Baltimore Orioles Discussion With BSL’s Bob Harkins, John Perrotto, & Brandon Warne
To discuss the forthcoming Winter Meetings, and the rest of the off-season; here is a Q&A with the BSL Orioles Analysts. Our thanks to Bob Harkins, John Perrotto , and Brandon Warne for their insight.
Please note that the questions were asked before the Othani and Stanton deals were completed.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
1) Zach Britton has been a popular name on the trade market so far this year. I felt the Orioles should have traded him last Winter and that you only trade him now if you get very good value for him. How much do you think his recent injuries (strained forearm and knee issue) are in the minds of the teams this off-season and how much value does he have right now?
Harkins: I also thought the Orioles should have traded Britton last off-season, my argument being that his value was never going to be greater. He was never going to match his 2016 season even if he had remained healthy, and he would also drop in value the closer he got to free agency. I still stand by that argument. Duquette says there is still a lot of interest in Britton, and I don’t dispute that. But I imagine a lot of the interest is from GMs sensing an opportunity to make a bargain deal. When they get on the phone to negotiate, they’ll mention his injuries, his drop in velocity, etc., and if Duquette holds firm, they’ll walk and wait to see how the 2018 season progresses.
Perrotto: The sense I get with talking to executives from various clubs is they would not give up much for Britton, especially since he is coming off an injury-plagued season and likely to make around $12 million next season by going through the arbitration process. The Orioles’ best hope is that he pitches well at the start of 2018. Then they can either keep him if they are contenders and be prepared for him leave as a free agent at the season’s end or trade him in late July if they are out of the race.
Warne: Not much. Between the injury and the down year, it’s at least not much — relative to where it was. If the market is so slow that the only return is C+ prospects and/or nothing terribly interesting, hang onto him with the hope that a bounce back either A. carries the Orioles into contention or at the very least B. builds his value around the deadline. If he completely comes unraveled, not much was lost — and he can probably be brought back reasonably cheaply to try rebuild that value. As bleak as that seems, the Orioles do hold at least some of the cards here.
2) There has been a lot of talk that the Orioles should try to deal with the Dodgers this off-season. They are deep in pitching and the Orioles can absorb some salary and perhaps even get back another young asset because of the salary they would being taking on. Do you see a match between the 2 teams?
Harkins: I’ve written about this (link to this: http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/plan-orioles-season/) and having had a close eye on the Dodgers out here in Los Angeles the last couple of years, I really think this is a great match. The Dodgers aren’t deep with awesome pitching, but they are deep with serviceable pitching, most of it better than what the Orioles have been running out there the last couple of years. Any of Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart would be upgrades. The only truly bad contract belongs to Kazmir ($17.7 million), who is coming off injury. The O’s could probably get Kazmir and one other guy (that guy depending on what went the other direction) without giving up too much. That would help fill out the rotation without wading too deeply into a player-friendly free agent market.
Perrotto: The Dodgers might bite on Britton but it’s doubtful they would give much up for him. Perhaps the Orioles could get someone like right-hander Brock Stewart, a 26-year-old who would have a clear path to a rotation spot in Baltimore.
Warne: Yes. Pitchers like Brock Stewart should be of utmost interest to the Orioles. The Dodgers have so much depth they’re going to eventually hit a 40-man crunch, and the Orioles should try help alleviate that. It would probably be relief depth moving to the Dodgers, and it’s worth wondering if the Orioles can stomach that in the short term. But if it’s a deal like Brad Brach for Stewart — who has at least five years of team control left — that’s a slam dunk.
3) A name that has been brought up in several recent BSL articles is Carlos Gonzalez. He is likely looking at a 1 year deal to hopefully revive his career. OPACY has been good for guys like Nelson Cruz and Mark Trumbo to do just that. The flip side to that is that he has really struggled vs. lefties in 3 of the last 4 years and his defense isn’t that good. Do you see him as a good fit as a potential platoon with Austin Hays and would you have an issue paying him $8-10 million dollars in 2018 to do that?
Harkins: While I’ve also loved watching Carlos Gonzalez, I’d tread carefully here. When it comes to attempting to judge Colorado players, I like looking at their road numbers. Here is Gonzalez’s road OPS the last three years: .758 in 2015, .710 in 2016, .606 in 2017. That’s not a trend I like to see. I would definitely reach out to him, but if I’m GM I’m probably going to be outbid by someone else.
