THE PLAN, Part 1 of 4: The Minors Reloaded

The Plan. The Return of the Oriole Way. The Next Great Orioles Team. 2010 Is What Matters.

Call it what you like, O's fans have been discussing "The Plan" since Andy MacPhail took over as President of Baseball Operations last summer, and basically assumed the job of General Manager along the way.

The public perception of The Plan is simple: Let Andy MacPhail reload the minor league system while keeping our own young stars and trading off those we can replace. But is that The Plan? And even if it is what is happening, what does the next 18 months have for us before that magical 2010 season? Let's look at The Plan, how it's worked, and what we can (and can't) expect next.

PART ONE: Reload the minor leagues with other peoples' stuff


This has been started, to some extent. The O's have finally started a small baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, which put them only about 50 years (if not more) behind 27 other MLB teams. They finally started making trades to acquire young talent rather than get rid of it. And they had to guts to deal their best pitcher and hitter in the same off-season.

The Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada trades were the first noticeable bulk additions to the casual fan, but MacPhail actually started the process with his deal of Steve Trachsel to the Cubs for Scott Moore and Rocky Cherry. Matt Wieters wasn't drafted by MacPhail, but he was signed by MacPhail's front office for a club-record $6 million signing bonus. (Wieters was drafted June 6, and MacPhail took over on June 19).

So within his first 6 months, MacPhail signed off on a club-record bonuses for a 1st rounder and for a 5th rounder (Jake Arrieta's haul was a 5th-round record $1.1 million) and traded 3 players for 12 (and ended up with one of them back in Spring Training).  How has it worked so far? Let's look at the trades in Part I, the Draft and its uses in Part II, and the Future of the O's in Part III. Now, for Part I...

610x_mediumTHE BEDARD TRADE: For Bedard, MacPhail got Adam Jones and 2008 All-Star George Sherrill (both on the MLB club, of course), and Chris Tillman (RH SP, 7-3, 3.44, 21 starts, 1.41 WHIP), Tony Butler (LH SP, 3-4 4.42 ERA in 12 starts with a 1.27 WHIP  but also an eye-popping 1-to-4.00 BB/K ratio) and Kam Mickolio (RH RP, 2- 1,  3.86 ERA in 36 IP between Bowie and Norfolk, 1.39 WHIP). Butler went on the 7-day DL on June 20 with tendonitis in his pitching arm and is still listed as inactive on the Shorebirds site.

39549998_mediumSo, Tillman is doing OK in Bowie, Bulter had some encouraging peripheral numbers at Delmarva before being hurt, and Mickolio is probably no worse than two of the relievers we have on the big club now. Of the three not on the MLB roster, Mickolio will most likely see MLB bullpen time sooner rather than later, and Tillman is a projection for the rotation in ‘10 or possibly '11. I'd bet on '10. Butler? It's Low-A. Who knows? But Delmarva is a bit of a pitcher's park, so let's see those numbers in Frederick or Bowie before we get excited. And oh yeah, Adam Jones can hit a little and field a little and George Sherrill has 30 saves. So there.

THE TEJADA TRADE: As for the Tejada trade, injuries have already hurt its return. As the Washington Post said at the time.... "In return for Tejada, a four-time all-star and the 2002 American League MVP, the Orioles received 29-year-old outfielder Luke Scott; left-handed pitching prospect Troy Patton, 22; 24-year-old right-hander Matt Albers; 26-year-old right-hander Dennis Sarfate; and 24-year-old third base prospect Michael Costanzo. Patton and Costanzo were recently rated the No. 3 and No. 6 prospects, respectively, in the Astros' organization by Baseball America. Albers, who started 18 games in Houston in 2007, was the team's No. 3-rated prospect in 2006."

