With a lefty on the mound, Kim was nowhere to be found

The Orioles faced off against their AL East rival, the Boston Red Sox today at home in Sarasota, and LHP Henry Owens was who the Sox were starting.  This was the lineup that Buck Showalter happened to put out there:

See anyone missing?

Buck Showalter had said earlier in the offseason he wanted to see Hyun Soo Kim get more time against LHP this season, so of course for the very first game against a lefty in Spring Training, you would think Kim’s name would be in the lineup, maybe batting lower in the order, but still in there right?

Nope, Kim was on the bench, and he wasn’t really on the bench as he wasn’t even listed as an available reserve.

I checked in with MASN’s Roch Kubatko to see if he was somehow injured:

Nope.

Now it’s just one game, but you have to remember Kim skipped playing for his country, South Korea, in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in order to show loyalty to the team that signed him, likely so he could also get some time against LHP in return.  That’s a big deal because of the pressure he had to honor his country back home.

Buck also had this to say about Kim facing LHP after the first Spring Training game:

“This time of the year, it’s so hard to predict guys you’re going to see.”

And yet he knew Owens, a lefty was starting today.  It was a lock.

So the first game Kim’s got an opportunity to show something against a LHP he’s benched?  At a home game as well?

That’s a bush league move.

Now Kim did badly misplay a fly ball that wound up being a triple against the Yankees a few games ago, but the run didn’t score.  Buck hates blunders on defense though so Kim found his way into Buck’s doghouse once again it seems and missed an opportunity against a LHP because of it.

I think at this point though Kim would have actually seen more left-handed pitching in the WBC  because his manager would actually play him against lefties instead of minimizing his potential.

It’s not like the Orioles have anything to lose by having Kim face LHP seeing as he did have some success in the KBO against them.  If he can hit them, it allows the Orioles to be able to play him in LF full time instead of having to carry two platoons and hurting the roster flexibility.  Buck Showalter has everything to gain by hitting Kim against every LHP he can face, and the best part is the games don’t count.

Spring Training is a chance for teams to not only make sure their players get prepared for the season, but to experiment.  For Buck Showalter it seems, it’s time to once again try to prove a point that Kim is the least wanted player he has on his roster.

Let’s all hope Kim finds his way out of Buck’s doghouse sooner than last Spring Training.

Top image:  CC Image courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr

The Trumbo Effect

The Orioles have signed Mark Trumbo to a 3 year/$37.5 million deal pending the outcome of a physical according to numerous media sources.  We’ll find out the particulars on the deal today as it could contain deferred money – an Orioles’ staple in deals lately.

So what does this mean for the rest of the roster?

Well just like the Orioles, my thought process has evolved on this as the offseason has progressed and transactions have influenced the construction of the 2017 Orioles.  Here’s how it is shaping up right now:

The Orioles needed at least one another right handed outfielder to platoon with Seth Smith or a left-handed outfielder that could hit both left handed pitching and right handed pitching pushing Smith to DH .   Instead they get a right-handed 1B/DH that knows how to play the outfield.   The good news is that Trumbo,  who played the OF quite a bit against RHP last season to get Pedro Alvarez’s left handed bat into the lineup,  can go back to being primarily a DH against RHP –  something he was fairly successful at last season with a 146 wRC+.  Seth Smith will likely play RF while Trumbo is the DH against RHP.

It isn’t good news however for Trey Mancini who is now likely squeezed out of a roster spot with the Orioles needing to carry two oufielders. The Orioles will likely carry Rule 5 pick Aneury Tavarez because of Trumbo and Hyun Soo Kim’s  defense in the later innings when Joey Rickard is already playing in one of the corner OF spots against LHP.

Kim will also get more playing time out of the arrangement as the Orioles will either have to let him hit vs. LHP or wind up DHing one of their right-handed bats and giving playing time to Tavarez.  He’s proven he can hit LHP before in his last two seasons in the KBO, so hopefully he would be able to show he had similar ability.

Trumbo should be the final positional roster move for the Orioles so let’s take a look at a couple of lineups that Buck could put out there with him in the fold:

Lineup vs. RHP
LF Kim
RF Smith
3B Machado
1B Davis
DH Trumbo
CF Jones
2B Schoop
C Castillo
SS Hardy

Bench:  UT Flaherty, OF Rickard, OF Tavarez, C Joseph

Lineup vs. LHP
RF Rickard
C Castillo
3B Machado
DH Trumbo
1B Davis
CF Jones
2B Schoop
SS Hardy
LF Kim

Bench:  UT Flaherty, OF Smith, OF Tavarez, C Joseph

The Orioles’ lineup against LHP should be better than last season, with the addition of Castillo and a full season of Joey Rickard, but Trumbo is going to have to get back to his career wRC+ of 113 instead of the 56 wRC+ he had last season in order for there to be a dramatic improvement.  Castillo batting second may seem a bit odd, but after Manny Machado (144 wRC+) and Joey Rickard (131 wRC+), Castillo had the best performance against LHP last season (124 wRC+).

As for their lineup against RHP, with Kim and Smith at the top of the lineup and a 3-6 of Machado, Davis, Trumbo and Jones, the Orioles should be a very dangerous club.   Kim and Smith will hopefully give the Orioles more runners on the basepaths for the middle of the lineup to cause maximum damage when they hit the ball over the fence.

Trumbo certainly was a consistently dangerous bat in the first half of the season, and if he can get back to that the Orioles will benefit from his presence in the lineup as long as they keep him at DH. However, his history has shown that Trumbo is more of a first half player, so the other bats will need to step up to avoid the inconsistency we have seen from the Birds in the summer months.

Top image:  CC Image courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr

Looking at the Smith-Gallardo trade and the rest of the offseason

Happy New Year, Orioles fans!  Dan Duquette and the Orioles just made 2017 a little brighter with the trade yesterday of Yovani Gallardo and cash to the Seattle Mariners for outfielder Seth Smith.

It seems the Mariners are the new Cubs for the Orioles in terms of frequent trade partners.  Unlike when the Orioles have traded with the Cubs however, they’ve come out pretty good trading with Seattle and this recent trade seems like another deal that will turn out in the Orioles’ favor.

Gallardo was a disaster in Baltimore.  He was a typical Dan Duquette  late offseason signing, but only when the Orioles had misjudged the market for pitchers and lost out on better options like Scott Kazmir and were spurned by others.  Gallardo’s declining strikeout rate and velocity continued to get worse in Baltimore and the shoulder injury concerns that caused his original deal to be shortened, were valid as he spent time on the DL for shoulder problems.  To make the deal worse, the Orioles had to surrender their first round pick – the 14th overall –  in the 2016 draft to sign him.   Thankfully the new CBA will make a situation like the one with signing Gallardo to have less consequences in terms of draft pick compensation.

