If I Were a Rich Man: On the Baltimore Orioles

If you’ve ever listened to even five minutes of regional sports talk radio, it’s very possible that you’re familiar with a certain type of caller who’s all-too-ready to propose trades on behalf of the local team. Certainly, growing up in the Greater Boston Area and listening to WEEI (“The #1 rated sports radio talk station in America,” apparently), I was privy to these sorts of calls all the time.

Because I haven’t listened to said station willingly for like 12 years, I can’t say exactly what the callership has come up with recently, but I do remember some pretty choice suggestions from my youth, including but not limited to:

*Carlos Quintana and Bob Zupcic for Frank Thomas

*Tony Fossas and Joe Hesketh for Greg Maddux

*Randy Kutcher‘s moustache for the entire roster of the 1989 World Series Champion Oakland A’s

Needless to say, these aren’t trades which would’ve been entertained for even three seconds by the receiving teams’ GMs (although it is well known that Sandy Alderson likes a good moustache). Still, that never seemed to stop the callers from proposing them…vehemently.

And even though I recognize the obviously clownish nature of those caller-inners, I can’t deny that it’s occasionally pleasant to imagine being in possession of roster-shaping powers. Of course, the fantasy is the nice part about it. I don’t want to wake up early for work. I don’t want to talk a whole bunch with the media. And I certainly don’t want to feel so trapped in my place of business that I feel compelled to escape in a gorilla costume.

But so long as we’re talking about fantasy GM positions, I’m thinking I’d like the Baltimore job.

Why? Check it: these are the Orioles’ present commitments for the 2010 season (courtesy of Tim Dierkes’ excellent Offseason Outlook over at MLB Trade Rumors):

C – Matt Wieters – $400K
C –
1B –
2B – Brian Roberts – $10MM
SS – Cesar Izturis – $2.6MM
3B – Ty Wigginton – $3.5MM
IF –
IF – Robert Andino – $400K
LF – Nolan Reimold – $400K
CF – Adam Jones – $435K
RF – Nick Markakis – $6.75MM
OF – Felix Pie – $410K
DH – Luke Scott – $2.4MM+

SP – Jeremy Guthrie – $650K+
SP – Koji Uehara – $5MM
SP – Brad Bergesen – $400K
SP – Brian Matusz – $868K
SP – Chris Tillman – $400K

Other rotation candidates: Rich Hill – $445K+, Jason Berken – $400K, David Hernandez – $400K, Jake Arrieta – $400K, Troy Patton – $400K

RP – Chris Ray – $850K+
RP – Cla Meredith – $435K+
RP – Jim Johnson – $420K
RP – Matt Albers – $410K+
RP – Dennis Sarfate – $410K
RP – Brian Bass – $405K
RP – Kam Mickolio – $400K

Other commitments: Melvin Mora – $1MM buyout

Look at all that talent — and how cheap it is!

For the hitters, you have Jones, who was worth $9.3MM in only 119 games last year. Despite his failure to re-invent the wheel or re-slice bread, Wieters was still worth $8.4MM in 96 GP (with an impressive last month or so to suggest improvement this year). Scott was worth $6.4MM last year, and even that was lower than the previous two seasons ($8.7MM, $9.1MM) on account of a greater than usual positional penalty (-11.9 runs, as opposed to -5.9 and -8.7 before that).

For the pitchers, you have some ready value — in Guthrie, for example, who was worth $5MM based mostly on the sheer number of innings he pitched, and Bergesen, who was worth $10.2MM due to his 123.1 IP of above-average production (with an encouraging 4.10 FIP and 4.62 tRA). But even more than that, you have two guys in Matusz and Tillman who are considered among the league’s best prospects. And beyond them, you have Jake Arrieta and Brandon Erbe, who are both likely future additions to the rotation.

Dierkes projects Baltimore to end up somewhere in the low $40 millions in terms of payroll commitments after arbitration — this compared to last year, when they started the season at $67MM. That means Baltimore has quite a bit of money with which to play and very few positions requiring attention.

What moves would I make?

Well, that’s not the point, exactly. I mean, sure, I have some notions. First base is vacant and Nick Johnson is a free man. Also, I’m not sure about Ty Wigginton as my third baseman, owing both to the fact that (a) Adrian Beltre and Chone Figgins are free agents, and (b) this is the number of years that Wigginton has finished with a 3B UZR within 2.5 runs of league average: 0. Plus, I’d consider switching around Scott and Reimold, as the former has posted almost exclusively above-average outfield UZRs, while the latter had a -17.3 UZR/150 through 88 games last season. Those are some easy choices to make, I think.

