The Orioles in 2012 are not going anywhere. So the goal of 2012 is to accumulate as much talent as possible. A key question is to figure out when the competitive window is. This really is the core issue. If the team believes they can compete by 2014, then I think the Orioles should keep Adam Jones and Jeremy Guthrie. If the Orioles do not believe they can compete by then, they should follow suit and deal Jonesy and Guthrie and presumably build around Matt Wieters and well, Matt Wieters. One of the hardest pills to swallow of the 2011 Orioles was that regression of Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman. Short of serious arm injuries, I really cannot imagine a more disappointing campaign. So, putting on my GM hat, my goal is to continue to accumulate as much talent as possible. Perhaps I am delusional, but I believe that all hope is not lost with the young pitching calvary of Matusz, Tillman, Britton and Arrieta. However, the team needs to get more arms as the guys on the immediate horizon all have serious warts...Oliver Drake and Bobby Bundy are probably the best arms in AA and above, but those two are hardly building blocks. Beneath them there are number of interesting starter types, but really every team has interesting arms in A ball. But the list of guys who I am especially hopeful for are highlighted of course by the 2011 #1 Dylan Bundy with the following guys who have some interesting skills: Parker Bridwell, Eduardo Rodriguez, Kyle Simon, Jaime Esquivel, Miguel Chalas and a few others. But that's not relevant to the current discussion, unless you want to completely punt on the next few years and try to build around a late 20s Wieters, Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy.
So how can the Orioles get some talent to help in 2014? One asset that the Orioles actually have and is consistent with the rules set forth is the payroll. I am going to let Luke Scott go strictly because I would rather have the $7M payroll flexibility. Without him, my payroll is approximately $60M for 11 players (Markakis, Roberts, Reynolds, Hardy, Gregg, Guthrie, Jones, Johnson, Matusz, Hunter and SHJ). So, the next step is to go to the bad contract swap meet and find 2 players to take on...AJ Burnett and Chone Figgins. Burnett is due $16.5M in 2012 and 2013. I would think the Yankees would like to rid themselves of his contract so they sign CJ Wilson or someone else who I will grow to hate. I know the Yankees are made of money, but they too have a budget and they have dumped some bad contracts in the past. For the courtesy of swallowing this entire contract, the Yankees might be willing to fork over a decent prospect. I am going to drive a hard bargain and request Manny Banuellos or Dellin Betances. I know these are top 100 prospects, but giving the Yankees an ability to sign CJ Wilson is worth it from their perspective. Then, I am going to call up the Mariners and sell ice to an eskimo. There is some desire for the Mariners to sign Prince Fielder because he makes a lot of sense for them in some ways (left handed power bat suitable for Safeco, some really amazing pitching in Felix and Pineda and some pressure with Ichiro! soon to retire and their GM needing to drastically improve over the next 12 months). Figgins is close to worthless for them and is owed $9M in 2012 and $8M in 2013. They could eat the contract, or they could package the toxic asset with a top pitching prospect...Taijuan Walker. Prospect hounds will know that this is a steep price to pay for $17M from the Mariners perspective, but if Jack Zduriencik wants to keep his job beyond next year, he may feel compelled to sign Fielder, and getting $9M off the books might help. I would be happy to include a decent prospect to sweeten the deal, a guy like Dan Klein.
So the title of this entry is the loss leaders strictly because of the acquisitions of Burnett and Figgins. Together they add a hefty $25M for not much, but I am more concerned about 2014. I am now up to $85M, but I look at Guts and Jonesy and I believe in them. I decide to extend them, and given my desire to reserve a lot of payroll for SHJ and flexibility, I want to front load these contracts as much as possible. I want to give Guts a 3 year $30M with a team option, but I want to structure it so he gets paid in 2012, and the team isn't hamstrung down the line. So the $30M is structured $12M, $10M, $8M. This is only a real increase of $5M, since I had him booked at $7M already. So the payroll is up to $90M. Next up is Jonesy, pegged for $5M in his arb2 season. Same idea with him: 4/$40M with a team option broken out 10M per for the next 4 years with a team option. This is a big bump in 2012, but hopefully this pays off on the back end. My payroll is now at $95M for 13 guys. The rest of the money is used for the remaining guys paid at the major league minimum.
