Jayson Stark is a Senior Baseball Writer for ESPN.com. In addition to his writing, Stark is utilized on TV as a contributor to “Sports Center”, and “Baseball Tonight”, and heard regularly on ESPN Radio.
You can find Stark’s blog at: http://espn.go.com/mlb/blog/_/name/stark_jayson
You can also find Stark on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/jaysonst
Orioles Hangout thanks Mr. Stark for answering a few questions.
Orioles Hangout: “The O’s offense and bullpen has underachieved. Baltimore has played the entire year without Matusz, and played 27 games without Hardy. Yet, heading into Monday Night, the Baltimore Orioles are one game under. 500, with nearly 25% of the season passed. With a return of expected production from several members of the lineup, plus the return of Matusz; can the O’s exceed the .500 level expectations they entered the year with?”
Jayson Stark: “I see them as a .500-ish kind of team if all goes well. Whether that’s slightly over or slightly under will depend on health, the kind of trades they make in July and the hazards of surviving all those games against the AL East. They’re also, obviously, going to need to get more offense out of Derrek Lee, Brian Roberts, Mark Reynolds and Vlad. And they’re going to need more dependability from their bullpen. But I always expect Buck Showalter to find a way, and that hasn’t changed.”
Orioles Hangout: “Andy MacPhail is of course the Orioles President of Baseball Operations. His contract expires after the end of the 2011 season. In March, the Orioles Majority Owner Peter Angelos stated MacPhail, ‘Was not going anywhere.’ Most O’s fans believe MacPhail’s contract will be extended unless the team shows zero progression this year. Do you think the O’s should extend his contract? If he were not to be retained, or if he left for a position in the Commissioner’s Office – as has been occasionally rumored – give me a name of an Executive you think could make sense for the Orioles. Previously we have heard names like John Coppolella, Allard Baird, Charley Kerfeld, Bob Miller, Paul DePodesta.”
Jayson Stark: “I think this team is going in the right direction, and there’s as much trust between Andy MacPhail and Peter Angelos, from what I can tell, as we’ve seen with any GM since this guy owned the team. So I don’t see a change as being real likely, unless there’s another late-season free fall. I could name you a dozen people in baseball who are eminently qualified to do that job, but I’m not a big believer in dropping names to replace a guy who doesn’t deserve to get fired.”
Orioles Hangout: “Fast forwarding to the non-waiver deadline, if the O’s are improved but outside of contention; do you foresee them actively shopping players outside of their younger core (Guthrie, Scott, Lee, Guerrero, Uehara, Gonzalez, Gregg) to augment the system? If Scott is able to continue to play through the partial labrum tear, do you think that would still impact his ability to be traded for any value?”
Jayson Stark: “If the Orioles are out of contention, they could potentially be the most aggressive sellers in baseball, because they have so many players on the last year of a contract. I haven’t gotten the sense they were motivated to trade Guthrie, but anyone else on that list is a candidate. And I suppose Guthrie could be, pending future developments. If Luke Scott hits, he’s marketable. But he’s not helping them on that front with all his political pronouncements. The less politically correct any player is, the tougher he is to deal. That’s just the reality of the times we live in.”
Orioles Hangout: “Tampa has proven over the past three seasons that a well run franchise can reach the post-season, even with far less resources than the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. That said, if a second wild card team is added to each league, are the three largest beneficiaries Tampa, Toronto, and Baltimore?”
Jayson Stark: “Absolutely. I wrote about this earlier in the year. Under the current system, the Red Sox or Yankees have won the wild card in 12 of the last 15 seasons. And the only way to outwin both of them was to win at least 95 games a year. But with two wild cards, the magic number drops to 89, which is a big difference from 95. I took a look back at the last 15 seasons, and the second wild card would have averaged 89 wins. And teams that won 89 games or more would have missed the playoffs only four times in 15 years. So it dramatically impacts how the other AL East clubs could build their team.”
Orioles Hangout: “After back-to-back years of disappointing defense (despite the Gold Glove), Adam Jones is playing an improved CF. As Showalter recently pointed out, Jones’ hustle has also been apparent. While his plate-discipline remains suspect, heading into Monday Jones has a wOBA of .346. (career .327). Jones turns 26 in August, and is arbitration eligible the next two years. Should the O’s be approaching Jones now with an extension offer? If so, what type of contract would you suggest is fair to both sides?”
Jayson Stark: “I like Adam Jones a lot, but I think he’s still figuring it out on a lot of levels. So until it becomes more clear what type of player he is, I don’t see extending him as a wise idea, unless the deal is exceptionally club-friendly.”
Orioles Hangout: “Hardy was limited to 115 games two years ago, 101 games last year, and has missed 27 games here in ‘11. (He came off the DL last Tuesday) Do you offer him an extension now (with his value at a perceived low), or do you wait for him to prove he can stay in the lineup on a consistent basis?”
Jayson Stark: “Again, they have to wait. You’ve seen the impact he can make since he got back in the lineup. But you spelled out his health issues very well. And there could be quite a few decent shortstop options on the market next winter. So I’d need to see a full summer of health and production before I’d think about making him an offer. And by then, he’d be so close to free agency, I would think he’d want to at least see what his market value is.”
