The entire Orioles-loving world came to a standstill yesterday as several well-respected sources reported that the Birds were "making progress" with right-hander Yovani Gallardo while also having "interest" in outfielder Dexter Fowler. Holy crap! It's happening!
Opinions are split on the pair of soon-to-be 30-year-olds. If you're reading this, you know the story: Gallardo would be an improvement, but his performance seems to be in decline. Fowler is not a natural corner outfielder, but would be a bargain at this point. And oh yeah...both would force the organization to cough up a draft pick each, which has everyone freaking the heck out.
"They wanted those picks! What happened? Buck Showalter was all excited at FanFest. Now they are going to throw them away on Gallardo and Fowler? What?"
Sure, all the talk early in the offseason was about the boatload of draft picks the O's were set to take into June's amateur draft. If Matt Wieters, Chris Davis and Wei-Yin Chen all signed elsewhere they would have eight of the first 100 selections. Huzzah!
Well, it didn't happen. Wieters accepted the qualifying offer and Davis re-signed for big money. Chen did leave, but that leaves just six picks. Signing Gallardo and Fowler would whittle that number down to four. Huzz...huh?
The picks in question are 14th and 29th overall. Baseball Reference has the full list of names for the 14th overall pick and the 29th overall pick if you care. Heck, check out the 28th overall pick too, since that is technically what the O's would be giving up if they sign both players as they would first lose the 14th pick, causing everyone after that to move up one spot, turning the 29th pick into the 28th
As I'm sure you guessed, it's a mixed bag overall. The Orioles are just as likely to get someone outstanding like Jason Heyward, Gerrit Cole or Adam Wainwright as they are to get a bunch of no-names like Ty Howington, Gerik Baxter and Derick Grigsby.
The Orioles know this, but have still seemed stingy this offseason about dealing with draft pick-tied players. Well, they really shouldn't be because there is little evidence that they would maximize the pick:
The current roster
Here is my projected Opening Day roster, without Gallardo or Fowler, but along with how each player came to be with the Birds right now:
|Player||How O's acquired|
|Chris Tillman||Trade (2008, w/ Seattle for Erik Bedard)|
|Ubaldo Jimenez||Free Agent (2014)|
|Kevin Gausman||Drafted (4th overall, 2012)|
|Miguel Gonzalez||Free Agent (2012)|
|Vance Worley||Waivers (2015)|
|Zach Britton||Drafted (3rd round, 2006)|
|Darren O'Day||Waivers (2011)|
|Brad Brach||Trade (2013, w/ San Diego for Devin Jones)|
|Mychal Givens||Drafted (2nd round, 2009)|
|Brian Matusz||Drafted (4th overall, 2008)|
|Dylan Bundy||Drafted (4th overall, 2011)|
|Chaz Roe||Free Agent (2014)|
|T.J. McFarland||Rule 5 Pick (2012)|
|C Matt Wieters||Drafted (5th overall, 2007)|
|1B Chris Davis||Trade (2011, w/ Texas for Koji Uehara)|
|2B Jonathan Schoop||Amateur Free Agent (2008)|
|3B Manny Machado||Drafted (3rd overall, 2010)|
|SS J.J. Hardy||Trade (2010 w/ Minnesota for Jim Hoey)|
|LF Hyun-soo Kim||Free Agent (2015)|
|CF Adam Jones||Trade (2008, w/ Seattle for Erik Bedard)|
|RF Nolan Reimold||Free Agent (2015)|
|DH Mark Trumbo||Trade (2015, w/ Seattle for Steve Clevenger)|
|C Caleb Joseph||Drafted (7th round, 2008)|
|INF Ryan Flaherty||Rule 5 Pick (2011)|
|OF Joey Rickard||Rule 5 Pick (2015)|
Here is the quick breakdown:
-Eight players drafted as amateurs by the Orioles
Five of them were selected in the top five overall, which are protected picks and never affected by free agent signings. The other three (Joseph, Givens and Britton) were a bit later with Givens being the earliest (54th overall). These later selections are rarely impacted by free agent movement.
