Good morning Camden Chatters,
I threw up a fanpost a couple weeks ago looking for advice for my yearly turn as "Mike Elias" in the annual SB Nation Off-Season GM Sim, and a number of you commented with ideas, advice, suggestions, and other helpful wisdom, which I really appreciated. I regret to start this year's recap off with a disclaimer - I personally am not happy with the way things ended up for my fake Orioles offseason. I'll explain more in-depth as I go through the recap, but sometimes in the sim, just like in real life negotiations, things do not go the way you want them to go. It happens. Teams make bad deals, free agents turn into busts, and the bidding gets too high for previously attainable players (egregiously so). For anyone unfamiliar with the sim and how it works, it's run every year by Max Rieper of Royals Review. Here are a couple notable ground rules:
1). The sim starts at the end of the regular season, with the team's actual roster. Nothing that happened in real life since the end of the world series (e.g. declining Jordan Lyles' option) has happened yet, which means I'd be making those choices.
2). Max acted as the agent for all of the free agents, otherwise I discussed trades with the other fake "GM's"
3). Long term extensions for players currently under contract are not allowed. Believe me, if they were my first order of business would have been long term deals for Adley and maybe Gunnar too.
One other note before I dive into the recap. There were some additional discussions this year about how crazy it's gotten, but because this isn't real life, some GM's feel free to spend as much as humanly possible, which makes it difficult for some of the rest of us to keep up in free agency bidding. A number of players received significantly higher offers than I was willing to meet, as I tried my best to keep things realistic. My main targets were an impact corner bat, a controllable starting pitcher acquired via trade, and a stabilizing FA SP somewhere in the middle of my rotation. With all this being said, let's dive into the moves and meet the new look 2023 Orioles.
1 - Option decision
This was a pretty easy call for me. The Orioles in real life declined the Lyles option, and I had no qualms about following in their footsteps. I like Lyles, and he's a good bet to be a good if not great pitcher year in and year out. But not for $11 million. Option declined.
2 - Non-Tenders
Baltimore Orioles non-tender Austin Voth, Cam Gallagher, making them free agents
This will probably be a slightly unpopular move, I don't know. Voth was really good for the Orioles this past year, albeit unspectacular. The only metrics where he ranked well in comparison to the league were his fastball and curveball spin, all of the hard hit metrics and whiff/chase rates pointed to some statistical regression for me, next season. Additionally, by the point in the sim where non-tenders were due, Voth wasn't making my rotation and I didn't see a great fit for him in the bullpen. Which meant his arbitration amount of $2.5 million I felt could be better spent elsewhere. Cam Gallagher was slated to make $1 million also, and I had my eye on a backup catcher in FA so he got the boot and I cleared his salary.
3 - Minor League Free Agents
I enjoy this part of the recap every year. We're provided a list of players who are free agents for us to bid on. A lot of times I'll see guys I like to some extent who I think can be useful depth pieces, and offer them a minor league contract. This goes on throughout the sim. Here's the recap of minors signings:
Baltimore Orioles sign Jonathan Villar, Miguel Andujar, Jordan Lyles, Zach Britton, and Scott Oberg to minor league deals.
Yes, this looks a bit like an "old Orioles reunion parade." Villar is legitimately a worst case scenario, everyone else gets injured option. Andujar is four years removed from being in conversation as 2018 rookie of the year, and was non-tendered within the sim by whatever team has him now. I don't remember who it was. Look, he batted .285 with 13 homers and 17 doubles in AAA ball last year. He's worth a minor league deal flier just to see what he's got left in the tank. Worst case scenario, Norfolk gets better and he replaces the recently departed Yusniel Diaz in their outfield.
Yes, you're reading that correctly. By the end of the sim, no one had given Jordan Lyles any offers. At all. Someone gave him an offer at the very end right after mine had been processed. So he's back on a minor league deal. He probably won't crack my opening day rotation because I want to see what i have in some of these younger guys, but it's a solid depth signing. Britton has largely been injured the past couple years, but is worth a flier again on a minors contract. And Oberg is another one who has been injured for the entirety of the past three years, but was once an effective reliever and there's no reason not to give him a shot to figure it out.