Otl_scott01_300_mediumLuke Scott has morphed in to LUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUKE!, our left-fielder for today and possibly tomorrow and '10. He seems like a nice guy, he packs heat, hits with some pop and sports a 10.1 VORP. Not exactly awe-inspiring, is it? His PECOTA card says there's at least a 50% chance he will still be in the Regular category in '10. We all know he's a serviceable MLB outfielder and nothing more. But he can go yard (18 HR so far this year, ahead of Miggi's 11) and in an OF with Jones and Nick Markakis, well, we don't need a potential Gold Glove at every position, do we?

Yeller1_mediumMatt Albers was a linchpin of the bullpen before he went down. Oh, sorry for the Old Yeller reference, but I don't like his chances of coming back. Those 49.0 IP were nice, with his 1.327 WHIP and ERA+ of 123. But torn labrums are not flat tires or even ulnar ligaments - you don't just change them out when they go bad. And Albers, when he eventually does decide to have surgery (and he will), he can lean on the experiences of Troy Patton, who got cut for a similar injury in Spring Training. So those two No. 3 prospects we were getting? Yeah, we'll get 49.0 IP out of those two when all is said and done. We'll remember you fondly, Matt. Write when you find work.

Dennis Sarfate has been somewhat worthwhile, if nothing else to eat innings and serve as a reminder to Brian Burres that if you suck long enough, even the Orioles will find someone to replace you. Dennis is 4-2 in 46 games, 54.0 IP, 1 start, an ERA of 4.00, an ERA+ of 107 and a 1.463 WHIP.  If you can find a more league-average pitcher, let me know. Mike Constanzo? Besides the fact I have to go back and delete an "a" at the end of his name and type an "o", I can't tell you anything aside from the numbers. If he was any good, he'd be up here playing 3B. Here's the numbers - .255/.327/.389/.716. He's 25 in AAA. He was the #6 guy in the Astros system coming into this year, which tells you all you need to know about why the Astros are as bad as they are.


THE TRACHSEL TRADE: Well, we got Scott Moore and Rocky Cherry. Rocky stuck with the big club for a while last year (16.3 IP, 7.71 ERA, 1.837 WHIP, 63 ERA+) and is now at Norfolk, where his WHIP is a much more serviceable 1.22 and his ERA is 3.06. Scott Moore, whose mere presence at Spring Training was enough to drive Jay Gibbons into unemployment, didn't do enough to keep HIM on the big club one they'd seen him play in four games. He's at Norfolk, batting .247/.321/.408/.729. And yeah, I'd still cut Jay Gibbons. We ended up with Trachsel coming back, so if these two (especially Cherry) ever do ANYTHING worthwhile for the Orioles, it's house money.

Sp for each trade, we ended up better than we were. Bedard yielded us a CF for 6 years, a LH RP for 3 (if we want to keep him that long), a starter to get excited about, a reliever who will probably eat some innings, and a Low-A guy with an injury and a ridiculous BB/K ratio. I'd say Andy did good on that one - I could make some bad pun about robbery, but I'll spare you. Tejada yielded a serviceable LF for the near future, a reliever who's already eaten innings and can start (although not impressively, apparently), and two pitchers with shoulder tears that probably won't recover. Oh yeah, and a 3B whose name we'll never have to learn to spell correctly. Call that one a win, but not a steal. Trachsel got us a reliever who was horrible this year but may not stay that way, and a 3B who can't even push Melvin Mora out of the lineup. But hey, we got them for free, so it's a win.

So what conclusion is to be drawn? On his 3 major trades so far, Andy MacPhail has made good on the promise of getting more, and younger, players, although not always as young (or as good) as we O's fans would like.

But why isn't Wieters on the big club? Why is he still in Bowie? Will Brian Matusz get signed? Could Andy have done better? Why are Brian Roberts, George Sherrill and Jay Payton still on this team? What does Johnny Cash have to do with my new nickname for Wieters? And just who might be playing for this team in 2009 and 2010? Ah, more to come for those who wait....

PART II: The Draft and Holdin' Back the Kids (coming in a few days)

PART III: Moves not made - Could Andy have done better? (coming in a few days after that)

PART IV: Now what? What 2009 might just look like (coming when I get it done)

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