Orioles Hangout: “We are seeing some progression from Wieters. His defense behind the plate (both calling games, and his throwing) has been superior. While he has cooled off in May (.648 OPS) he had a .826 OPS in April, and was hitting the ball with authority with greater regularity than we had seen previously. He looks more comfortable against LHP. There are some in Baltimore who believe that Scott Boras would never allow Wieters to sign an extension buying out his first year or two of Free Agency. Do you agree with that? Or do you think because Wieters is a Catcher, and years away from FA, that there would be a lot of pressure to take guaranteed dollars now? Does Mauer’s physical troubles after his signed extension, change the equation from either side?”
Jayson Stark: “Remember, Carlos Gonzalez, another Boras client, was at a similar stage in his career and just signed a deal with the Rockies that bought out a couple of years of free agency. So that’s a precedent that suggests that if the Orioles jumped on this now, Boras might be amenable. But if they wait, there’s no chance. I can’t think of a single arbitration-eligible player that Scott has allowed to sign a long-term deal that bought out his free-agent years. And with a player like Weiters, who’s the “right” age and plays the “right” position, the chances would be none and none.”
Orioles Hangout: “Markakis and Reynolds both showed signs of life over the weekend in Tampa, but both still have an OPS under .660. Do they finish ‘11 approximating their career averages (.822 for Markakis, .806 for Reynolds)?”
Jayson Stark: “With Markakis, I’ll take the over. The track record is too good. With Reynolds, just too much swinging and missing for me to feel comfortable projecting a guy who just changed leagues will reach that .806 OPS.”
Orioles Hangout: “The O’s spent $8.8M on the 2009 Draft, and a similar amount in 2010. Heading into 2011, the O’s were ranked in the lower 1/3 in the Prospect Rankings by both your colleague Keith Law, and Baseball America. With the goal of infusing cheap talent controlled long-term by the organization, do you think the O’s should drastically increase their Draft spend for 2011, especially considering there could be a hard-slotting system starting in ‘12?”
Jayson Stark: “This is the time to do it if they’re ever going to do it. I don’t think we’ll wind up with hard slotting, but I do think there will be some sort of control on amateur spending. So there are rumblings that teams like the Orioles and Yankees are gearing up to spend big in this draft. If the Orioles have any inclination to do that, this has to be the year.”
Orioles Hangout: “In the FanGraphs organizational rankings, the O’s were ranked 15th overall, and 5th overall in Future Talent. The Future Talent ranking was based mostly on the players at the Major League level whom have yet to reach their prime. (Jones, Wieters, Matusz, Arrieta, Britton, Tillman, Bergesen etc.) Do you agree with that ranking?”
Jayson Stark: “Since Keith Law arrived at ESPN, that’s been his area. He has the Orioles ranked No. 24. I’m going to defer to the expert on that topic.”
Orioles Hangout: “During 2005-10 period the O’s have had 17 picks during the first 3 rounds of the Draft. In that same period the Yankees have had 18, Tampa 21, Toronto 27, and Boston has had 30. Is this evidence of a failure of the O’s Front Office to gain (or protect) compensatory draft-picks, or is this evidence of a flawed compensatory system?”
Jayson Stark: “Well, the system certainly has its flaws. But those numbers just reflect organizational philosophy. If you’re always trying to win now or (in this case) at least end a long streak of finishing under .500 and you keep signing free agents to get you there, you wind up with fewer picks. If you’re a team like Toronto or Boston, that believes in stockpiling picks as a way to build your organization, you’re letting free agents walk or at least not trading them all away at the deadline so you can accumulate more picks. But to hit on that many picks, you have to allocate massive funds to player development, so when in doubt you can go over slot. That hasn’t been the Orioles’ way of doing business, with rare exceptions. Your figures, compared with the rest of the AL East, are very interesting. But there’s no one set way to win and no one set way to build an organization, so I wouldn’t make too much of it.”
Orioles Hangout: “For the foreseeable future, the O’s rotation is going to be built around Matusz, Britton, and Arrieta. Your thoughts on that group? When Matusz returns, who should leave the rotation - Bergesen or Tillman? The White Sox are temporarily using a 6 man rotation, should the O’s consider that to limit the overall innings on some of their younger starters? ”
Jayson Stark: “My read is that Bergesen probably has the lowest ceiling, but he and Tillman both project as back-of-the-rotation starters down the road. So it all comes down to who’s pitching best when Matusz comes back. I’m not a fan of six-man rotations unless you need to do it to protect the health of one or two of your starters. I don’t see the point in this case.”
Orioles Hangout: “Prince Fielder turned 27 on May 9th and has a .919 OPS for his career. The O’s offered Teixeira 7 years $145M two winters ago. Due to Fielder’s weight concerns, I can not see the O’s being willing to offer him the 7 years they offered Teixeira. If Baltimore offers the same annual $ per over 5 or 6 years, will that be in the ballpark of the contract you anticipate Fielder signing? Do you think that would be a proper use of resources for Baltimore?”
Jayson Stark: “Prince will take the most money. Period. And right now what I’m hearing is, Boras wants eight years at $25 million a year, for a $200-million package. I can’t see him getting eight. But I can see somebody giving him the Teixeira deal. I’d never do that if I were an NL team. But as an AL team, with the option to move him to DH, I’d think long and hard about it if I were the Orioles. He’s as good a fit in that park, with that team, as anywhere.”
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Lifelong. Down by the river.
Lifelong. Down by the river.