Duquette deserves some credit though for finding this match.   He shopped around at the Winter Meetings for an outfielder, only to have those with outfield depth like the Mets and Rockies talk about Brad Brach or Kevin Gausman as compensation.  I don’t think anybody thought he’d be able to get anything of value for Gallardo, much less find that outfielder the Orioles needed.  Seth Smith was available however as the Mariners wanted more speed and better defense, and needed rotation depth so the trade was made.

So now for that 14th pick and an undetermined amount of cash, the Orioles get at least 1 year of their left-handed hitting outfielder in Seth Smith.

Smith is actually an outfielder as well, not a DH or first baseman forced to play the outfield.  His defense however, while an upgrade over Trumbo, is only average at best with a +4 DRS in RF over the past three seasons.   Average though is an improvement for the Orioles.

Offensively, Smith gives the Orioles another patient bat at the top of the Orioles’ lineup.   Smith’s offensive skill set is similar to Hyun Soo Kim’s as he has a career O-Swing of only 26.4% (including a career low 22.7% last season) and he has a career 10.6% BB%.

He is a strict platoon player with a career wRC+ of 121 and wOBA of .357 against RHP and only 60 and .268 vs. LHP, but he’ll see the majority of the playing time facing only RHP.

Smith seems to be in that line of acquistions like Wilson Betemit and Pedro Alvarez – players that Duquette has acquired to have good platoon numbers against RHP – and should have a good year as the Orioles’ RFer against RHP, and will probably see some time as a DH as well.

So with Smith now in the fold what is next for the Orioles to complete their roster before Opening Day?

Position Players

Duquette has mentioned the Orioles still could use outfield depth, so that tells me that they still aren’t sold on Joey Rickard coming back from his injury.  A right-handed outfielder makes the most sense given the platoon need for Smith and potentially for Kim.

As I mentioned in my plan for the Orioles offseason at Eutaw Street Report, Desmond Jennings could fill this role because he’s relatively cheap, can hit LHP pretty well, knows the AL East pitchers, and can play all three outfield positions with solid defense.

With Smith, though, that still only gives the Orioles three left-handed bats in their lineup to face RHP so they need one more left-handed hitter.

Bringing back Pedro Alvarez makes the most sense here.  He was excellent down the stretch when Buck Showalter played him and he fits in well with the rest of the team in the locker room.  Sure you tie up the DH spot, but the Orioles could get a lot of value from that spot with Alvarez against RHP full time – more than they did last season with Trumbo and Alvarez sharing the role.

The Orioles should also carry a Rule 5 pick, just because  the two players they selected seem to have a pretty good skill set for excellent value.  I believe Aneury Tavarez will be the one carried simply because Anthony Santander is coming back from offseason shoulder surgery, so he’s almost a lock for the 60 day DL, if the Orioles choose to carry him at all.

With Alvarez at DH,  Jennings as the 4th outfielder,  keeping Tavarez and the bench only having so many spots, that would make Mancini the odd man out.  He  has crushed LHP in the minors, but the Orioles simply can’t carry a platoon DH against LHP only.    I imagine he’ll find his way into the Baltimore lineup somehow if he’s not traded, but just not on Opening Day.

So how do the Orioles fill that  DH slot against LHP and not take up an additional  roster spot?  My solution would be to have them platoon Alvarez with catcher Welington Castillo.  Castillo has hit LHP quite well in his career, including last season and his bat is better than his glove.   By platooning Castillo, you keep his bat in the lineup to give you that extra value instead of just having him catch.   The Orioles haven’t done this under Buck Showalter as Matt Wieters never really displayed a advantageous platoon split more than other players batting right-handed on the roster, but Castillo does with a career wRC+ of 124 against LHP which is better than Wieters’ 114 and leads the Orioles.  Castillo would also likely adapt to the part time DH role better because as a catcher he would be used to not playing a position everyday.

As for concerns about Joseph being injured with Castillo batting, the Orioles at worst would lose their DH and have the pitcher hit for a few ABs which they could also pinch hit for, and then if Castillo were to be hurt in the same game – something extremely unlikely – then Flaherty can be the emergency third catcher.  The point is it is one game of risk versus a full season of added production and being able to keep a Rule 5 pick instead of carrying Mancini.

Let’s take a look at the Orioles’ new lineups with all these moves:

Lineup vs. RHP
LF Kim
RF Smith
3B Machado
1B Davis
CF Jones
DH Alvarez
2B Schoop
C Castillo
SS Hardy

Bench:  OF Jennings, C Joseph, UT Flaherty, OF Tavarez

Lineup vs. LHP:
LF Kim
RF Jennings
3B Machado
DH Castillo
1B Davis
CF Jones
2B Schoop
C Joseph
SS Hardy

Bench: OF Smith, DH Alvarez, UT Flaherty, OF Tavarez,

Pitching Staff

With Gallardo gone, the Orioles’ rotation is set with Tillman, Gausman, Bundy, Jimenez and Miley.  For my last entry, I said Bundy is better off in the bullpen, and this still holds true, but he’s going to be there on Opening Day.

The Orioles still need pitching depth, and lefty reliever Boone Logan would be a good signing to add some quality depth to the bullpen.  I originally thought that he’d sign a 3 year/$18 million contract, but this late in the offseason and with other relievers out there, the Orioles could probably get him on a 2 year/$12 million contract.

Let’s not forget about all those starting pitchers that are left unsigned as well.  There are plenty of pitchers that will not be getting major league deals, and Duquette has been not shy about stashing some depth in AAA with June opt-outs if they don’t make the Orioles’ roster.  I’d expect the Orioles to sign at least one free agent starter, possibly two with minor league deals and Spring Training invites, to serve as depth.

C.J. Wilson is somebody that would fit this category as would his former Angels’ teammate, Jered Weaver.  Some other names to consider:  Colby Lewis, Mat Latos and Kris Medlen

With those moves let’s take a look at the Orioles’ projected pitching staff on Opening Day:

Rotation:
SP Tillman
SP Gausman
SP Bundy
SP Jimenez
SP Miley

Bullpen:
LR Wilson/McFarland/Wright
MR Verrett
MR Givens
MR Logan
SU O’Day
SU Brach
CL Britton

If Bundy’s arm and shoulder, hold up (a big if) that rotation is pretty average with some upside considering how Miley and Jimenez pitched in September.