-Six acquired via trade
Jones and Tillman came over together in a trade where the Orioles sent a known commodity in exchange for prospects. Davis came to Baltimore along with Tommy Hunter in a deal for Uehara, an established reliever. Trumbo was a salary dump move by Seattle. Hardy was a low-risk deal where the Orioles gave up two low-ceiling guys. And Brach was brought in for a mid-level prospect. Basically, there were no top notch prospects sent out of Baltimore for these deals.
-Five signed as professional free agents
-Three Rule 5 picks
-Two waiver claims
-One amateur free agent
Overall, I'm not seeing any mid-late first round picks used to build this roster here. It's either the "can't miss" top five guys or some of that famous Showalter/Duquette roster maneuvering that has netted the Birds a nice roster.
As the Orioles have become more competitive in recent years, they have made some in-season deals to aid in their playoff push. Those players traded also have to be factored in here as they are a key cog in future improvement of the current squad. The stronger that crop of players is, the higher the quality of incoming veteran trade targets will be.
-Gabriel Lino (amateur free agent, 2010) and Kyle Simon (4th round pick, 2011) for Jim Thome
-Jake Arrieta (5th round pick, 2007) and Pedro Strop (Trade w/ Texas, 2011) for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger
-Nick Delmonico (6th round pick, 2011) for Francisco Rodriguez
-Xavier Avery (2nd round pick, 2008) for Mike Morse
-Josh Hader (19th round, 2012) and L.J. Hoes (3rd round, 2008) for Bud Norris
-Eduardo Rodriguez (amateur free agent, 2010) for Andrew Miller
-Zach Davies (26th round, 2011) for Gerardo Parra
You will see that none of them have been especially high picks. Obviously, the Arrieta trade feels like a punch to the gut now, but it proves that there is Cy Young and All-Star quality in later rounds, not just near the top.
These trades came from the Orioles using some of their depth prospects. Guys like Avery, Delmonico and Davies weren't projected as stars, but still enabled the Birds to do some July business in order to boost their playoff chances. Rodriguez was one of the Orioles rare Latin America signings that worked out. That is an area the organization seriously needs to explore further if they wish to compete going forward. The foreign market is the future.
The 2014 offseason
Known value is always better than unknown. We saw this two years ago. The Orioles were coming off a season similar to this one in which they felt they underperformed after reaching the playoffs the season before. The club waited and waited before pouncing on Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez in February. I would say those decisions worked out pretty well.
It cost them a first and second round pick, but they went all the way to the ALCS and may have had a chance at winning it if it were for injuries and suspensions. Two years later, this is another squad that feels like it is ready to get back to the postseason. Owner Peter Angelos seems to be on board and adding two well-known free agents can do wonders for a clubhouse that is dying for signs of support from the front office.
They still have other picks
This seems to be getting forgotten so easily. Yes, these signings would mean forfeiting the 14th and 29th overall picks, but the organization still has four picks between 54th and 91st overall. It's two fewer players. Good players can come from all over the draft.
The value of draft picks is at an all-time high, and for good reason. Players in their early-20s are performing at such a high level, but the Orioles have a current roster that is in win-now mode. Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and maybe even Manny Machado, may not be in Baltimore by the time the players that are selected in this year's first round make it to the big leagues. It would be silly to ignore the present talent in favor of a future that you don't have a clear picture of at this point.
It's simple. If the front office believes that Gallardo and Fowler will make a marked improvement then they should sign them for a price that they are comfortable with, not be held back by draft picks.
The organization needs overall minor league depth not just that one blue chip prospect. That depth is built over multiple drafts, in later rounds and with the signing of amateur free agents outside of the US. It looks like the O's have taken off the blinders and are ready to bring in some more veteran talent. Don't freak out, Birdland. It's a gamble, but the odds are in your favor.