• Jul
    07

    Orioles Q&A with National Analysts

    With the All-Star Game now days away, Orioles Hangout reached out to the below Analysts for their perspective on the O’s after Sunday’s game in Atlanta. Subsequently to these questions being asked, the Orioles were swept by the Rangers, dropping Baltimore to 12 games under .500 at 36-48 as they limp into Boston.

    Those who contributed are:

    Bob Harkins, NBC Sports / Hardball Talk
    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/
    http://twitter.com/#!/Bharks

    Jonathan Mitchell, MLB Dirt / DRaysBay
    http://mlbdirt.com/
    http://www.draysbay.com/
    http://twitter.com/#!/FigureFilbert

    Phil Rogers, The Chicago Tribune
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/columnists/cs-phil-rogers,0,1373147.columnist
    http://twitter.com/#!/ChiTribRogers

    JD Sussman, Bullpen Banter / Beyond the Box Score
    http://bullpenbanter.com/
    http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/
    http://twitter.com/#!/JDSussman

    Orioles Hangout thanks each of these writers for taking the time to give their thoughts.

    Orioles Hangout: “In an interview with Fox Sport’s Ken Rosenthal (http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/baltimore-orioles-farm-system-lacking-022911), Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail was asked about the minimal foreign talent in the system and responded, “Philosophically, I’m not as committed to making the same commitments that we do in the (amateur) draft if it’s just going to be a workout. If you can’t see the guy play in a game, I think that is fraught with peril.” 

    Speaking on this topic further with Orioles season ticket holders (http://www.masnsports.com/steve_melewski/2011/06/macphail-addresses-international-spending-with-season-ticket-holders.html) MacPhail elaborated on his position stating, "A lot of the signing bonuses that you are reading about for no doubt talented players that are signing with these other clubs for millions out of the Dominican, they are doing that without the benefit of playing games. That is a not a risk I am willing to take." he said.

    July 2nd was the first day of the International signing period, and the Pirates, Royals, and Rangers each inked 7-figure international prospects. In particular, Texas signed two players for a total of $8.5M.

    Is there any justification for the organization to have a lack of effort in International Scouting through design?”

    Harkins: “Every organization has a right to decide how to spend its resources, but refusing to invest in overseas talent is, in my view, shortsighted. Nearly half of all minor leaguers come from outside the United States. There is a reason for this: (1) there is a lot of talent out there, particularly in Latin America, and (2) that talent is cheap. Yes, it’s true that the top overseas prospects are receiving bonuses comparable to the top players in the draft, but most teams are stocking their systems with foreign players who are pretty cheap. For example, Michael Pineda, the 22-year-old Mariners pitcher who is a strong candidate for AL Rookie of the Year, signed for $35,000 in 2005.”

    Mitchell: “I believe there has to be some effort in international signings. There is proof that is works. It is risky because you can get an Angel Villalona but you can also get a Miguel Cabrera. The Rays have made it work without spending big money on international signings but they are the rare exception and spend plenty on the amateur draft to make up for it.”

    Rogers: “There are good risks and bad risks, and in the last decade the most expensive signings in Latin America have largely been bad risks. But that doesn’t mean a team should sit it out. And if it is sitting it out, then it needs to be getting more talent through other means (June draft/free agency) than the teams it is competing against. The smart approach in international signings is to round up 10 $500,000 guys rather than the $5 million guy that Texas just committed itself to, at least that’s the way it seems to me.”   

    Sussman: “Sure there is. As Ben Badler noted via Twitter, teams are out of control this year (his very informed opinion, not mine). First, IFAs are extremely risky as is. If the Os believe the costs are too high that the risk outweighs the benefit that is a reasonable argument.”

    Orioles Hangout: “The Amateur Draft just held will be the last Draft conducted under the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement. Commissioner Selig has stated that in addition to the proposed second Wild Card, he wants Hard Slotting and an International Draft. Do you think Hard Slotting, and an International Draft will happen? Do you think those changes would benefit Baltimore?”

    Harkins: “The suggested slot currently in place is kind of a joke, as there is nothing in place to stop a team from ignoring it. The Red Sox, for example, have made it a habit of going over slot to convince players considering college baseball – or in some cases, other sports – to enter their system instead. So either get rid of the slots altogether, or put in a hard slot and hold everyone to it. An international draft is a far more complex issue. Currently only players from the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico are eligible for the draft, while players in Latin American countries attempt to be scouted by entering academies run by MLB teams. The teams expect to sign players out of the academies that they run, and the players rely on the academies as there are no high school or college baseball programs to speak of. If there was an international draft, there would be less incentive for MLB teams to invest in developing a player another team can draft. As far as how they affect the Orioles, I imagine a hard slot would level the playing field a bit, and an international draft would help them as well, as long as they invested in foreign scouting.”