There’s no doubt the Orioles would have one of the best bullpens in baseball and it’s likely going to be heavily used against next season as well, as all teams are getting fewer and fewer innings from their starting pitchers.

Final Thoughts

The Orioles surprised me and a lot of other fans with the Gallardo for Smith trade, but they filled an immediate need on the roster without sacrificing any strength they had.  By presumably keeping all of their bullpen talent, they can now  take advantage of a frozen free agent market to make a few more depth additions with good value and definitely have a better and deeper team than they did last season.

Top image:  CC Image courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr

Why Dylan Bundy is better off in the Orioles’ bullpen

I’ve received a few comments regarding my “Plan for the 2017 Orioles” over at Eutaw Street Report.   The move that fans have questioned the most is my plan to put Dylan Bundy in the bullpen, where he started 2016, instead of in the rotation where he finished the season.

After all the hype Bundy has received over his career, I can see why fans would be quite surprised to see him listed in the bullpen.  After all, when he was drafted in 2011, the expectation was that he would be a dominant top-of-the-rotation starter and likely the Orioles’ ace.  After years of injuries and making the Orioles’ roster in the bullpen simply because he was out of options, Bundy was finally able to crack the rotation after the All-Star break in July.

So why move him back into the bullpen?

The answer is pretty simple – his health.

The reason Bundy had to have Tommy John surgery in 2013 in the first place is because of his mechanics and as Chris O’Leary has pointed out, if he’s placed in the rotation, he will likely suffer another serious injury.

O’Leary, currently a MLB, minor league and college swing coach, and the hitting and pitching coordinator for Harris-Stowe State University, has devoted part of his career to analyzing and identifying the root causes of pitching injuries that are becoming more rampant at all levels of baseball.

He makes this following disclaimer on his website:

I am not a doctor or healthcare professional and have no formal medical training. However, I have spent the past four years immersing myself in the physiology and kinesiology of pitching. In that time I have read literally every medical journal article that I can get my hands on (amounting to hundreds of articles). I have also done extensive research into the physiology of other overhead throwing sports like cricket, water polo, javelin, and handball.

Even though he’s not a doctor or a healthcare professional, he’s been pretty accurate when it comes to predictions of pitching injuries in MLB.

You can take a look at his correct predictions titled “The List.”

O’Leary has pointed out mechanical flaws in numerous pitchers looking at still images of their deliveries, so it’s safe to say with his track record, if a guy is on his radar it’s not good news.

Read what he had to say about  Dylan Bundy below:

In the picture above of Dylan Bundy, notice how his front foot is down, and his shoulders are starting to turn, but his pitching arm isn’t UP.

Instead, it’s FLAT.

That is overloading his arm, which likely gave him a velocity boost. However, it’s the equivalent of running a car engine past the red line for an extended period of time.

It works.

For a while.

Flat Arm Syndrome is what got Dylan Bundy’s elbow and it will get his shoulder next.

Bundy is essentially a ticking time bomb with Flat Arm Syndrome.  To ask and expect Bundy to completely re-work his delivery and keep the same effectiveness however is unrealistic.  Therefore the Orioles need to minimize the chances for an injury to occur by not having him pitch as much and for as long and the bullpen is where he can do just that.

Every time he throws 5 to 6 innings instead of 1 to 2, his risk of injury rises.  Intensity, frequency and duration – those are the factors in any repetitive stress injury.

While we would all like Dylan Bundy to be the Orioles’ future ace, I think we would rather see him have a long, effective career in an Orioles’ uniform.  That’s simply less likely to happen if the Orioles put him in the rotation.

Bundy isn’t the only Orioles’ pitching prospect to be concerned about.  Hunter Harvey, who also recently had Tommy John surgery also has a mechanical defect pointed by O’Leary:

Harvey’s problem of premature pronation is discussed by O’Leary here.

Like Bundy, Harvey’s best bet is probably the bullpen in order to stay healthy.

I also asked O’Leary on Twitter what he thought of the Orioles’ 2016 1st round draft pick Cody Sedlock:

TOS stands for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome which was Matt Harvey’s injury.

That’s not good, so there’s another likely bullpen arm.

So why do the Orioles keep drafting these pitchers with flawed and dangerous mechanics?   Well the question to ask is –  why do these pitchers keep getting drafted by any MLB team?  And better yet, why are these pitchers continuing to use these unhealthy mechanics in spite of their success with them if they continue to cause injuries?

The answer is that this is how players are coached starting when they are young because respected institutes like the Mayo Clinic are advocating for the very same mechanics that are causing the problems.

O’Leary has done a great job pointing this out, and I highly recommend that you read “The Epidemic” on his website and follow him on Twitter @thepainguy for more.

In the meantime, all we can do is hope baseball and the Orioles especially wise up to the root cause of all the pitching injuries that Chris O’Leary has pointed out, and minimize the chances for them to occur.  That means new mechanics for some pitchers, and reducing innings for others.

For the Orioles, that starts by putting Dylan Bundy in the bullpen in 2017.

Top image:  CC Image courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr

The Chris Davis Contract – 1 Year Later

While we are awaiting the unthawing of the Orioles’ offseason from the annual holiday deep freeze, I thought I’d look back at last offseason’s major headline – The Orioles sign Chris Davis to a 7 year/$161 million contract.

I keep seeing fans lamenting this deal over and over again, but I think the Orioles still have a solid deal with Davis.  Let’s go over some of the common topics of conversation.

1. They are paying Davis $161 million total/$23 million a season.

Dan Duquette and the Orioles may have signed Chris Davis to a 7 year/$161 million contract, but that contract included deferred money.  Let’s take a look at the breakdown via Cot’s Contracts at Baseball Prospectus:

7 years/$161M (2016-22)

  • re-signed by Baltimore as a free agent 1/21/16
  • 16-22: salaries of $23M annually, with $17M paid as earned and $6M deferred without interest
  • the $42M in deferred money is to be paid in 10 installments of $3.5M annually each July 1, 2023-32, and five installments of $1.4M each July 1, 2033-37
  • MLB calculates present-day value to $147,831,478 with deferrals, while the MLBPA’s present-day value calculation is $147,737,635
  • limited no-trade protection

The bolded section is key – Davis is only a $17 million hit to the payroll over the next 6 years, not a $23 million hit.  $42 million of his contract is deferred until 2023 with installments to be paid until 2037.

