Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Oriole Windfall for 2011, Part 2

Thanks to all the astute readers who pointed out that Mark Hendrickson could not be retained for $200k next season. That's the number on his buyout for 2011; he would make $1.2 million if his option is exercised. It didn't look right when I was typing it and a second look at Cot's Baseball Contracts confirmed that it was not. Thanks for the heads up guys!

We took a look at the payroll in Part 1, now let's look where some money needs to be spent. The Orioles have big needs at first base, third base, shortstops and on the pitching staff. Here's some ideas of how to fill these holes.

First Base/Designated Hitter

Pricey Options

Adam Dunn

Dunn is hitting free agency again after playing out his 2-year and, again, I will stump for his signing. Dunn is a butcher in the field but he wouldn't hurt you a ton splitting his time between 1B and DH. (Leaning more toward DH but I don't think he hurts you so bad at 1B that he can't start in the field 90-100 games a year.) I howled for him to be signed after 2008, especially when it became apparent that Mark Teixeira could not be signed. In fact, I imagined he could produce as well at the plate for half the money. And he did even more than that:

2009-2010      AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
Dunn          .264  .378  .533  .910
Teixeira      .274  .374  .523  .897

Andy, it's time to buy a bat.

Oriole first basemen have OPS'ed .676 over the past two seasons and the O's paid their 2010 Opening Day first baseman $4 million to suck really hard. Meanwhile, Dunn was making $10 mil per year and crushing it.

The thing is, he's still undervalued. I think you can lock Dunn up for $13-14 mil per year for a 4-year contract. That gives you Dunn for his age 31-34 seasons and gives you one of the best DHs in the American League.

Furthermore, it would allow you to trade Luke Scott and prep Nolan Reimold to take over regular first base duties. Scott may not make the $7.5 mil I estimate but unloading that cash to another team for a couple prospects or some relievers makes sense. His value will never be higher and he would still be under control via arbitration for the next two years. There's no place for Reimold in the Oriole outfield right now, he can fill a need at first. If Reimold never returns to his rookie year form, Dunn helps soften that blow as well.

Victor Martinez

The Orioles value versatility and Martinez could offer some of that. Although Martinez is past his prime as a catcher, you could still see him catching on and off giving the O's more flexibility in the lineup. He's a good hitter.

The problem is, he's not really the power bat that many perceive him to be. Sure, when you hit 20-25 homers as a catcher, that's nice power. As a first baseman, that fairly average.

Also, there's likely to be more competition to sign Martinez. He will almost certainly cost at least what Dunn does over a longer contract. Moreover, there are candidates who will cost less over shorter contracts who could produce similar numbers. More on that below.

Mid-Range Options

Derrek Lee

There are a lot of mid-range candidates for first base out there who could be had for relatively modest money over two-year contracts: Paul Konerko, Troy Glaus, Adam La Roche, Lyle Overbay. But I figured I'd focus on two. Derrek Lee could come at a relative bargain.

Lee may find the demand for his services lacking after a down season. He'll be 35 in 2011 but is just 2 years removed from a 35 homer season. Like Adrian Beltre last year, Lee may be willing to sign a one-year deal to reestablish his reputation and try to get a better deal a year from now. You wouldn't want to go longer than a two-year deal with him but you could DH him some, help keep him healthy and he could put up V-Mart type numbers for the next two seasons. It's an option while our 1B prospects in the minors sort themselves out.

Carlos Pena

Anyone in baseball could have had Pena for a song 4 years ago. Now someone will have to pay.

But not that much, really. Pena had a pretty bad year for the Rays and didn't even hit .200. But he still had 28 homers and an ISO north of .200. He's not a perfectg player but he's a prime candidate for a rebound. Again, a 0ne or two year commitment as a stopgap while better options mature in the minors.

Budget Options

Luke Scott/Nolan Reimold

As I said last season, deploying Scott as a first baseman early in the season with Reimold playing DH until his Achilles tendon was healthy would have been a nice option for 2010. Now, we'll never know.

I still don't think this is a bad plan. Let them both play first and as Reimold's bat comes back, ease Scott back into a DH role and/or trade him. But I don't think this is a likely option since the Orioles are reportedly targeting a big bat for 2011.

Ty Wigginton

Of the flotsam that may be left for cheap out there, I'd be OK with signing Wiggy back for cheap to play some first and some third for 2011 as long as it was for $2 mil or less and a one-year deal. His versatility would allow him to move to a bench/utility role once a better option at first was found.

Third Base

Pricey Options

Adrian Beltre

Beltre is only an option for the Orioles if they are certain that Josh Bell cannot play in the majors at all. Beltre will be 32 next season and is coming off a fantastic year in Boston. he will be expensive and he will command at least a 4-year deal. Lots of money for a guy who will be on the wrong side of 35 when his contract is up. But he's a fine bat and a stellar defender at third. But I think $13 mil per season is what it would take to sign him, at the very least. I'm not sure that's the kind of guy the O's want to lock up for a long contract.

Mid-Range Options

Brandon Inge

If you want to give Josh Bell a real shot, you probably shouldn't sign a guy like Inge either since he would take away playing time for Bell even in a part time role. But Inge gives you a fine glove and nice power for the position. He should come fairly cheap and very short-term.

Budget Options

Josh Bell

The cheapest way to go is just to let Bell play and be ready for him to suck. The club should sign a Ty Wigginton type as a bench/utility guy who can spell Bell and provide an emergency replacement. But I think Bell may become a serviceable player and has some nice upside. I expect that the Orioles will give him every opportunity to prove himself in 2011.

Next: Shortstop and the Pitching Staff

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