Orioles Want To Buy…. But Why Should They?
After yet another game where the Orioles surrender double-digit runs (the 7th time in 21 games that they have done this), Baltimore sits 6.5 games out of first place and 2.5 games out of the second wild card spot, with 5 teams in front of them and Toronto closely behind them. Despite the recent awful stretch of baseball, the Orioles are in contention to make the playoffs. Since that is the case, Dan Duquette is telling everyone that the Orioles are buyers and not sellers.
(You can discuss this article on the BSL board here.)
If I could ask Duquette one question in regards to those words, it would simply be, “What team are you watching?” Yes, I can get behind certain theories. Britton will be back in a few days, so the pen should be better. At some point, Manny snaps out of his funk and shows his normal MVP self. Kevin Gausman continues to show improvement and becomes the pitcher we saw last year. Chris Davis comes back and starts to mash. The list can go on and on but are those hopes founded on reality? And even if those things come true, do we see Schoop and Mancini level off? Does the catcher offensive production go down? Not much has gone right for this team this season but what has gone right has been a surprise and some kind of leveling off figures to happen there.
Currently, only the A’s have a worse run differential in the AL than the O’s do. In terms of all of MLB, SD, SF and Philly also have a worse run differential. That’s it though. 4 teams. As I said, they have given up 10 or more runs in 7 of the last 21 games. They did that 12 times all of last year. They started off 22-10. Since then, they are 17-31. They are 10 games below 500 on the road. In other words, they aren’t playing well and they are doing it at one of the worst times of the year. Yes, there is plenty of season left to turn things around; however, when deciding on the idea of buy or sell, you want to be playing well at this point to be a legit contender that should buy. What makes the Orioles believe that? Just because they have been good the last 5 years? Sorry but that is meaningless right now.
Over the last 5 years, the Orioles have hit homers at a high rate, put out an excellent bullpen, had starters that did good enough and generally were a pretty good defensive team. This year, the only thing that they have done well in those categories is that they are 6th in homers. But even that isn’t where they have been. Since 2012, the Orioles have finished first in homers 3 times, finished second once and third the other time. The rest of the offense is stinking too though. They are 11th (in the AL) in runs scored, 9th in BA, 14th in OBP, 7th in slugging, 12th in wOBA, 11th in wRC+, 11th in OPS, 13th in BB% and they strike out at the 4th highest rate. While everyone seems focused on the pitching, the offense is getting ignored. It’s terrible.
That’s not to say the pitching doesn’t deserve to get blamed too. They are last in team ERA at 5.02. That is actually not even the most depressing part. The FIP is actually higher at 5.09 and the xFIP is 4.96. So, its not like they have been unlucky or anything like that. The starters have the worst ERA in the league…by .8 runs!! The ERA is 5.57 and it’s only marginally better than the 5.39 FIP the starters have. The starters K rate is 12th, the BB rate is the worst in the league, the home run rate is next to last and they have thrown the fewest innings. The bullpen is only marginally better. They are 8th in ERA. The HR rate is the 4th highest. The K rate is 13th. The BB rate is middle of the pack. At least the WPA is 3rd. Just to top things off, the Orioles are 10th in UZR and 13th in UZR/150. If you take Manny away, it really drops down though. (They are 4th in Defensive Efficiency.)
So, let’s do a quick review. The Orioles are average to below average in every single major category except reliever WPA. That’s it. They can’t hit, they can’t score, they can’t stop anyone and they aren’t catching the ball well enough. And this is a team that wants to buy?
Let’s get back to all those hopes and dreams Duquette is trying to sell to people. The Orioles have a combined WAR of 2.8 from Machado, Jones, Davis, Trumbo, Jimenez, Hardy, Gausman, Tillman, O’Day, Miley and Britton. Why do I mention that? We are paying roughly $124M for that “production”. That is about 76% of the team’s payroll. Yes, you should expect some of those guys to get better and some will get healthier. However, how much more do you think some of those guys will be? You have to be honest with yourself. This is just one of those seasons. Players have off years. Teams go through years where nothing goes right. It happens. The issues just seem to be too big.
The Orioles minor league system is thin. With the news today that Cody Sedlock is experiencing elbow issues and likely has all year, the system is even thinner. That being said, they do have some intriguing young players and probably could move some of that youth to add to the ML team – but at what cost and what do you get out of it? You will have to settle for the lower tier starters and they just won’t do anything to really help you get to the playoffs. Now, don’t get me wrong. If the Orioles are able to obtain a solid, long term piece (like Sean Doolittle) for a reasonable price, I am fine with that. Just find it hard to believe that can and will happen.
Meanwhile, we have a lot of pieces that could provide value to other teams. Taking away Machado and Britton, I believe they can get some good value for the rest of the guys. You can add role player type guys, reliever, fringe starters, 4th OFers, etc…All of that has value and with so many guys gone after the season, it would be good to get some potential long-term help for them. The system could use a shot in the arm that is for sure.
What side of this do you stand on? Is it worth it for this team to try to win now or should they look for the long term?