    Mitchell: “I do not think either one will happen and I think both would actually hurt the entire draft process. The players being drafted are not part of the union and could take MLB to court for not allowing them the right to negotiate a fair contract. What I would like change is the compensatory draft picks and add draft pick trading. I think those two things would help a team like Baltimore much more than hard slotting and adding an international draft.”

    Rogers: “I believe we’re in for a difficult negotiation if MLB insists on a hard slotting system, because I think the union is more dug in against it than you’d think. I do think hard slotting would help second-division teams across the board, taking away the advantage currently held by teams willing/able to spend more more. I’d say the 2011 spending on international free agents makes an international draft more likely to be approved by MLB but questions remain as to its workability.”  

    Sussman: “I've wrote extensively about these two topics…:

    http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2011/7/5/2259050/appreciating-the-freedoms-of-july-2nd
    http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2011/4/19/2114539/american-that-sucks

    .. so I'll address them briefly and separately. An international draft will not happen. First, because the MLB will be unable to get countries to comply with its rules (lets not forget, it killed the talent pool in Puerto Rico). Secondly, because it would be a logistics nightmare. Sadly, hard slotting is very likely. The O’s (after staying out of the IFA market) have been big spenders in the draft since '08.  http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/draft/2010/08/bonus-expenditures-2008-10/ . Hard-slotting would absolutely hurt the team.”

    Orioles Hangout: “Amateur Scouting Director Joe Jordan has previously confirmed that the O’s spent $8.8M on the Draft in ‘09, and a similar amount in ‘10. As this was potentially the last Draft without Hard Slotting, and the O’s lacked the Compensatory picks of their Divisional Rivals - I had hoped to see the O’s go ‘Over-Slot’ with every selection, which did not occur. If any of the additions to the 2011 Major League roster (particularly Guerrero, and Gregg) prevented additional spending on the Draft, was this a proper use of resources by the organization?”

    Harkins: “I did not think it was wise of the Orioles to spend money on free agents in the offseason, particularly giving Vladimir Guerrero $8 million when he had no other suitors. They have some nice young talent on their roster, but signing Guerrero and Gregg was not going to make them a playoff contender this season. I understand that the idea is to sign an established guy like Guerrero to help ticket sales, but winning does that more than anything. They should continue to develop young talent and invest in scouting, and the draft etc.”

    Mitchell: “If those moves did, in fact, prevent additional spending on the draft then it absolutely hurt the Orioles. They were in no real place to be adding money with middle-of-the-road veteran free agents with the way the Yankees and Red Sox added players and with the way the Rays have been set up through, get this, the draft. The Orioles have a very good farm system that has already yielded talent and will continue to do so. 2012 was more a year for them to spend in free agency and not this past offseason. It should have been spent on the draft especially since it was a deep draft class.”

    Rogers: “Probably not but it’s what comes with having a manager like Buck Showalter. He’s not going to want to play a team full of kids. Period.”

    Sussman: “Probably not. But, I'd assume at the time the guys were signed the team thought that those players could be traded. Arguably any prospect the team acquires has a better shot at success then draft pick. Clearly, the moves just didn't work out though.”

    Orioles Hangout: “The O’s signed Guerrero, hoping he was still closer to the player that was productive last September, vs. the player that otherwise struggled during the 2nd half of 2010.  Entering July, Guerrero has had 289 ab’s and has a Slugging % of .377. Scott is playing LF with a labrum injury. Lee is showing some signs of life, and is a strong defensive 1st baseman. Reimold and Pie are having difficulties getting into the lineup. Should the O’s release Guerrero, move Scott to DH, and commit to a LF platoon of Reimold and Pie?” EDIT: Scott has since been moved to the DL.

    Harkins: “It looks like Reimold and Pie are going to be playing more regularly with the injury to Scott, but this should have been happening anyway. Again, the Orioles’ focus should be all about developing young talent, and they need to see if these guys are going to be long-term staples in their lineup, or if they should be looking for upgrades. Scott also falls into that category, assuming the Orioles think he will be with the team long-term. He will be a free agent after this season, however, so if the Orioles are planning to just let Scott walk, then where he plays the rest of this season isn’t as big of an issue.”