Perrotto: Gonzalez would be a great comeback candidate, especially playing his home games at OPACY, on a one-year contract. However, the question is whether the Orioles would want to pay in the range of $12 million-$15 million to see if he could bounce back.
Warne: No issues with that. Hays can start the year at Triple-A, or he can steal playing time from Mark Trumbo with Gonzalez working his way back/proving he’s good outside of Coors. It might take more like $12 million, but on a one-year deal, do it.
4) I feel the Orioles need to get rid of Mark Trumbo. They have some depth in the minors in the corner OF positions and they could use the roster spot Trumbo is utilizing. My guess is to trade him, they will have to eat a large percentage of the contract or take on another bad contract, likely a starting pitcher. Do you see a match anywhere for him that makes sense for both sides?
Harkins: Trumbo is going to be a tough sell. He isn’t good at defense, his contract is hefty and his 2016 season looks like an outlier. The Rays (losing Logan Morrison), Red Sox (lacking power) and Indians (probably losing Carlos Santana) could theoretically be matches, but two of those teams are in division and the Indians don’t have an obvious overpriced pitcher to swap. One potential pipe dream: Trumbo to the Cardinals for Adam Wainwright, who makes $19.5 million, pitched only 123.1 innings with a 5.11 ERA last season and is heading toward free agency. He also has a no-trade clause, however.
Perrotto: Not really. There was little interest in Trumbo last winter when he was a free agent coming off a season in which he led the major leagues with 47 home runs and that hasn’t changed following a poor 2017.
Warne: Not really, and it doesn’t help that Yonder Alonso and Logan Morrison are free agents and much more palatable fits for teams looking right now. At this point, it’d have to be to like the Royals to take on Ian Kennedy (three years, $49 million) or something a bit lower than that. Mike Leake might have been a fit as well, but he was already traded. Another name to consider would be Wei-Yin Chen, who is obviously familiar to the Orioles but is owed $52 million over the next three years with a vesting option for 2021. In other words, it might make sense to just stomach the Trumbo contract as is (2-$26).
5) The Orioles seem to be operating like they don’t realize 2018 is the last year for so many players, coaches and even their Executive VP (GM), Dan Duquette. There seems to be little sense of urgency to make this team very good and they don’t seem to realistically be involved in any player that is going to “move the needle” for them. The Red Sox and Yankees are back and don’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon and you can’t discount what Toronto and Tampa could become either. If you were running the Orioles, how would you approach this off-season? Would you go out and give the 4-5 year deal for middling pitchers like Cobb and Lynn and hope that you have good enough starting pitching to carry you to the playoffs or would you blow the team up and look towards the future?
Harkins: Admittedly, I go back and forth on this practically every week. There are some really nice young pieces on the roster and Buck Showalter has a way of making his teams competitive even when they perhaps shouldn’t be. But given the lack of starting pitching and the strength of the Red Sox and Yankees, I lean toward going into full rebuild mode. At least that’s how I feel today.
Perrotto: As I wrote last month, many people inside the game believe the Orioles need to rebuild. I agree. I don’t think they are good enough to contend next season or capable of making the moves this winter that would be necessary to make a run at a pennant in 2018
Warne: Blow it up. There are no core players really signed past this year except for Jonathan Schoop/Kevin Gausman/Dylan Bundy, and the youngsters like Sisco and Mancini are young enough to be around the next time the team will be good. Blow it up and start over.
6) What are your expectations for Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy for 2018?
Harkins: I expect Dylan Bundy to take another step toward being a serviceable rotation pitcher, think close to 200 innings with an ERA in the mid-4s. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, the Orioles would have been a lot better off if they had more of that the last couple of seasons. Gausman is so difficult to peg. Based on the last two seasons, I would expect a first half of struggles followed by a second half of making everyone wonder why he’s not an All-Star. Is this the year he figures it out? He turns 27 in January and is still three years from free agency, so I hope so
Perrotto: I believe this is the year Gausman breaks out. He pitched very well over the final two months of last season and seems to have finally gained the confidence necessary to succeed in the major leagues. I also feel Bundy can build on his success from last season, though I would like to see more consistency. He tends to have some real clunker-type starts and the next step in his career is to be more reliable.
Warne: Gausman simply needs to be a lot better. He was better in the second half, but Bundy was better early on — so they were never totally in sync. Expecting anything more than ERA marks around 3.60-4.00 seems like a fool’s errand, really. They’re probably more of a 2-3 duo than a 1-2.