That deferred money may sound like it will hurt future payroll flexibility, but consider the Orioles have paid this much money to players that they have cut from their bench and/or have delivered negative value.  It’s a minimal impact to any MLB club, especially when we are talking about the 2020s and 2030s.

2.  The Orioles bid against themselves and should have let Davis walk.

When Davis was signed I mentioned that some would say this. It might be true to a certain extent – however as we’ve seen Scott Boras can usually find a market for his star clients.   Mike Ilitch, the owner for the Detroit Tigers and a man infamous for huge contracts with Verlander and Cabrera to name a few, reportedly wanted to spend $200 million on Davis, but spent on Justin Upton instead after his GM talked him out of it.  Sure he wouldn’t have spent $200 million, but had the Orioles dragged out negotiations further, I have no doubt a team like the Tigers would have come in, with an opt-out and stolen Davis away from the Orioles.

Would anybody really have loved to see Mark Trumbo at 1B all season with Joey Rickard in right field?  Remember Peter Angelos had only earmarked the money for Davis, not Upton or anybody else they were rumored to be pursuing.  Had Davis gone elsewhere, so would have the 2016 Wild Card berth that the Orioles almost (and could have) won.

At the end of the day the Orioles increased their original offer of 7 years/$150 million by $11 million but deferred that $42 million of the total.   That $119 million that will be paid directly was also similar to what the Cardinals agreed to pay for another Boras client, Matt Holliday when he was a free agent in the 2009-2010 offseason.  I talked about how both free agent situations were similar last offseason.

Holliday produced 19.8 fWAR over his 7 year deal  for a total of $170.2 million worth of value according to Fangraphs so he easily was worth his contract and had over $50 million in surplus value.

We’ll see what Davis produced below in the next section.

3.  Davis had a bad season last year

Looking at Davis’ batting line, the .221 batting average stands out, but this is 2016 and we should be looking at more than just that to determine how a player performed.

Davis had a career best 13.2% BB% last season with 88 BBs, both leading the Orioles by far and good enough for 13th and 11th respectively in MLB for each stat.  Davis also saw 4.14 P/PA in 2016 a mark which also led the Orioles and was 24th in MLB.

His O-Swing%, which had declined since 2013, was also a career best 28.2%.

For years the Orioles have needed a hitter in the middle of the lineup that was willing to take pitches and work the count if the pitcher wasn’t going to give them something they could hit.  Now they have one in Chris Davis who had his best performance of understanding the strike zone in his career.   He may have not put up a career season overall, but Davis matured as a hitter while the majority of the Orioles were swinging for the fences.

Defensively Chris Davis was at his best too as he matched his career high with +8 DRS at 1B.   He made Manny Machado look even better at 3B with numerous saves of errant throws.

Looking at his $17 million cost, Davis was worth 2.7 fWAR  in 2016 for a value of $21.9 million.  So while it’s not a huge surplus in value, there was still a surplus just like there was with Holliday’s contract.

4.  Davis will only get worse just like all of the other contracts signed for premium first basemen.

You know the names and the contracts – Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Mark Teixeira.  Most long-term, big money 1B contracts have not worked out well for their signing teams.

Chris Davis will be 31 on Opening Day next year, so he’s still in his prime years, albeit on the down side.

However all you need to do is look at his  home and away splits while he’s been an Oriole to see a major outlier for 2016.

Home:

Season G PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
2012 69 272 0.288 0.342 0.588 0.930 0.392 146
2013 80 326 0.307 0.390 0.668 1.057 0.442 180
2014 61 234 0.187 0.300 0.419 0.720 0.313 95
2015 79 330 0.283 0.376 0.636 1.012 0.422 168
2016 80 328 0.196 0.326 0.415 0.741 0.322 96

Away:

Season G PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
2012 70 290 0.253 0.310 0.419 0.729 0.314 97
2013 80 347 0.266 0.352 0.602 0.954 0.400 156
2014 66 291 0.202 0.299 0.393 0.692 0.305 94
2015 80 340 0.241 0.347 0.490 0.837 0.358 128
2016 77 337 0.244 0.338 0.502 0.840 0.357 125

As you can see, Davis has always performed better at Oriole Park at Camden Yards than he has on the road.   Even during his worst year in 2014, he still had better numbers at home than on the road.   To see him do so poorly at his home park compared to his road splits, seems like it’s not a trend that is going to continue as the Orioles didn’t do anything different between 2015 and 2016 to the park dimensions or any other major alterations that would cause his numbers to decline so much.

My bet is Davis will bounce back because  1) his hand injury should be healed,  2) because his away splits were the same as they were in 2015 and 3) because 2017 is an odd year and odd years are when Davis has been a monster at the plate.

You also never hear about him being out of shape as the man is a gym rat, just like Holliday so health wise, he should age better than either Howard or Fielder, two players known for weight issues. While the hand injury is concerning, he still managed to have a decent season in spite of it and should return to full health with an offseason of rest.

5.  The Orioles could have used the money they are extending Davis to extend Manny Machado.

First of all, the Orioles aren’t likely to  extend Machado.  That was clear when they attempted to do so, and you heard $400 million floated as speculation as what Manny would earn as a free agent.  No way would he extend for anything less than $30 million per season and the Orioles aren’t going there, nor should they.

Second, had the Orioles let Davis walk, there would be no way Machado would ever want to extend with the team.  Signing Davis is a commitment to winning.  Players see that, not just fans.  So the only way to show Machado you were serious about winning was to keep the players that helped the Orioles win.   I’m pretty sure Manny knows what Davis means to him at 1B and protecting him in the lineup.   Trumbo just isn’t the same player in spite of the fact he can also hit HRs.

And the $17 million per season cost to the payroll also helps the Orioles with flexibility, just in case they do somehow manage to extend Machado or definitely to be able to extend players like Chris Tillman.  I’m pretty sure Davis knew that if he took up a huge chunk of the Orioles’ payroll similar to A-Rod in Texas, then the team would have a harder time maintaining the ability to stay competitive.

An interesting fact also – Chris Davis may be the Orioles’ highest paid player in 2017 as he was in 2016, but barring any other extensions, in 2018 Adam Jones is set to take that title with a payroll cost of $17.3 million.

Chris Davis may have signed the largest contract in Orioles history, and while he did have a poor season offensively last year compared to 2015, it was largely due to his hand injury, and he still managed a 111 wRC+ and .340 wOBA and should have won the Gold Glove.

If that’s a poor season for Davis, I can’t wait to see what his bounce back season is in 2017.

