clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Why did the Orioles offer more to Victor Martinez than Adam Dunn?

New, comments

I have two sisters who live in New York City, where they are pursuing theatrical success. The younger one told me a while back about a rule the two of them have developed when they go out to see a show. The rule is to keep your mouth shut for at least six blocks after the performance. You need to let it breath a little, and besides you never know who is listening.

I love that rule, and I've tried (and mostly failed) to institute it with regard to the Orioles. So, I've waited almost two days to really talk about Adam Dunn. And while my reaction is certainly disappointment (Dunn and Victor Martinez were the only two first base/DH types that I would have offered multiple years to*), I'm ultimately nonplussed. Dunn is a good player, a three win or more player. But he doesn't help the Orioles get to the playoffs in the short run, and in the long run you have to worry about the nearing decline of older players like Adam Dunn.

*And to their credit, the Orioles seem to have agreed with me. I wonder if/how their strategy changes with those guys off the board?

In other words, I understand the Orioles making an ultra-conservative 4 year/$40MM offer and saying, "We'd like you on our team, but only at a low cost". I'm quite disappointed, but I understand it. The problem is that I feel basically the same way about the lesser player Victor Martinez, but the Orioles made a huge, aggressive, more-than-he's-worth offer (4 year/$48MM) to him. What gives?

It's important to note that the difference between the two offers isn't large. It's two million dollars per year, although obviously the markets for the two players is very different. That makes me think that perhaps the thinking was "We can't blow away the market for Dunn, but maybe we can for Martinez". In the Martinez post-mortem, Andy MacPhail indicated that the Martinez camp never got back to the Orioles, suggesting an ability to up the offer. This would theoretically put the budget for first base in the $50-55 million area. Dunn wanted around $60MM.

Is that a stretch? It feels like a stretch. Why not at least offer the same money to Dunn, instead of underbidding? It's definitely a stretch.

That's because it's really difficult to make a convincing argument that Dunn is a lesser player than Martinez. I thought perhaps it had to do with the 2010 Orioles' inability to hit lefties (.661 OPS), since Dunn really couldn't hit lefties either (.199/.304/.416). Martinez meanwhile absolutely killed lefties (.400/.431/.742). However, both lines were at the extreme ends of their career numbers (I wonder how much the Green Monster helped Martinez), and anyway the Orioles in 2010 saw right handers more than two and a half times more than southpaws. A strong platoon split would be nice, but the overall production would still be lower with Martinez than with Dunn.

Which leaves me with only three possible explanations, which actually have positive connotations for the rest of the offseason. The first is that the Orioles are scared of how Dunn will age, which means they probably aren't about to hand Paul Konerko or Carlos Pena a long-term contract. The second is that the Orioles put some premium on Martinez's ability to replace the back-up catcher, which suggests to me that they value the extra roster spot non-trivially.It would not be too tough to find a bench player to make up the difference between Dunn and Martinez.

The last point is about the defense. We really don't know anything about either of these guys' defense statistically speaking, but the scouting reports on Dunn are absolutely brutal. Does that make up for the big offensive difference? I don't know. But if the Orioles are weighing defense into the calculations, then they're certainly not alone in the baseball world.

Do those three facets explain the strange non-offer the Orioles made to the better player, and the aggressive over-offer they made to the lesser player? They do not. I'm upset that the Orioles really, honestly think that Victor Martinez is a more valuable player than Adam Dunn. Ultimately though, neither player is what the Orioles really need. They both represent basically unnecessary risks to the long-term growth of the franchise. The Orioles may very well end up better off without either one of them.