Monday, February 7, 2011

What Vlad Has Wrought, Part 1

The signing if Vlad Guerrero, even the notion of the signing a couple of weeks ago, has brought about a lot of odd things. First, I have been called more names for being opposed to bringing Vlad to Baltimore than at any time during the 4+ years of publishing this blog. (Hell, I'm pretty sure it's the first time it's ever happened...) Baseball nerd. Whiner. Buzzkill. (edit: One of my Twitter followers, @Astand49, demands credit for the buzzkill line. So it is given... :-) )

He is not the first aging slugger I have cautioned against but there is something about Vlad that seems to have struck a chord with Oriole fans. Lots of them (probably most of them) love the guy and are really excited to have him in Baltimore. I am not. So instead of continuing to debate on Twitter or in the comments section of other blogs, I'll lay it out here, in detail, one final time. In this installment, I examine what Vlad will bring to the team.

This is a fairly typical argument I heard on Twitter over the past 24 hours so let's start here. I'll leave the money alone for now do what Vinnie asked. Look at the numbers.

That is a Hall of Fame career, no doubt. But the last two seasons, he has hit more like he did his rookie season and not the heights that he once reached. I've said it before but he and Luke Scott have exactly the same OPS over the last three seasons (.845 OPS). That's a good hitter but not a great one.

Anyone who has watched baseball over the past 15 years knows Vlad's offensive game: great power (now, good power), hits for average and does not walk. Free swingers like Guerrero do not age well historically. His walk rates over the past two seasons have been the lowest of his career and his OBP has suffered.He is  no longer a star.

Some have pointed to some positive clutch numbers from last season. Over his career, his clutch numbers are "un-clutchy" overall. I don't think Vlad is likely to hit like a madman with runner on base all of a sudden.

Running a lineup with Vlad in it through various iterations using the lineup analysis tool, he could add from 10-13 runs to the lineup if he's healthy and depending on how much Pie or Reimold would have played. It's not insignificant and could bring 2-3 extra wins with a little luck.

Vlad did rake against lefties last season. For his career, he hits them slightly better than righties. For the last three seasons, not so much. But he could help the Orioles lineup against left handed pitching, a weakness Baltimore batters over the last couple seasons.

Vlad brings nothing as far as the glove these days. The last two seasons, his rare fielding appearances have been horrific.

But he does provide depth. Even though he is limited to a DH role, it gives Buck Showalter a lot of different configurations for his lineup.

As for trade bait, I'm not sure what an exclusive DH will bring in a mid-season trade. In 2008, the White Sox only netted Justin Fuller, a light-hitting minor league middle infielder for Jim Thome. In 2006, the Yankees got three bad minor league relievers from Detroit for Gary Sheffield. Last season, Houston got a light-hitting minor league infielder and a marginal major league reliever in Mark Melancon. Even with Andy MacPhail trading acumen, I can't see him getting more than a useful major league reliever and even that's a stretch.

Compensation pick after the season? There wasn't much of a market for Guerrero's services this offseason. I can't imagine some team would be willing to surrender a draft pick next offseason to sign him. I find that scenario very unlikely.

What he does if bring another good (even if it's declining) bat to the lineup who should post an OPS north of .800 and help offset Baltimore's weaknesses against lefty pitching. He provides depth in case of injury and will make (probably) make the team better, even if the improvement is only slight. If (by some miracle, the Orioles go on a tear and contend, his presence could meant the difference between a wild card spot or going home. I don't think he will net the Orioles a compensation pick or any players of value at the trade deadline. But he may, if early enthusiasm among the fan base can be sustained, help sell more tickets in 2011, no small accomplishment.

Next post, we'll look at the potential drawbacks...


SeanP said...

What do you think this offseason means for the O's payroll going forward? Does this mean that they'll sustain a payroll in the 90's, or will they drop back down after the season (like post-2007)?

If MacPhail & Co. gave Vlad $8mil because they were planning on taking the payroll up a notch, then it could mean that the front office is preparing to extend some of the young guys.

DempseysArmy said...

I can't imaginer they will, not yet. Mike Gonzalez will come off the books and will hopefully be replaced by a cheaper option. They won't devote $8 mill to a Vlad type again. So that's $14 mil right there. I was working on a post addressing this so I guess I'll have a better answer when I finish with that.

I think they could afford to carry a payroll in the 90's easily, even with the reduced attendance. If attendance bounces back to even decent levels, I think they could afford something in the $115 mil range.

SeanP said...

Is that based on figures or just speculation?

DempseysArmy said...

Speculation. It's all speculation since we MLB doesn't release the books. Others that claim to have better information, tend to disagree with me.

But this is a place where Baltimore has an advantage over Tampa and Toronto...eventually, they can spend to keep and lure good players. Those guys may never get to that point. With MASN under the Orioles' belt, they will start bringing in more revenue as the team improves.