It’s Just Speculation: Baltimore Orioles

Unlike the Seattle Mariners that had a good pitching staff, but a horrible offense, the Orioles had a middling offense and a horrible pitching staff. They were ranked dead last in many statistical pitching categories in 2011, some by a wide margin. Though they are in a rebuilding mode, the Orioles will need to take a deep look into available pitching to at least look respectable in 2012.

Offensively, the Orioles could use some improvements in certain spots as well. Although there’s some uncertainty at second base, if Brian Roberts is not able to play, the team does have decent backup options of Robert Andino or free swinging prospect Ryan Adams. The infield corners are intriguing. The team plucked Mark Reynolds in a trade with the Diamondbacks a year ago to play third base, but he is now rumored to be on the move across the diamond to play first base. The current situation has a platoon of Chris Davis and former first rounder Matt Antonelli playing a platoon at the hot corner with Ryan Adams the current backup. The Orioles are also hopeful that Josh Bell can bounce back from a down season on the farm to emerge as a candidate at the hot corner. But his plate discipline problems may preclude that thought from becoming reality. A value-signing or trade at either corner could still shake things up.

Left field is questionable as well. Luke Scott‘s shoulder injury puts things in doubt. The team could decide not to offer him arbitration, but sign him for a lesser amount to see how he recovers. However, that would open up other teams to bidding on his services as well. Even if the team is able to work something out, it looks as though Scott may be regulated to the DH role for a decent part of the season as the surgery completed was on his throwing shoulder. The team’s main secondary option at this point is Nolan Reimold, a former upper-level prospect that hasn’t fared well in the majors. He did have a very nice September (.281/.395/.578 with 5 HR), but that’s a small sample size and September figures can be misleading due to the presence of September call-ups. Once again, a value signing or a trade could help left field, but it is doubtful as the team’s main focus will be pitching.

As mentioned earlier, pitching, especially starting pitching, will be the main focus this winter. Jeremy Gutherie will likely be gone before 2013, whether by trade or by free agency after the 2012 season. As it is unlikely that they will get much out of him if he leaves after the season, especially with the new draft pick compensation system, Baltimore should try to trade him soon. Pitching, pitching, and more pitching should be the goal of any trade involving him.

They have started some value shopping this season. In November they claimed Darren O’Day off waivers from the Texas Rangers where he was lights-out for a couple seasons before arm issues.  They’ve also recently completed a trade for Dana Eveland with the Dodgers. Eveland enjoyed some of his best pitching in the Dodgers organization and the Orioles think he can build off that success. I doubt he can stick in the rotation as Baltimore hopes, Camden Yards is far from the pitchers’ playground in Chavez Ravine. But he could be a good lefty option out of the pen if he doesn’t stick.

Look for new GM Dan Duquette to do some more value shopping like he did with O’Day and Eveland to allow the team to go into spring training with plenty to look at when filling out the roster. A few won’t stick, but some have enough upside that a rebuilding team like the Orioles can gamble on for future deadline trade chips or roster stability.

It’s an uphill battle for the Orioles, more of a fight for the birds than the Mariners. But the team has proven in the past that they can sustain high payrolls, they just need to build enough of a supporting cast before going out to acquire the high-priced players that could put them over the top.

Share

Trade Bait: Reynolds to Baltimore

The Baltimore Orioles seem to be pretty active this winter.  Unlike past off-seasons, we are now seeing their name in a number of rumors.  Yesterday they pushed forward and made a move, sending relievers David Hernandez and Kameron Mickolio to the Arizona Diamondbacks for slugger Mark Reynolds.

Reynolds brings the Orioles a significant power source that many compare to Adam Dunn as little of his offensive value rests in his batting average.  However, he lacks Dunn’s walk rate, but that may come in time.  Especially if he’s able to cut into on his high strikeout tendencies.  But where he does excel over Dunn is his defense at the hot corner.  Dunn’s defense has always been lackluster wherever he’s placed around the diamond, but Reynolds has improved his defense during his stay in Arizona.  Orioles GM Andy MacPhail even stated in the press conference that he was taking defense into strong consideration.