4 - Free Agency Negotiations/Signings
Where to begin here....I'll talk about who I didn't sign first, and I'll talk about why I didn't sign them. My initial free agency targets included players like Jose Abreu, Chris Bassitt, Nate Eovaldi, Andrew Benintendi, Carlos Rodon, and a number of others. I never even checked in on Verlander and Degrom or the four main shortstops because, well you'll see why. We negotiated with Abreu for a long time, and were close to signing him to a 2 year $34 million deal. His agent (Max) held out until some of the bigger fish were off the market, and Abreu ended up getting 4 years and $90 million from the Dodgers. That's....significantly more than I was willing to pay a 36 year old first baseman who only hit 15 homers last year. He also bats righty. I don't think he'd like Mount Walltimore.
Chris Bassitt and Nate Eovaldi signed for 3 years/$60 million and 3 years/$55 million, respectively. I like both of those pitchers, but I had my eye on another guy at the time and especially for Bassitt, $20M a year seemed heavy to me. Andrew Benintendi was an interesting case. He wasn't a target initially in the sim but I did end up trading away an outfielder (as you'll see in a bit here) and he would've filled a need. He's not much for power but as Billy Beane says, "He gets on base." Benintendi has a career OBP of .351. The average OBP in Major League Baseball last year was .312. Put Benintendi at the front of the lineup in front of your big hitters, and it's a big value-add for the club. Unfortunately, he got all the way up to 6 years/$72 million from the Reds by the time we pulled out of the running. He might be worth it, but...wasn't for me. Now we come to Rodon. I wanted this guy badly. But I didn't want him as badly as the New York Mets. I said before the sim, if I stretched myself I could see giving Rodon a 5 year, $150M contract. He got 8 years and $240 million from the Mets, with an opt out after three years. As much as I want the Orioles to play in free agency, I don't want them to offer stupid money to a guy who's been injured/ineffective for a not-insignificant part of his career. If you'd like to know why I didn't get in on any of the BIG free agents, here's a recap of some of the other signings:
Trea Turner - 11 years, $420 million from the Yankees
Aaron Judge - 10 years, $500 million from the Yankees
Carlos Correa - 10 years, $400 million from the Braves
Xander Bogaerts - 10 years, $416 million from the Phillies
Dansby Swanson - 8 years, $256 million from the Cardinals
Jacob DeGrom - 2 years, $110 million from the Giants (no, that is not a typo)
Justin Verlander - 4 years, $117.5 million from the Astros (running through like age 44 yikes)
Anyway, that was ugly. Here's the people I did sign:
Baltimore Orioles sign C Mike Zunino to a 1 year, $3 million contract
While this is definitely not the sexiest signing, it does fill a need. His last full season in 2021, he batted .216 with 33 homers so he has plenty of pop. More importantly, he's a strong defensive catcher who knows how to handle a pitching staff. This guy was not my first target, but I think he'll get the job done.
Baltimore Orioles sign RP Brad Hand to a 2 year, $8 million contract
This signing, while not an immediate need, is a must for any playoff contender - having a deep bullpen. Hand pitched to a 2.80 ERA with the Phillies this past year, has playoff experience, and will help to anchor this bullpen for the next two years.
Baltimore Orioles sign SP Jameson Taillon to a 4 year, $56 million contract
This was the one player from the jump that I had my eye on, knew what I was willing to pay for him per year, and got him for that amount. Taillon has had an up and down career for sure, but pitched to a 3.91 ERA in 32 starts this past season, with 14 wins. Taillon has accumulated 22 wins against 11 losses pitching to an ERA right around four, all within the AL East the past two years. Taillon has excellent spin rates and nice consistency over the past two years, and he's a guy you can hand the ball to every fifth day and expect to get a quality start.
