your part-time catcher is nothing to sneeze at. Great glove and good pop from a backup catcher? That's pretty much all I'm looking for.
To acquire Teagarden, the Orioles sent RHP Randy Henry and a PTBNL to Texas. I have seen Henry a couple of times during his short Oriole minor league career and I like him a lot. He's got a fastball that sits comfortably in the mid-90's, he has a 8.3 K/9 rate and a 5.00 K/BB rate over his minor league career. But objectively, he'll be 22 next season, only has 15 innings pitched above low-A, has a history of elbow problems and projects to be a setup man at best. (According to Baseball America, the Rangers plan to try him out as a starter but I think reliever is his ultimate destination.) When it comes right down to it, trading a reliever in the low minors for a major league catcher, even a backup, isn't a bad move.
Teagarden will be under team control until after the 2015 season. If this works out, Matt Wieters and Teagarden could be partners for a long time.