MacPhail also noted the gradual influx of left-handed pitching into the AL East.  Having a right-handed power bat to counteract that presence will be an asset.

What can we expect?  I believe that some of what Reynolds went through last season was bad luck and a jump back to his .242/.334/.483 career average may be in order.  But don’t expect a repeat of 2009 next season.

Hernandez and Mickolio are two live-armed right-handed bullpen options for the Diamondbacks.  Pitching, especially out of the pen, has been the focus of the Diamondbacks’ administration since the disastrous implosion of the bullpen last season.  Both pitchers walk plenty of hitters, but they may be honed into decent bullpen pieces (especially Hernandez).

But how does this impact Josh Bell?  It is unlikely that they’ll oust Brandon Snyder from first base to allow for a position shift.  It seems more likely that Bell will return to Norfolk to work on his hitting in order to become trade bait down the road.  Although he has struggled with strikeouts lately, Bell still had good offensive potential. 

The Diamondbacks will likely go with a platoon of the two newly acquired infielders, Geoff Blum and Melvin Mora, until a long-term replacement is settled upon.  If Tony Abreu excels, he may become the full-time third baseman at some point during the season. But the team is hoping that Matthew Davidson, Bobby Borchering, or Ryan Wheeler will eventually break out to become the team’s next long-term option at the hot corner.

I’m not a big fan of this trade from the Diamondbacks’ side of things.  It looks like they were selling low and didn’t get much for him.  But on the flip side, it’s possible that he doesn’t rebound from his 2010 season and, with a higher salary coming for 2012, would’ve been much harder to trade.

Share

The GM of the Month Award

As a new post category, I am starting the GM of the Month Award.  Each month I plan to provide the GM of the Month Award to one MLB GM who’s had the best month based on mainly on his transactions.  Trades, waiver claims, signings, are the main aspects to be looked at.  As this will be a monthly award, I’ll be basing it off of MLB.com’s Transactions page and press releases.  So, even if a player’s signing is essentially complete, if it doesn’t show up until the next month on the transactions or an official press release, the GM won’t get credit for it until the Award for April comes out.  So let’s look at who won for the month of March:

This month the award goes to the General Manager that signed break-out outfielder Justin Upton to a long-term contract that is team-friendly.  He also signed third-baseman Mark Reynolds to an extension that provided the team with a little more financial certainty.

Congratulations to Josh Byrnes of the Arizona Diamondbacks!

If you haven any recommendations for next month’s award, please forward them to The Baseball Opinion through the TBO Contact form.

Share

Reynolds gets Three Years

The Arizona Diamondbacks have gotten into recent the ‘extension of players through their arbitration years’ craze.  They have locked up third baseman Mark Reynolds for three years with an option for 2013.  Reynolds will receive a signing bonus of $1 million, $500,000 this season, $5 million in 2011, and $7.5 million in 2012.  The deal also provides Reynolds with a limited no-trade clause.

There are many comparisons out there of Mark Reynolds to Adam Dunn.  It’s a fair comparison when you look at Matt Klaassen’s post “Three True Outcome Leaders 2007-2009” on FanGraphs.com.  As Matt noted, Reynolds defensive abilities aren’t that good, but he’s the best out of that bunch that Matt listed.  But that’s what Mark is, a passable third baseman that’s main value is his powerful bat. 

The projections for Reynolds have him hitting around .260 with 30+ home runs yet again this upcoming season.  None of them predict an increase in his walks, but most think there will be a notable drop in his strikeouts (about any drop from 223 is notable).  But I think just the opposite on the walks.  His walks have increased each season (37, 64, 76) and pitchers are more likely to pitch around him after a 44 home run season.

It’s a decent deal for the Diamondbacks, but you still have to worry that his batting average will sink back down into the .220′s again.  At least Diamondback fans will continue to get free air conditioning for the next 3-4 years.

Share