Image:  CC Image courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr

The Orioles’ On Base Machine Continues to Serve Up a Large Plate of Crow to Birdland

You’ll recall from my previous articles here, at Eutaw Street Report and my tweets on Twitter,  that I’ve been a Hyun Soo Kim fan since the Orioles signed him back in December, while the majority of Birdland had pretty much written him off by the end of Spring Training.

 

These were some the articles that first came out in the media and blogs when Hyun Soo Kim had refused his minor league assignment back in Spring Training and during the month of April when he rode the bench:

Baltimore Sun:  Still at crossroads with Hyun Soo Kim, Orioles likely forced to carry him

Baltimore Baseball: My official statement on Kim and the O’s: ‘What a mess’

Baseball Essential:  How Long Can the Orioles Stick with Hyun Soo Kim?

From that last article, this paragraph is my favorite:

The Orioles cannot afford to waste a roster spot for an entire year, and must capitalize on this hot start. The Orioles will not make any friends in Korea by releasing Kim, but the move needs to be made. The move could come this month; it could come next month, but it’s hard to envision Hyun Soo Kim finishing the year as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.

Boy, doesn’t that look silly now?

Kim, after his fourth 3 hit game for the Orioles in 2016, now has a line of .391/.466/.500/.966 with a wOBA of .423 and wRC+ of 169 in his first 21 games and has moved into the number 2 spot in the Orioles’ lineup vs. RHP.  Kim is also tied with Chris Davis for the third most valuable player on the team with 0.8 fWAR in less than half of the games played as Davis.

It would be hard now not to envision Hyun Soo Kim finishing the year as a member of the Orioles, with him also being a candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year.

However, Kim was left off the All-Star Game ballot by the Orioles, so the hot-hitting rookie will have to be a write-in from the fans or a selected as a reserve.   Meanwhile Joey Rickard is in 14th place because he was included on the ballot instead.

(Note:  I would suggest to all Orioles fans to #VoteKim via write-in to fix the Orioles’ mistake and the Orioles should too.  He likely won’t have a chance because he was left off the ballot, but it’s the right thing to do.)

To the media’s credit, they still are asking Showalter about Kim, and Buck is sticking to his story about Kim’s success resulting from him being benched in April and most of May:

“That’s why I thought early on it might have helped him, kind of sitting back and watching a lot of things and saying, ‘Yeah, I can do this.’”

Buck still isn’t praising Kim as he has other players, but supposedly in Korea, that coldness and lack of acknowledgement is common from KBO managers, so maybe he’s providing exactly what Kim needs.

When Kim has been asked about the benching helping him, you can tell by his body language and the way he talks about the situation, that he felt it was unnecessary, and yet he chooses his words carefully.   Clearly he got whatever message Showalter was sending, as well as the fans who stupidly booed him on Opening Day, and he’s used it as motivation.

Kim has been quite motivated over the past regular 9 starts that he has been given judging from his stats and these articles that now are popping up all over the place:

Baltimore Sun: Confident Hyun Soo Kim emerging for Orioles as regular role grows

ESPN: Hyun Soo Kim becoming a difference-maker for Orioles

Fox Sports: South Korean OF Hyun Soo Kim finally excels for Orioles

Orioles.com:  Kim serving as piston for charged-up offense

Much like Steve Pearce before him, Kim has saved the Orioles from making a terrible mistake by exercising his contractual right to be on the 25 man roster.  You’ll recall Pearce was released by the Orioles right before Chris Davis went on the DL in 2014 and they had to sweat out him having to choose to come back to them as a free agent or sign with another team.  Pearce chose to re-sign with the Orioles and went on to have a career year and helped lead the Orioles to their first AL East title in 17 years.

Had the Orioles released Kim or sent him back to  South Korea or assigned him to the offensive black hole that is Norfolk, they likely  again would not be in first place in the AL East.   Like Pearce, Kim could also be with another team, at the top of their lineup, as his skillset is one that would be in demand.

Instead he’s still playing for the Orioles and finally getting the playing time he needs to see as many pitchers as possible to fully adjust.  Kim is also ahead of his former KBO counterparts in this adjustment.

As I showed earlier in a previous article, Kim has also proven he can hit LHP in the KBO and he got his first plate appearances against LHP in the Red Sox series where he was 0-1 with a walk.  I’d expect him to see more LHP as the season progresses.

There are some that still think Kim is going to come back down to earth as League will adjust.  Kim proved over 10 seasons in the KBO that he can adjust back and continue to be an on-base machine, so I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to do the same in MLB.

For now, Hyun Soo Kim is serving up a big, fat plate of crow to his detractors and skeptics in Birdland and for many, it’s never tasted so good.

The Orioles’ on-base machine still gets no respect in Baltimore

 

When I wrote the article for Eutaw Street Report about being in Hyun Soo Kim’s corner back in the beginning of April, I realistically expected Kim wouldn’t be a starter right away.  It took a while for Jung Ho Kang to get regular starts with the Pirates after all.  Also Joey Rickard was the next big thing coming out of Orioles camp and his bat was red-hot, so it made sense to put him in the lineup to see what he had.   With Rickard starting, it wouldn’t be easy to get Kim in the lineup, but he’d get in as a pinch-hitter and make a couple starts a week perhaps.

Let’s take a look at total games played at any position before today’s doubleheader by those eligible to play left field to see how that played out:

Rickard: 27

Reimold: 17

Kim: 7

Trumbo: 25

Seven games for Kim?  That’s it?  Okay, well perhaps Rickard is still on his hot streak and Kim just didn’t make the most of his opportunities.  Let’s see what their stats are against right-handed pitchers according to Fangraphs:

Rickard: .243/.275/.311/.586, .258 wOBA, 58 wRC+

Reimold:  .333/.333/.800/1.133, .477 wOBA, 218 wRC+

Kim: .556/.619/.611/1.230, .537 wOBA, 262 wRC+

Reimold has more than justified his playing time, but Rickard?  Those stats are Brandon Fahey-esque.

Actually, Brandon Fahey was a better hitter in his rookie season as he had a .244/.313./.355/.638 line against righties with a .288 wOBA and 68 wRC+.

Yes, I’ll say it again, Rickard has been worse than Brandon Fahey.   Let that sink in.

Meanwhile Kim literally has been the best hitter the Orioles have had against right-handed pitching when he has played – not Machado, not Davis, not Trumbo and not even Reimold, but Hyun Soo Kim, the guy the Orioles have gathering splinters on the bench while they struggle to generate runs.