    Mitchell: “I am in favor of a LF platoon with Pie and Reimold. Pie’s defense is well above-average and Reimold can seriously hit left-handers. They need to trade Guerrero for whatever they can get at this point. I would keep Scott around since he is a 2nd half monster (career .276/.363/.511 mark in the 2nd half compared to .254/.337/.480 in the 1st half) and either keep him or pray the 2nd half boosts his value and trade him in the offseason since he has one year of arb left. Now, if someone wants Scott and offers a fair package then they have to accept. If I’m running the O’s I trade Vlad, Gregg, Mike Gonzalez, and Lee if I get a mid-range prospect in return and I listen on Hardy, Scott, Guthrie, Uehara, and even Reynolds. Ideally you’d like to keep the last group of guys around but no one is untouchable in that group if they are offered a fair package.”

    Rogers: “When you put it like that, why not? It was pretty telling that Texas was willing to let Vlad walk after he had such a significant impact for the AL champs a year ago. The only qualifier to dumping Guerrero now is why not see what happens in July? Maybe he gets hot and becomes tradable, possibly back to the Angels. Stranger things have happened.” 

    Sussman: “Absolutely.”

    Orioles Hangout: “Brian Roberts turns 34 in October and missed 100 games last year with his back. He played on a regular basis over the last two months of '10 before giving himself the initial concussion. He overcame that first concussion to play everyday during the first 39 games of this year. So, I do think there is a chance that Roberts can get back to the lineup and again play regularly. However, his offensive numbers were down during those last 2 months of '10, and those 39 games here in '11. If asking him to approximate his '07-'09 production is too much to ask, is it realistic to think he should match his numbers from '06, and last-year?

    Even if the O’s do believe Roberts can return to the everyday lineup, they will need to obtain another UTI MI player capable of playing regularly if needed. With 2 years and $20M left on Roberts’ contract, I don’t see the O’s pursuing another expensive veteran option. Outside of Zach Cozart with the Reds, are there any other similar prospects you can identify as having some upside, and potentially obtainable?”

    Harkins: “I think it’s reasonable to ask for a season of .280/.340/.390 out of a healthy Roberts, the problem is that he can’t seem to stay healthy and he turns 34 in October. So if I were the Orioles, I wouldn’t depend on too much out of Roberts over the next two seasons.”

    Mitchell: “The O’s do need to address the Brian Roberts issue and have a back up plan. Concussions are serious and there is not guarantee he will come back to even his 2006/2010 form. If he does then you gladly take it. As far as obtaining a utility infielder they may be best served trying to get a Quad-A guy that is fairly young and pray he can perform at a decent level. Someone like Matt Antonelli comes to mind. I don’t see Cozart as an option unless they deal pitching. Not happening unless the Reds love Berken or Bergesen (joke) and I think Guthrie is worth more. Their best bet may be signing a free agent like Jamey Carroll or Jerry Hairston Jr. who can play all over the diamond even if Roberts stays healthy.”

    Rogers: “Funny you mention that. I’m infatuated with Houston’s Matt Downs. I think he could be a really good bench guy on a contender and maybe break-through with regular playing time. The Cubs’ Jeff Baker is another guy to like, although his service time might put him beyond what you’re focusing on. I might take a run at the Cubs for Marwin Gonzalez. Switch hitter who can play both middle infield spots, and had a huge winter a year ago.”

    Sussman: “I'm not sure. Injuries, especially head injuries shouldn't be taken lightly. I have no idea what to expect, but it could take a while for Roberts to adjust to the speed of the game.I would never suggest trading for a prospect hoping that he could fill a hole. The bust rate is too high. With that said, there are a few MI types that could be interesting like Jean Segura, Andrelton Simmons, Tyler Pastornicky, and Luis Sardinas (to name a few).”

    Orioles Hangout: “JJ Hardy played in 115 games in ‘09, 101 games in ‘10, and missed 25 games here in ‘11 earlier this year. The Orioles have stated they would like to extend Hardy, who is a Free Agent after this season. If the O’s can not resign him prior to the Non-Waiver Deadline, should he be traded? Is 3 years at $8-$9M per realistic for both sides?”

    Harkins: “At 28 years old and with flashes of talent in his past, including an All-Star appearance in 2007, Hardy is a chip the Orioles should look to keep. If they can get him for the cost you suggest, I think they should make the deal. But I wouldn’t do much more than that, and I would definitely look to deal him if he asks for more than four years. A long-term deal for a guy who seems to be injury-prone would not be wise for a team that should be in building mode.”

    Mitchell: “Given the projected free agent shortstop list I think Hardy could easily get that contract. The O’s have Machado who may be ready to start Opening Day 2013 so I would tread with caution but Hardy on a 3 year deal at $9 is a relatively good deal and one that could be traded if necessary. If I’m the O’s I try and lock him up to something cheaper right now and if there is no agreement then I shop him to the 20 teams that need a SS right now and possibly attempt to re-sign him in the offseason. It’s risky but there are options for one year stop gaps next year (Rafael Furcal) if they need to get one.”

