The Orioles in 2015 had a cavalcade of players who saw the great DFA in the sky. This squad of players who met the DFA hammer comprise all corners of the roster. They each played their own role and are each indicative of a larger aspect afflicting the Orioles at large. Each squad member is profiled below in no particular order, but some of the more important names are stacked near the top. Without further ado, THE DFA SQUAD.
The crown jewel of the many designated for assignment, Travis Snider managed to play in a mere 69 games for the Orioles and may have been the most disappointing player of the season. Brought in via the exchange of two decent left handed pitching prospects Snider never really got going and never really brought the promise of his second half of 2014 or his former first round pick status. He managed a measly .237/.318/.341 line and a 81 wRC+. He eventually was sent out to pasture on August 7th and signed a minor league deal a few days later with the Pirates who essentially missed out on a bad Travis Snider for four months and got two pitchers for the privilege.
Snider was expected to replace the production of Nick Markakis. He decidedly did not do that. Instead he provided a great wall of grounders as the indelible image of the Travis Snider age illustrates below.
Follow me now on a tangent. The beauty of concepts such as WAR, WARP, VORP, etc. is the realization that the vast majority of the available pool of baseball players are at or below a certain level of production. Therefore, identifying those that are able to produce value above and beyond that "replacement level" is the job of a front office. Those particular measures may have their own faults, but the theory is astoundingly simple and deviously obvious. Nick Markakis is in no way a perfect player, but he can play day in and day out and provide a team with something that is above the replacement level. Maybe paying $11 million a year for 4 years is too high a price to pay for that skill, but the Orioles couldn't recreate that value all year long and Travis Snider is example 1A of their failure to do so.
What Snider was to the position players that were sent back behind the shed in 2015, Norris represents the pitching side. Norris was expected to be an anchor of the rotation and was paid $8.9 million guaranteed American dollars to do so. The game three starter in the 2014 ALDS and game two starter in the 2014 ALCS was just about as bad as someone can be. Between starting and relieving, Norris pitched 66.1 innings for the Orioles in 2015 and posted an astronomical 7.06 ERA. Peripheral numbers do not paint a rosier picture. With free agency looming and coming off a career year, Norris flat lined on July 31st as he was DFA'd for Gerardo Parra. He was eventually signed by the Padres and converted to a reliever.
Norris struggled to get lefties out, he failed to keep the ball in the park, failed to not walk hitters, and failed to give the Orioles anything. Now, in hindsight, trading Norris at the height of his value would have been the correct play, but I'm not so sure giving up your game three/two starter is an easy thing to expect of a team. Regardless, he cost them money and roster flexibility for much of the season.
Alejandro De Aza
Another man asked to replace Nick Markakis who failed to do so, a common theme throughout this squad, Alejandro De Aza. De Aza managed a .214/.277/.359 line for the Orioles posting a 67 wRC+. He struck out 30.4 percent of the time and was almost impossibly bad. Brought back to be the lead off hitter and nearly every day player, he was designated for assignment on May 27th after only 112 PA and was then traded on June 3rd to the Red Sox who would eventually trade him to the Giants. In the 254 PA between those two teams, De Aza posted a 120 wRC+, which brought his season line to right around his career numbers at 104 wRC+. Maybe he should just be traded around the league every three months or so.
"If he can regain his 2013 contact rates, than they could have found another Nelson Cruz." This sentence may haunt my dreams forever, I can't believe I wrote it. I think about it more than I should. Needless to say at this point, Everth Cabrera was not Nelson Cruz, he was bad. Thrust into a starting role from the get go due to injuries, he failed fantastically. He posted a .208/.250/.229 line and a 28 wRC+ in 29 games and never saw a major league field again. I for one hope he never sees an Oriole game again.
The 2014 ALDS Game 2 hero (I've watched the highlight so many times I've memorized the call) could not regain his magic his 2015. He was again thrust into a role that was not meant for him, another theme among the squad, and did not succeed. He posted a .270/.289/.339 line and a 68 wRC+. He was designated for assignment on July 1st and also never saw a major league field again. Young, also given a shot to replace the hole in outfield production, failed to deliver.
The Orioles designated Ryan Webb for assignment before he even threw a pitch for them as the Spring Training roster crunch claimed one of it's first victims. Webb was eventually traded to the Dodgers who immediately released him (more on that later) and he then signed on with the Indians. For the Indians, Webb pitched to a 3.20 ERA in 50.2 innings. The Orioles gave up those semi-quality relief innings for the right not to pay him. The Dodgers gave the Orioles nothing and the Orioles sold their draft pick. For a team who now states that building the farm system is the key to winning, selling draft picks for $2 million is a very stupid and hypocritical thing to do.
Signed in the off season to compete with Brian Matusz in the bullpen, Wesley Wright only pitched 1.2 innings for the Orioles due to injury. He eventually signed on with the Angels and pitched a mere 5.2 innings for them. Most expected Wright to play a major role in the bullpen, but he never caught on and exposed us all to more Matusz.
The patron saint of message board loudmouths, Parmelee was finally given a chance on June 16th and did nothing with it. Like most of the other times he has spent in the major leagues, he failed to replicate his successes at AAA. He was signed back on a minor league deal, but quickly had his arm broken by a pitch and recently elected for free agency.
Hey, another outfielder, what do you know? David Lough played poorly in his meager playing time and was kept around as a backup center fielder for Adam Jones until his poor play could no longer be tolerated. He too was kept in the organization and was even brought back on the September roster, his future with the team is less like a bright shining star and more like the vast darkness of an event horizon.
Possibly the only one of this group that exceeded expectations was Nolan Reimold. He remained healthy, probably the most important thing for him to do. On top of that he posted a .247/.344/.394 line with a 102 wRC+ and a 11.8 percent walk rate. He also played a little center field, he was below average but could hang in there. He was DFA'd back in late August, but stayed in the organization and returned on September 6th. The high walk rate and relative health throughout the year give some hope for a possible useful piece in the future, but probably not as much as some around here might want.
He for some reason made the roster out of Spring Training and was not very good, much like the rest of his career.
Do you remember his time with the Orioles? No? Good, because neither do I and I passed 1300 words somewhere around Nolan Reimold and don't know how or where to find the rails again.
This Orioles squad of players sent to the great DFA in the sky show some major themes that troubled the Orioles all year long. On second thought, maybe this movie should go straight to VHS.