Baltimore Orioles sign OF/DH Joc Pederson to a 3 year, $48 million contract
Despite strides from a number of players this past year, and the emergence of a couple rookies, this lineup is missing some thump. I looked at Jose Abreu, I looked into trading for guys like CJ Cron and Jesse Winker. At the end of the day though, I settled on bringing Joc to Baltimore at an average annual value of $16 million a year. While this is..probably too expensive for the player that he is, Joc just received and accepted the qualifying offer from the Giants, which is in excess of $19 million. Looking at it from that standpoint, we got him at a discount. This past season, Pederson batted .274 with 23 homers and 70 RBI's, which is a very valuable player for an Orioles team needing an OF/DH type. Unfortunately, Joc doesn't hit against lefties very well, so he's likely limited mostly to the strong side of a platoon. But at the same time, most of the pitchers the Orioles will face will be righties. And if Joc can keep up the productivity he's shown in the way that he's shown (across nearly 400 at bats in 2022), he will be valuable to this team.
5 - Trades
Ok, here we go. Don't yell at me. Or do, I don't care. This isn't real life.
Baltimore Orioles trade Austin Hays, Jordan Westburg, Connor Norby to the Miami Marlins for Trevor Rogers
I do regret making this deal. But mainly just the cost associated with the gamble here. The Orioles should absolutely do something like this, making a trade from surplus and prospects to get a top-end arm. The problem I have here is the arm I got. I do think he can be an ace. The problem is, he's been extremely inconsistent. Rogers broke out HUGE in 2021, pitching to a 2.64 ERA over 25 starts, with 157 strikeouts in 133.0 innings pitched. If he pitches like that moving forward, he's an ace. However, in 2022, Rogers dealt with multiple injuries en route to an ugly 5.47 ERA over 107 innings in 23 starts. I've read encouraging things on Rogers, I do think he has the capability to return to his 2021 Cy Young level form. But it's a gamble. And in hindsight, it's too big of a gamble for a rebuilding squad to take. If you're going to make a trade like this, you need to be getting a sure thing. I tried for Pablo Lopez, but the Marlins GM was adamant that Mullins needed to move to get Pablo. I checked in on Jose Urquidy, Brandon Woodruff, and other controllable starting pitchers. Rogers was the one we ended up with. Again, if the gamble pays off the Orioles more than win this trade: Rogers is an potential ace with four years of control left. But if he's injured again or ineffective, this is a huge blunder.
Baltimore Orioles trade Kevin Smith to the Seattle Mariners for Victor Labrada and Robert Perez Jr.
If you, like me, don't think Kevin Smith is going to be a meaningful contributor to the future of the Orioles, this pretty much can't be a loss of a trade. Smith is 25 and is rapidly approaching the AAAA player territory. Labrada is 22 and batted .251 with 12 homers and 30 steals for the Mariners High A affiliate this past year. Perez, also 22, batted .288 with 27 homers and 114 RBI between A and High A ball this past year. Either of those fliers hits, this trade is a big win.
Thanks for reading this far. We made some deals, some good some bad, and signed some free agents, some good signings and some potential missteps. Here's the 2023 OPENING DAY roster with a big asterisk
C - Adley Rutschman
1B - Ryan Mountcastle
2B - Ramon Urias
3B - Gunnar Henderson
SS - Jorge Mateo
LF - Kyle Stowers
CF - Cedric Mullins
RF - Anthony Santander
DH - Joc Pederson
Bench - Terrin Vavra
Bench - Ryan McKenna
Bench - Miguel Andujar
Bench - Mike Zunino
SP - Trevor Rogers
SP - Jameson Taillon
SP - Dean Kremer
SP - Kyle Bradish
SP - DL Hall
RP - Felix Bautista
RP - Keegan Akin
RP - Bryan Baker
RP - Joey Krehbiel
RP - Cionel Perez
RP - Dillon Tate
RP - Nick Vespi
RP - Brad Hand
I think the Orioles need to figure out if Hall is a starter so he needs to join the rotation. Take off the training wheels. The rotation is a bit uninspiring right now. But John Means is coming in June. And while I don't think Grayson Rodriguez breaks camp with the team, I think he arrives in May, much like Adley did this past year.
And that's it. We kept the payroll at right about $70 million, even with the Taillon/Pederson signings, and therefore there is still room for a marquee free agent whenever another comes along. Thanks as always for reading. Go Birds!