    Rogers: “Hardy’s signability probably depends on his happiness. Those numbers are probably less than what he envisions. If he can’t be re-signed, he has to be traded. Now’s the time to find out which way you’re going to go.  What if Boston is still having shortstop issues on July 31?”

    Sussman: “I really like JJ Hardy. Always have. That is a realistic offer, but I think he could do a little bit better on the open market given how poor the shortstops around the league are. This is going to sound stupid but, a trade will really depend on the return. I'd bet the Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds would love to see it happen. I could foresee one of those three acquring Jose Reyes and the other countering with Hardy. With that said, the Brewers don't have anything worth trading for. Just a silly hypothetical really.”

    Orioles Hangout: “Mark Reynolds has a wOBA of .369 (career .354), with 50 walks to go with his 33 xbh’s.  Defensively, he has 19 errors, and a current UZR of -15.5.  I see a guy with decent range towards SS, that has trouble coming in on balls. He has shown a tendency of making his share of great plays, and struggling with the routine. As his UZR went from -10.3 in ‘08 to 2.2 in ‘10, would you expect his defense to normalize as the year progresses?”

    Harkins: “Defensive metrics have improved over the years, but you still have to be careful with small sample sizes. The numbers can vary wildly from year to year, even for good players. That being said, Reynolds has never really graded out well defensively at any position. He probably belongs in a corner outfield spot, or at DH. Unfortunately the Orioles have those spots filled, and lack a better alternative at third base.”

    Mitchell: “The funny thing is I totally see the same thing with Reynolds. The problem, though, is that I do not see him having the ability to overcome the problem he has with going in on balls and also retreating to foul territory behind third base. I cannot say with positive assurance that I see the zone rating improving much but to see it at -10.3 so far this season does seem a bit out of whack. I see a -5 as a more realistic 2nd half number and not the -10.3.”

    Rogers: “I’ve always liked Reynolds as a player, and felt Arizona did him a disservice by letting him just swing for power with no accountability for strikeouts. I think his defensive totals will improve over the second half. While you can’t tell it on a steady diet of AL East opponents, third base is a position where many teams improvise because of positional scarcity. I’d be patient and hope Reynolds works to become a better fielder. He can be a winning player.”

    Sussman: “I don't put too much stock into UZR. Go with your instinct.”

    Orioles Hangout: “Adam Jones is arbitration eligible in 2012, and 2013 before becoming a Free Agent for the 2014 season. The O’s CF turns 26 in August, and has a career .329 wOBA. Despite a Gold Glove, and a reputation for his defense, his play in CF the past two years was mediocre at best. So far in 2011, the defense seems improved (Partly due to improved positioning, though it is not reflected in the Zone Ratings). His positive effort has also been noticeable. Even if his plate-discipline never improves, he can still help a roster. If the O’s pursued a long-term extension with Jones in the off-season, and buy out the first year or two of Free Agency – what would you see as a fair contract for both sides?”

    Harkins: “I really like Jones on both sides of the ball. He can cover a lot of ground in the outfield and should get better as he learns more about positioning and judging balls. Remember that he came up in the Mariners system as a shortstop. Speaking of the Mariners, they gave Franklin Gutierrez a 4-year, $20.25 million deal in 2010, with a club option for 2014. Jones is a slightly better hitter than Gutierrez, but not as good in center field, so I think something comparable to that would make sense.”

    Mitchell: “Something in line with what Franklin Guttierez got from Seattle but prorated to fit the proper terms since Jones already has one year of arb under his belt. Guttierez was bought out of all three arb years and one year of free agency. If Adam Jones gets a 4 year deal it would buy out 2 arb years and 2 free agent years and should be in the $27-$30 range and he could hit free agency at the age of 30 after that deal. I would consider that a fair deal for both sides.”

    Rogers: “Because of the silly contracts thrown around for players like Ryan Braun and Carlos Gonzalez, that would probably be a very tough deal to put together. There’s precedent there for him to make a killing, so unless he is ultra interested in a long-term deal I’d let this run its course until he’s a year away from free agency, then I’d make my best offer. Not now.”  

    Sussman: “I'd have a hard time doing that. He isn't an such an irreplaceable player that the team needs a discount in his free agent years. Take him on the cheap until he is a free agent and reevaluate then. He isn't a guy I'd invest in.”