The real point is the current position of the team. It’s like something I figured out recently — that the best day of the weekend isn’t Saturday, and certainly isn’t Sunday, but Friday. On Friday you get to think about how great the weekend will be (even if you’re just gonna spend it watching Community again and again on the Hulus, like usual). The Baltimore Orioles right now are like the Friday night of baseball teams. And regardless of how the weekend turns out (this is the Orioles we’re talking about), the current iteration might be the most exciting.


Hardly related at all, but check out Zero Mostel’s hair in this video. Is there a name for that?

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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

37 Responses to “If I Were a Rich Man: On the Baltimore Orioles”

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  1. DavidCEisen says:

    Why not Scott to first, Reimold to DH, and Pie to LF?

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  2. jimbo says:

    I’d focus on defense. That means no Wigginton at 3B. Also means possibly trading Roberts. Not likely the team will mature and contend before he’s a couple more years removed from his prime. See if he’s marketable now, improve infield defense…an important aspect of giving their young rotation confidence I’d imagine.

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  3. TJ says:

    yea there is a name for it its called ugly

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  4. Piccamo says:

    Or why not sign Johnson, trade Scott, Reimold to DH, and Pie to LF? Scott has value and could net some prospects and Johnson only costs money. I also like the idea of signing Beltre for 1 or 2 years (we have Bell on the way)

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  5. steve says:

    Rich Hill opted for free agency.

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  6. Tim says:

    I would pass on Figgins and Beltre who would probably require 2+ years to land. Hold your nose for a couple months with Wiggy’s butchery and bring up Bell.

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  7. Logan says:

    Carson- great article. Probably your best baseball analysis yet. I never minded the gags (though the asterisks have been played out since JoePo), but this was an interesting baseball read.

    I do think the outlook is bright for the Orioles. Jones, Markakis, and Wieters form a great young trio, we know about Roberts, and Tillman and Matusz are a top 1-2 prospect pitching duo. The supporting cast is also there. Here’s the biggest thing working against them- they play in the AL East. Man is that gonna be a fun division to watch next year.

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  8. all4tookie says:

    I would argue the Orioles are more of a Wednesday night. The weekend isn’t quite in sight, but damn does it feel good to have a cocktail knowing that you made it past halfway.

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    • Carson Cistulli says:

      Is there a day worse than Monday? Because I wanna figure out what the Royals are, then.

      Maybe we could just use the Russian word for Monday. Whatever it is, I bet it sounds frightening.

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      • joser says:

        It’s a Monday, in Russia, in January.

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      • Logan says:

        I lol’d.

        Zack Greinke! C’mon, that makes it Tuesday morning at least…

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      • dan woytek says:

        Not sure what the Royals would be but the Cubs are definitely the late Sunday night of the MLB. There’s the tired dread of Monday morning, the money you blew on stupid shit all weekend and no hope for the seemingly interminable future.

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      • Logan says:

        Okay, this associate-a-team-with-a-weekday thing needs to die before everyone kills it.

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      • PhD Brian says:

        I do not think the Royals are THAT bad. Maybe a 75 win team if their guys stay healthy. Butler and Dejesus are likely 3+ WAR guys in 2010. Gordon, Callaspo, Aviles, and the catchers are 2 WAR guys if they stay healthy and play (Olivo was worth 2.2 WAR in 2009). Guillen and Jacobs are capable of 0 WAR if they stayed somewhat healthy (which is better than this season). If they sign a decent CF worth 2 WAR then you get 16 WAR out the regular hitters in 2010. Assume Greinke gives them 6 WAR (rather than 8). Bannister, Hochevar, Tejeda, and Meche are all roughy 2 WAR or better starters if they stay healthy. Soria is a roughly 2 WAR closer. That is another 16 WAR from pitching. 32 WAR is roughly a 82 win team, but injuries will take some of this away, so I figure they win 75 or so games.

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  9. Nik says:

    I may be an idiot but what on earth does $1MM. Obviously it’s 1 million, but MM?

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    • RPMcSweeney says:

      MM is pretty standard shorthand notation for millions especially in industries like finance or energy where quantities can escalate pretty quickly and transcription errors can lead to mistakes of several orders of magnitude. It’s easy to type MM, but not so easy that you might type it mistakenly.

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    • PhD Brian says:

      in baseball making a million in wages is nothing special so you use MM.

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  10. Genius says:

    They should trade Markakis for Pujols.