Perhaps then Rickard is just the superior defender to Kim? After all, Buck Showalter loves great defense and will look past offensive shortcomings if you can make the plays in the field.  Let’s take a look at their Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in left field:

Rickard: -5 DRS

Reimold: 0 DRS

Kim: 0 DRS

Once again, Reimold can justify his playing time but Rickard really can’t.

(By the way, Brandon Fahey had 3 DRS in left field his rookie season.)

Now against left-handed pitching, Buck has also benched Kim but it’s because Kim hits left-handed and lefties don’t usually hit left-handed pitching.  Kim must fall into this category, right?

Let’s look at his splits from the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) in 2015:

PITCHER AVG AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB HBP SO GIDP
vs LHP 0.333 162 54 7 0 7 32 27 1 16 3
vs RHP 0.330 291 96 16 0 17 74 60 3 42 6

Those look like pretty even splits to me.  So why hasn’t he had any at bats against left-handed pitching at all?  Shouldn’t he be in the lineup every day if he was able to get on base against both in the KBO?  His on-base skills against right-handers have translated so I would think his skills would remain the same against lefties.  For somebody that is supposed to have attention to detail, surely Buck has seen these stats, right?

Why does Kim also not at least see the lion’s share of playing time in left field against righties over Rickard if he’s the better hitter and fielder and has a pretty decent reputation of making plays even though they may not be “pretty”?

I think the answer to all these questions is that Buck Showalter simply does not appreciate Hyun Soo Kim, no matter what he’s said about him and he’s not alone as I’ve seen more things written about Nolan Reimold specifically but nothing really acknowledging just how good Kim is performing – until now of course.

Buck and others made judgements about Kim after his early struggles in Spring Training and wrote him off, but Kim is showing to be every bit of what Dan Duquette and the Orioles scouts saw in Korea, in spite of being benched game after game.

Buck also hasn’t acknowledged what Kim has done to help the Orioles win on the field.  Let’s take that final game of the series against the Yankees for instance.  In the bottom of the 10th, Kim hits an infield single just like he’s done before.  Schoop comes up next and singles to centerfield, and Kim astutely runs to third base to set up the winning run in scoring position with no outs because he had read scouting reports on Ellsbury not having a good arm.   The Yankees have Andrew Miller warming up and Alvarez is due to bat next.  So what does Buck do?  Instead of letting Kim potentially score the winning run that he set up after being benched for multiple games, he removes him for Nolan Reimold and lets Alvarez hit against the lefty Miller.  Granted all he needed was a fly ball out, but Alvarez could have grounded out to the infield quite easily given his struggles against left-handers, where Reimold would have had a better chance to cash in the run given his success against lefties.  It just made no sense to make that move to remove Kim and instead use Reimold as a pinch runner.

To me this was a pretty deliberate move by Showalter, denying Kim the right to score the winning run and get the spotlight for doing so.  He’d just seen him run out an infield single and move from first to third on another single, so he’s got to know Kim can score on a fly ball.  I think Buck wanted to put Kim in his place, again.

Why do I think so?

After the game, when the talk went to that 10th inning and Kim’s setup of the winning run by running from first base to 3rd base on Schoop’s single, what did Buck talk about?  Well take a look at what he said to Roch Kubatko and other media:

“’The ball took the center field a little bit away from the target, and being left-handed, too, he had to turn and throw. Not going to get into (Jacoby) Ellsbury’s arm or what have you. Jon’s a good bunter, but just missed a breaking ball they hung him 0-1. But that was a big hit by Jon.’”

There’s nothing there about Kim at all.  He didn’t acknowledge that Kim’s reading of the scouting report and execution of his baserunning contributed to the win, just that Schoop had a “big hit.”

That didn’t look petty there at all, Buck.

How about MLB.com Orioles beat writer Brittany Ghiroli who I have also noticed hasn’t exactly been a Kim supporter but has fallen in the pro-Rickard camp?  What does her write up of the game say about that situation?

The inning started with Hyun Soo Kim beating out a dribbler for an infield single off Yankees reliever Johnny BarbatoJonathan Schoop then lined a single into center field to put the potential winning run, pinch-runner Nolan Reimold, 90 feet away.

So again, there’s nothing about Kim going from first to third on that single or him reading the scouting report on Ellsbury.  Also saying that Reimold was the winning run, not even mentioning that Kim was on third, would lead anybody reading that to think that Reimold was the runner that somehow made it to third.   The truth is the only reason Reimold, and not Kim was in that position was Buck Showalter.   Kim once again gets no credit for setting up that situation.  Calling Kim’s hit a “dribbler” instead of just “infield single” also makes him sound weak and reinforces that image of him being a weak hitter that doesn’t belong in MLB, something that simply isn’t true.

To me with examples like that, the bias against Kim still looms very large in the world of Orioles baseball.  While some have come around to what Kim can provide, other fans, members of the Orioles media and Buck Showalter himself in my opinion, still don’t see what the Orioles have in Kim and are instead hoping either Rickard can get back to what he was in Spring Training and the first week of the season or that Nolan Reimold will become a regular, all so Kim once again becomes irrelevant.

He sure isn’t irrelevant in South Korea.

Let’s throw out a scenario to compare how this treatment of Kim is being received there using somebody that was extremely popular in Baltimore as Kim was in Korea:

Imagine if you will, the Orioles somehow let a 27 year old Cal Ripken Jr. go to the Doosan Bears in the KBO after playing multiple seasons in MLB and developing a reputation for being one of the best shortstops in the game and an All-Star.  The Doosan Bears then proceed to bench Ripken and only let him play in a handful of games because they think it’s “good for him to watch and adapt to the Korean baseball culture.”  How would Ripken feel?  How would Orioles fans feel that would like to see Ripken play in Korea?

All you have to do is look at Twitter to see how Korean fans feel about the Orioles’ treatment of Kim and it’s not warm and fuzzy.  The Orioles continue to damage their reputation with Korean fans and players the more Kim does well and the continued lack of playing time he receives.

So why does Kim get all that respect and admiration in South Korea but not nearly as much in Baltimore?

Kim, in essence is the anti-Oriole, and I think that’s why Buck and others just don’t appreciate him or respect his skill set.   He has a plan at the plate, is a student of the game and he’s an intelligent baserunner.   Sure he doesn’t hit for power but he gets on base and he’s consistent in getting on base, and the Orioles haven’t had that combination of skills in a player for a long time.  Buck and others are used to and want to see aggressive hitters that hit for power and go up there hacking away so they don’t miss a good pitch that they can deposit into the stands.  That’s not Hyun Soo Kim, and that’s a good thing.

