With the usual apologies to former Baltimore Sun columnist and current baltimoreravens.com contributor John Eisenberg, here is my initial attempt at my version of “Fact & Opinion”, in regards to the Baltimore Orioles.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Fact: Andrew Miller had a tremendous 2014 season with the Red Sox and the Orioles. His K rate was just under 15, his BB rate was under 2.5 and he had a low HR rate. His ERA was 2.02 but his FIP and xFIP was actually in the 1.50 area. He missed a ton of bats and was able to dominate both sides of the plate, which is rather unusual nowadays. Reports indicate that he has already been offered 3 years and will likely end up with a 4th. Its also assumed he will eclipse 6M per season.
Opinion: Miller still remains the FA I most want to keep but I do have limits. Something in the 3/24-4/32 area would be good for me. That’s a lot to pay for a reliever but I do think he will continue to be one of the better relievers in baseball. That being said, this was basically his third year as a reliever and while he has been solid the previous 2 years (3.35 ERA and 2.64 ERA), he hasn’t quite been at the dominant level he was in 2014. The Ks have been there but the walks have been much higher the previous 2 seasons and the HR Rate has also been higher. So, I do think you have to question whether or not he will be able to sustain a sub 3 BB rate, after having a BB rate in the 4.5-5 ranges in the previous 2 seasons. If they miss out on him (and they probably will), that will be upsetting but it could also end up being something we end up being happy about because that is a lot of money to pay for a reliever who could revert back to prior form and have control issues. And again, he was still good with those issues but not 6-8M a year good.
Fact: The Orioles are currently negotiating with Nick Markakis to keep him in Baltimore. Reports indicate that a 4-year offer is on the table for him. The Orioles chose not to offer Nick a QO.
Opinion: 4 years is at least 1 year too many for Markakis. I hope he is back but I don’t want to see the Orioles get too emotional here. He is a good player but he isn’t much more than that and to tie up 9-12M a year for 3-4 years is a lot. I can get behind for 3 years even if I wouldn’t be excited for a 3-year deal at 10+ million. The fact that this isn’t done yet and that Nick has talked to other teams makes the Orioles not offering a QO a very poor move.
Fact: The Braves have already traded Heyward and reportedly looking to move Upton. The reports are saying they want more for Upton than Heyward. In return for Heyward, the Braves got Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. Jenkins wasn’t looked at as a top 10-20 prospect in the Cards organization in 2014 but some believe he was a top 10 prospect for 2015, including the scoutingbook.com
Opinion: As Cameron wrote for FanGraphs, I don’t see the Braves getting as much for Upton as they did Heyward, although Seattle could go nuts and give up one of their good young arms. Makes more sense for Seattle to give money to Cruz though. For one year of Heyward, Miller was a nice get for Atlanta. Miller took a step back in 2014 but the upside is there and he is still just 24. Atlanta also has him under team control for several more years. If Atlanta wants to continue to add to their staff (and perhaps they should, given all the arm injuries their pitchers have battled), Miguel Gonzalez could be a target for them. Much like Miller, Gonzalez is under team control for several more years. He is a solid vet pitcher and would likely be better in the NL. He is a good arm for the Braves to have, as they are relying on a lot of young arms. He gives them that vet presence with a bulldog mentality that can help with the younger arms. What else the Orioles would need to add is unclear and while I would like to keep Sisco (in terms of just talking prospects here), I would be open to adding almost anyone else we have in the system not named Bundy or Harvey. Miller has more upside than Gonzalez but I am not sure he is really a better bet to be a more productive pitcher than Gonzalez and I am just not sure anyone will give up a better pitcher than Gonzalez for Upton, given the 14.5M he is still owed and the fact he is only signed for one more year. If Atlanta is able to get a younger player with a lot of service time left, good for them. Seattle may do just that but I am not sure anyone else will, although the talk is that right handed power has a huge market right now.
Fact: The Orioles were 6th in the AL in runs scored in 2014. They led the league in homers but they were 11th in OBP.
Opinion: I would like to see at least one more batter added (maybe multiple players if you lose Cruz and/or Markakis) that can give us a 350+ OBP. Adding a little more balance to the lineup would be nice. Combine that with the returning Machado and Wieters and the offense should be better next year and that is before even mentioning Chris Davis.
Fact: The Orioles currently have 6 starters on their team.
Opinion: One of them needs to be dealt. We can’t tie up that resource and that money when we have other areas of need. Now, I hope we sign some guys that can be 6th and 7th starters (like we did when we sign Gonzalez, for example) but trading one of these guys is necessary, assuming you get good value of course. I believe that one of these guys, at least, would fetch enough talent back to move them. We have heard that a Swisher/Ubaldo deal may have been discussed and I am glad the Orioles said no thanks to that one. We have also heard Norris could be moved. Norris makes the most sense because of salary and timing of how well he pitched last year, especially towards the end of the season. That being said, if a guy like Gonzalez, due to salary and service time fetches you more and can get a player like Upton, as I outlined above, so be it. Whoever you deal, move one of them and get back something that can help you win in 2015 and beyond. (Upton could qualify for that if you re-sign him or get a comp pick and that player helps you)
Fact: The Dodgers are currently shopping their OFers to help alleviate the logjam and find a spot for Pederson sooner rather than later.
Opinion: There are too many years and too much money tied into these OFers for me to want the Orioles to go after them unless other things, such as good prospects, are also coming back to the team.
Fact: Hunter Harvey has been cleared to have a normal offseason.
Opinion: If he is able to avoid surgery, that is huge for the organization. As MASN’s Steve Melewski said this week on Sports Tonight with Rob and Mike, we won’t really have a good idea on Harvey until he starts pitching again but the fact that they haven’t automatically put him under the knife is positive. Whether it’s his future as a Baltimore Oriole or whether or not you use him as trade bait, Harvey being healthy and avoiding surgery is the best thing we have heard since the off-season began. It gives the team options now and going forward.
Fact: The Reds are reportedly putting Jay Bruce on the trading block. He had a terrible year in 2014.
Opinion: Bruce had a fWAR of 4 in 2013 and has been a good player in the past. His defense isn’t all that good but he is signed for a few more years at reasonable money and he could be worth the gamble if the O’s can acquire him for 60-70 cents on the dollar. It’s worth making the phone call about for sure.
Fact: Gausman showed improvement in 2014 and is no longer going to be on an innings limit.
Opinion: Gausman is going to be the O’s best starter in 2015. I want to see the K rate continue to rise but I am expecting a 3.50 ERA at worst in 2015, to go along with 190-210 innings. It is time for him to take that next step and that starts with him spending time this off-season refining his third pitch.