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  11. JoshShep says:

    Where is Michael Aubrey? Considering how little service time he has shouldn’t he be listed at 1B currently for 400K or am I missing something? Sure he’s not flashy, but he was a former 1st round pick and he did well in his limited time in Baltimore. Perhaps they save their money and play him at 1B and see what they have?

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    • David says:

      The most likely scenario, to me, is that Aubrey and Wigginton platoon at 1B with a free agent good fielding 3B (Crede / Feliz / Glaus / Beltre) brought in on a 1 year contract.

      Riemold played through a pretty serious Achilles injury for most of last season, which had some effect on his range. He had surgery this offseason – he’s not gonna turn into Carl Crawford, but I’d imagine his true UZR is a lot closer to league average.

      If I had to pick 1 player to be traded from this roster, it would be Luke Scott. But it’s not particularly likely – he’s cheap, able to play several positions (1B/LF/RF), and he has a role on this team right now. If Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder both make it, though, there will be a logjam, and if he’s hitting well close to the deadline, all bets are off.

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  12. paul says:

    Quintana huh? That creep can roll.

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  13. Michael says:

    Good stuff Carson. I too am hooked on Community.

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  14. OsandRoyals says:

    I’d really prefer Luke to be moved back to LF, but I suspect that the front office wants Reimolds to play in the field so it doesn’t adversely affect his hitting. In any case Reimold’s defense should improve as he’s no longer playing on a torn achilles tendon so the difference won’t be nearly as bad
    Brian Roberts had a bad season defensively this year but the two years before he was essentially league-average. With a defense-first SS it doesn’t matter nearly as much.
    I hope Wiggy ends up splitting time at first with whichever prospect we use (1 of three with minimal service time). I’m assuming that McPhail will wait until there are better 1Bs out there as free agents.
    I’d really prefer picking up Beltre or even Figgins although Figgins isn’t as valuable since the Os already have two centerfielders.

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  15. Brendon says:

    Love me some Community. Oh yeah, and baseball too. That’s also cool.

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  16. Nate says:

    Oh how I wish the O’s could screw Jones and Wieters with a Longorian contract.

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  17. Jeff V says:

    One nit, Koji will not be in the starting rotation next season. Not even factoring in the three times he was hurt (including spring training) he would be lights out for about 80 pitches then hit the wall. In an ideal world I would take lights out for 80 pitches every fifth day, but given the youth of the rest of the staff it is not feasible to put that type of burden on the bullpen.

    Snyder might start the year at first base, I certainly expect him up within a month of the season starting. Bell I am not as high on for next year, from the left side the kid looks like a remium bat, but right handed he looks like he belongs in A ball. They need to either reconstruct his swing from the right side or have him scrap switch hitting.

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  18. excatcher says:

    Reimold gets a bad rap for his defense IMHO. He made most of his errors early in the season as he made the transition into LF from RF in the minors (which is preeety much locked up), and at the end his range was shot due to playing with an achilles tear. I think he’ll grade out to be an averageish defensive LF, OK range with a pretty good arm. But I would put Pie there and try Reimold at 1B. Or, maybe Snyder will work out.
    Trade Luke Scott, preferably to an NL team, grab a decent pitcher from a team worried about payroll, and make a run at Beltre and Figgins. Probably wind up with Feliz.
    Bell is doing well in AFL and AA but there is no guarantee he’s going to outhit Wigginton in the bigs this year. Sign someone to a 2 year contract that you can flip for even more prospects should the unthinkable happen and the O’s aren’t shooting for playoffs in 2 years.

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  19. WillW says:

    They need to trade Roberts badly. He seemed to be linked to the Cubs daily during last offseason. They need to make that a reality this winter.

    Carson, you didn’t mention anything about working under Peter Angelos. He could very well be the Al Davis of MLB.

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  20. Mike Green says:

    Brandon Snyder was a 1st round pick, tore up double A at age 22 and is now playing first base in Arizona. I imagine that he might be in the mix during spring training.

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  21. srock says:

    Another asset: Andy McPhail. Goal: Restore his the legacy and honor his father built.

    I like Nick Johnson to play first as well as a flier on Troy Glaus. Good upside, should be cheap due to the injury scare. Although Josh Bell or Snyder could make a run at those jobs at some point in 2010.

    Maybe bolster the rotation with one of the Reds pitchers on a salary dump.

    The pitching doesn’t end with Erbe and Arrieta. Britton is a bit younger, rated higher then Arrieta by some (http://www.orioleshangout.com/article.asp?ID=2323).

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