No matter how little he is appreciated by fans, the media or Buck Showalter, if the Orioles want to win it all this season, they must respect and #PlayKim.

Optimizing the Lineup

 

With Hyun Soo Kim and Pedro Alvarez both starting to get untracked against RHP, and other players like Joey Rickard starting to cool off, it’s time to revisit the Orioles lineup to see what it should look like to maximize offensive potential.

Lineup vs. RHP

Let’s first start against RHP, considering the Orioles will be facing more RHP over the course of the season even though seems like they’ve faced a bunch of LHP thus far.  Below is the lineup with their wOBA and wRC+ for the season against RHP from Fangraphs:

LF Hyun-Soo Kim  (.571 wOBA, 289 wRC+)

3B Manny Machado (.483 wOBA, .224 wRC+)

1B Chris Davis (.419 wOBA, 177 wRC+)

RF Mark Trumbo (.385 wOBA, 152 wRC+)

DH Pedro Alvarez  (.334 wOBA, 114 wRC+)

CF Adam Jones (.306 wOBA, 94 wRC+)

SS J.J. Hardy (.301 wOBA, 90 wRC+)

C Matt Wieters (.288 wOBA, 81 wRC+)

2B Jonathan Schoop (.271 wOBA, 68 wRC+)

Kim at leadoff is a no-brainer.  He should be in the lineup everyday vs. RHP  because he gets on base consistently which is why he earned the nickname “Machine.”  Benching him continuously hurts the Orioles’ offense and he’s proved he’s ready for a full-time role.  Sure his defense in LF is somewhat suspect,  but his DRS in LF is 0 not negative unlike Joey Rickard (-6) so it’s not like the Orioles have a much better option.  Kim’s consistent bat outweighs anything that might be a negative defensively.

As for the rest of the lineup,  Machado would be an ideal #3 hitter, but the team is missing a true #2 hitter and he gets on base, so everybody moves up one slot from where they would normally be. Jones moves down to #6 because he isn’t consistent, and he’s battling some sort of injury right now.  Once he gets healthy, he could move back up.   Hardy, Wieters and Schoop round out the bottom of the order.

Now let’s take a look at the lineup vs. LHP with their splits vs. LHP from Fangraphs:

Lineup vs. LHP

LF Hyun Soo Kim (N/A, N/A)/Joey Rickard (.387 wOBA, 154 wRC+)

RF Nolan Reimold (.500 wOBA, 237 wRC+)

3B Manny Machado (.343 wOBA, 121 wRC+)

DH Mark Trumbo (.492 wOBA, 231 wRC+)

2B Jonathan Schoop (.368 wOBA, 139 wRC+)

1B Chris Davis (.277 wOBA, 73 wRC+)

CF Adam Jones (.219 wOBA, 30 wRC+)

C Matt Wieters (.219 wOBA, 29 wRC+)

SS J.J. Hardy (.298 wOBA, 88 wRC+)

Kim stays in the lineup because he hit LHP just as well in Korea as he did RHP, so I don’t buy that he needs to be platooned, but I’ll put Rickard in here as an option vs. tough LHP just in case.   Reimold has destroyed LHP thus far this year and should be playing against them until he proves he can’t hit them.   Trumbo has also destroyed LHP which is why he keeps his cleanup spot.    Schoop has been dreadful vs. RHP but has done pretty well against LHP so he moves up to #5.  Davis slides down to #6 because of his early struggles against lefties but he could move back up once he heats up more.  Jones has always had a weaker split against LHP and he has it even more pronounced this season.  Wieters is also a black hole against LHP this season and Hardy, while better than the two, is more suited to hit 9th.

So there you have it.  Two optimized lineups that Buck Showalter likely won’t use, but could give the Orioles their best run production this season.

Looking to the Left for a Lefty

 

Dan Duquette has said multiple times during Spring Training, that the Orioles still aren’t done building their roster, and that they still want pitching depth for the rotation.

Duquette wanted to get a left handed starter this offseason to replace Wei-Yin Chen but watched Scott Kazmir – the ideal candidate – sign with his idol Sandy Koufax’s team, the Dodgers, so that left the Orioles dealing with a trade if they wanted to get that starter.

I’ve mentioned Alex Wood from the Dodgers before, who Kazmir would have bumped out of the rotation, but with injuries to several Dodgers pitchers, including Wood himself, that seems out of the question now.

However, sticking in the NL West, there is one team that has multiple left handers that would each meet the Orioles needs for rotation depth in varying degrees, and that’s the Colorado Rockies.

The Veteran:  Jorge de la Rosa

 

At 34 years old, de la Rosa has pitched most of his career with the Rockies, and has put up textbook middle of the rotation starter numbers while serving as the Rockies’ ace the past few seasons.  He has a career FIP of 4.34,   K/9 of 7.54 and groundball to flyball ratio of 1.44 to go with a 93-75 record.

Innings wise, de la Rosa isn’t going to be a workhorse.  When healthy he’ll pitch around 185 innings and give you 32 starts (5.78 IP/G).  The key is “when healthy” though as he’s missed a lot of time with various ailments throughout his career.  On a bad year, you could expect to only get 20-25 starts out of him, but that might be all the Orioles need.

The Rockies are clearly rebuilding, even though they don’t want to say they are, and de la Rosa is only signed for this season, so it makes sense they would deal him for the right return.  His contract is for $12.5 million. so it isn’t hard to swallow for the Orioles who have shown that money is not a problem this offseason.  If he pitches well enough, the Orioles might even get a draft pick back for him by offering him a qualifying offer.

The Out of Options Guy:  Chris Rusin

 

Rusin doesn’t look like he has great numbers, but when you are out of options and left handed, you don’t have to have great numbers to be a somewhat attractive candidate to acquire.

He’s certainly not a strikeout pitcher with a career 5.65 K/9 but he does generate a lot of groundballs – a must to pitch in Coors Field, but also useful to pitch at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the other parks of the AL East.   Rusin’s 1.92 GB/FB  would have led the Orioles’ starting rotation in 2015.

The best thing about Rusin is that he should be fairly cheap to acquire as he is out of options, 29 and not a part of the Rockies’ future.

The worst thing about Rusin is that when he did give up fly balls, over 15% of the time, they left the ballpark.

It’s a tradeoff, but Rusin may be the most affordable and low-risk option for a left-handed starter that the Orioles can get at this point.