So, to the actual 25 man roster!
Nolan Reimold, LF, R
Markakis, RF, L
Hardy, SS, R
Wieters, C, S
Reynolds, 1B/DH, R
Chris Davis, DH/1B, L
Adam Jones, CF, R
Chone Figgins, 3B, S (platoons with Andino, Figgins plays against righties, Dino against lefties)
Ryan Adams, 2B, R
Bench: Robert Andino (playing against lefties, giving Figgins and Adams some rest, and playing SS to give Hardy a break), Teagarden (hate the trade, do like the pop he provides, so he's not completely without value), Matt Angle (can play all spots), Matt Antonelli (also plays all over)
Position player discussion: I like the OF a lot for 2012 and over the next few seasons. I'm a fan of Moldy and I think provides some nice pop and OBP. Jones and Markakis are what they are, Markakis should rebound as hopefully April and May of 2011 were an aberration. But he's being paid $15M and is no longer a good value. The infield is something of a mess, really. I like Reynolds' power obviously and we will see if in 2012 he is a liability at first and if he can provide enough offense for a firstbaseman. Figgins is a bandaid to I'm not really sure (Esposito?). He needs to get out of Seattle, bat leadoff and be relatively anonymous. He isn't a long term solution at third. But getting him allows me not to watch Chris Davis butcher 3rd base and more importantly, provides the system a very good prospect. I like Ryan Adams more than most, and I think he gets an entire season to see if his glove is liveable. I'd love to see Brian here, but I'm not counting on anything, and at 10% of the payroll, that really hurts. I know Brian wants to contribute, and I'm sure it sucks to be him. Sure $10M is a lot, but it's not even about that. Hardy is the perfect bridge for Machado. I would like to get more at bats for Antonelli, and perhaps benching Figgins would do that, but Chone is a little punchy to say the least.
Pitching...ok, this should be fun!
Rotation: Guthrie, Burnett, Britton, Arrieta, Hunter
Bullpen: Gregg, Johnson, Patton, Strop, Simon, O'Day, Sokolovich
Pitching discussion:The starting staff isn't total garbage. Guts should provide innings and mild effectiveness. Burnett and Hunter should provide innings. Britton and Arrieta could provide almost anything. Matusz and Tillman are in AAA. But so is Banuellos. You have to hope that some of those guys are ready to step up in 2012. My original plan included 2 rule 5 picks, the Meyers kid from the Nationals and Nick Barnese from the Rays. Not sure if the Orioles can manage to engineer trades for a Rule 5 given that the Orioles had to keep some crap on the 40 man for reasons unknown to me. Still though, having Matusz, Tillman, Banuellos, Bobby Bundy, Oliver Drake and Taijuan Walker in AA or above and a number of interesting kids in Fredneck and Salisbury is consistent with what Duquette is aiming for. But this pitching staff still sucks and a top 5 pick in 2013 is likely inevitable, $100M payroll be damned. The bullpen also looks a little scary to me as it is very conceivable that Johnson is the only decent reliever of the bunch. I like Cole McCurry and Bergesen, Berken, Eyre, Phillips, Rapada, Reyes and VandenHurk provide some depth, though 2 of those guys will have to be dfa'd to provide roster spots for Burnett and Figgins, assuming Scott is off the roster and Sokolovich is on the roster.
Final thoughts:Special thanks to Stacey for creating a rosterbation idea. And to Jameson on the rocks. I'm bummed to non tender Luke Scott because I think he can provide decent power next year, but I chose to use his payroll space to acquire prospects and to finally let the team see what Reimold can do. I elected to take on the bad contracts of Burnett and Figgins because they provide some value (innings, defense at third), were encumbering enough to warrant some decent return, and only hamstrung the Orioles during the non-competitive seasons of 2012 and 2013. So come 2014, the Orioles have a ton of payroll flexibility, and hopefully a decent amount of young talent. But I thought that after 2009 and that's worked out well.