The Wild Card: Tyler Matzek

 

Dan Duquette loves acquiring former first round draft picks, and Matzek is another one of players he could add to the roster.

Matzek is talented, there’s no doubt about that, but he’s also suffering from performance anxiety (just look at his walks – yikes!) and has bounced back and forth between the majors and minors to get his head right.

Orioles fans are quite familiar with this sight as we’ve seen numerous pitchers flame out like Daniel Cabrera and Hayden Penn, but Matzek is still young at only 25 years old, and has shown flashes of brilliance, especially in 2014 when he pitched a complete game shutout and was worth 1.7 fWAR in only 20 starts.

The Rockies don’t want to give up on him, and he does have one option left.  Still they have to weigh the risk of his value tanking if he can’t get his act together.

Dave Wallace had a lot of success with the Orioles pitchers in 2014 and with the Braves and Red Sox before that, and might be able to help Matzek achieve his potential if he can get his head right, and a fresh start in a new organization could do just that.  The minor league option could give Matzek more time to work on things in Norfolk, and Harbor Park is just about the coziest minor league park any pitcher could want to play in.

Because of his potential though, Matzek could prove more costly in terms of talent to acquire out of all the Rockies’ options, but in term of reward, he certainly has the highest potential.

The Return

As I’ve mentioned before, even though the Orioles’ farm system has a low ranking, they still have useful pieces to offer.  Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson. Parker Bridwell, Christian Walker and Trey Mancini are all possible trade chips that should be expendable.

Jorge de La Rosa should cost only one of those players and Chris Rusin probably wouldn’t even take one of those players.  Tyler Matzek on the other hand might take a couple or perhaps somebody like Miguel Gonzalez or maybe even Dylan Bundy.

Regardless of which deal they would make, there is no doubt the Rockies are currently the best match for what the Orioles are looking for.   Now the Orioles need to decide who they want and what price they are willing to pay to get them.

Why Jay Bruce might be what the Orioles need

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I’m reminded of the Rolling Stones song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” when I think of the failed Fowler pursuit by the Orioles.

“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need”

The Orioles wanted Fowler to play RF for them, badly enough to give up their compensation pick that they got for losing pitcher Wei-Yin Chen, in spite of their farm system being ranked among MLB’s  worst.  They didn’t get him as he signed a 1 year deal with an option with the Chicago Cubs, so they still have a need for another RFer.

Looking at the free agent market, there isn’t a whole lot there.  There’s been some chatter about Austin Jackson, but he has only 22 games in RF with only  6 starts, and they all came last season when he was traded to the Cubs.  Like Fowler, his arm strength is also questionable.

That leaves the trade market, and although I’ve advocated for the Orioles prying away Andre Ethier, the Dodgers don’t seem to be motivated to move him any longer as they have questions marks of their own in the outfield.

So who else is out there?  Jay Bruce from the Cincinnati Reds.

Bruce was a potential Plan B to signing Fowler as the Orioles have liked him for awhile, but now he could be Plan A.  The Orioles almost lost out though to their rivals to the north, but a potential three way trade between the Jays, Angels and Reds died when medical concerns about a prospect in the deal were raised, luckily for the Orioles.

So why is Jay Bruce even available?

Before 2014, Bruce was a perennial 30+ HR rightfielder that took walks (9-10% BB%) and got on base (.344-.365 wOBA) and played good defense, a perfect fit for the Orioles.  Then he had to have surgery on his right knee in May of 2014 and everything went downhill from there.

Last season Bruce still managed to slug 26 HRs, but his wOBA was only .309 in spite of his BB% returning to his career norm (8.9%).  The reason – Bruce’s BABIP was only .251, his lowest mark since his rookie season.  Teams are employing the shift more and more, and Bruce has had a lot of trouble trying to beat it as he continues to pull the ball to RF to generate power.

Still there were some positives to take away from 2015.  In spite of still having an swing percentage of pitches out of the zone (O-Swing%) of 32.2%, Bruce managed to have his highest contact rates of his career – with a 77% contact rate overall and a 61.7%  contact rate for pitches he swung at that were out of the zone (O-Contact%).

Working with Scott Coolbaugh, who helped bring Chris Davis back from his dreadful 2014, and who improved Manny Machado’s hitting skills, should do wonders for Bruce IMO.

Defense currently might be Bruce’s best asset as he owns 73 career assists and has 30 DRS for his career in RF.  Bruce has an excellent throwing arm that would probably remind fans of Nick Markakis’.

His 5 DRS for 2015 in RF ranked him 7th out of qualified fielders according to Fangraphs and his 30 DRS over his career ranks him 7th for all RFers from 2002-2015.

Contract wise, Bruce is similar to what the Orioles would pay for Fowler as he’s signed for $12.5 million in 2016 with a $13 million option and $1 million buyout for 2017.  The Reds should be willing to eat some of that, but it shouldn’t take much to make a deal as at even $10 million per season Bruce could have value.

So let’s say the Reds kick in about $3.5 million – enough to reduce his salary for 2016 and pay the buyout for 2017.  What do the Orioles have to give up?  We don’t know what was headed back from the Angels or Jays to make the deal, but it shouldn’t take much.

I propose a package of Henry Urrutia, Tyler Wilson and Parker Bridwell for Bruce and cash.  Urrutia needs an extended shot to show what he can do at the major league level and he isn’t going to get that in Baltimore and Cincinnati needs somebody to play the OF to replace Bruce while their prospects develop.  Wilson and Bridwell are  future back of the rotation starters or bullpen arms that shouldn’t be missed too largely.  Even with the loss of Wilson and Bridwell, the Orioles still have enough pitching depth and should get more with this 2016 draft.

With Bruce, the Orioles would have this potential lineup against RHP:

3B Machado
LF Kim
CF Jones
1B Davis
DH Trumbo
C Wieters
RF Bruce
SS Hardy
2B Schoop

Against LHP, Bruce may still play but it’s likely he’d probably be platooned with somebody like Nolan Reimold or Dariel Alvarez as like most LH batters, he’s weaker career wise against LHP  (113 wRC+ vs. RHP,  97 vs. LHP).

Still with Bruce in the lineup, if he can recover his hitting skills from before 2014, and continue to play good defense, the Orioles would have a deeper lineup with better on-base capablity throughout, and they will have thoroughly improved their corner OF positions from what they were in 2015.

The Orioles wanted Dexter Fowler, but in the end they just might get what they need in Jay Bruce.

Image:  CC Image courtesy of Patrick Reddick on Flickr