    Orioles Hangout: “Matt Wieters has had an exceptional year behind the plate. Named to the All-Star game, he calls a good game, he blocks the plate well, and he has thrown out 20 runners with a strong arm and quick release. He has improved against LHP (.902 OPS), and is currently 4th among all Catchers in Wins Above Replacement. On the negative side, after 9 xbh’s in April, he has had just 11 in the 179 ab’s since. Should O’s fans be happy with his development, or does the fact that he has yet to become a transformative offensive force make him a disappointment?”

    Harkins: “You’ve got a 25-year-old catcher who is an All-Star in just his second full season in the majors, is great on defense and is showing improvement at the plate, and he’s making $452,250 this year. I think Orioles fans should be absolutely happy with what they are getting from Wieters, and should also be excited about his future.”

    Mitchell: “I think they have to be happy with his performance. He is only 25 and has plenty of room to grow as a hitter. The worry, for me at least, was his ability to play behind the plate on a regular base. I thought he may be too big for the position but he is proving to debunk that theory a bit. I still believe the bat will come around and if you look around at the rest of the league there are a lot of teams that would love a league-average defensive catcher with Wieters’ offensive stats. Ask the Rays.”

    Rogers: “I’ve gotta say the lack of run production is disappointing. He came into pro ball with Buster Posey-sized expectations based on his play at Georgia Tech. But he’s clearly worked hard to become a strong catcher for a young pitching staff, and that speaks highly of him as a player. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a big month or two at the plate in 2011 before taking a significant step forward in 2012.”  

    Sussman: “Both? Wieters is a stud. But, he hasn't lived up to the absurd hype that was placed upon him. Os fans should be happy with what they have, but also take away an important lesson about prospects' success rates.”

    Orioles Hangout: “After 5 hits Sunday, Nick Markakis has raised his OPS from .602 on June 7th to .734 today. Does he finish ’11, with an OPS at the .803 level he averaged the past 2 years?”

    Harkins: “Another excellent young player in the Orioles lineup, Markakis should continue to improve after a slow start. My money is on him finishing the season with an OPS over .800.”

    Mitchell: “Not unless he starts walking more and hitting more doubles. After 4 straight years of 43+ doubles he is on pace for 22 this year and with a career walk rate of close to 10% coming in to the season he has a walk rate below 6%. He needs to stop hitting singles if he hopes to jump up to a .800 OPS by the end of the season. He needs roughly an .890 OPS the rest of the way to reach the .803 mark. It’s possible but if I had to place money on it I would go with no.”

    Rogers: “Yes, even in this Year of the Pitcher II. Hitters hit, and Markakis is a hitter. He should be fine.”

    Sussman: “Probably not. But, that doesn't mean he can't be a good hitter the rest of the way. If I was to bet, I'd say he falls shy.”

    Orioles Hangout: “Going into July 4th, the O’s offense is currently ranked 11th overall in on-base % (6th in the American League), and slugging % (6th in the American League). If Hardy is extended, what would you think about the O’s existing offensive core?”

    Harkins: “I think the Orioles core of hitters is very promising. With Wieters, Markakis, Jones, Reimold, Pie, and potentially Hardy, there is a lot of talent there to be excited about. This is why I was so puzzled when they brought in Guerrero in the offseason. The Orioles need to cultivate these young guys and continue to draft and develop more of them.”

    Mitchell: “I would think the same thing I currently do: that it is league-average. Their wRC+ is right around league-average (100) at 99 and they have to get some real production from 1B/DH/LF. I didn’t think Lee and Vlad would be this bad but I did not think Hardy and Reynolds would be this good either. It’s a hit-or-miss offense that has holes and needs to have a good winter if they want to compete next year. Hardy would be a good start but they need some real thunder.”

    Rogers: “I’d say they need a bell cow – a first baseman, even a DH, who mashes. Those don’t grow on trees, of course. While Wieters is an All-Star, he was named to the team because the Orioles were one of only four AL teams that didn’t have an All-Star elected by fans or players. That tells you this is no time to get infatuated with what you already have, because it’s not enough.”  

    Sussman: “It’s interesting. The Os have some good pieces but the team has to be realistic about their goals. Is the goal to play .500 ball or be a championship caliber team? Right now, it looks like the former. Certainly not a bad start though. One of my favorite teams to watch.”

    Orioles Hangout: “Jake Arrieta has made 17 starts, and 11 times has gone at-least 6 ip allowing 3 er or less. His K/9 ratio is up, his line-drive % is down. His walk rate has not improved, and he has trouble being pitch efficient. Your thoughts on him?”

    Harkins: “The talent is there, but the walk ratio has got to improve, as 4.3 BB/9 is not going to cut it. His 3.8 BB/9 ratio in the minors isn’t much better, so I think that is the biggest area of concern. Arrieta is only 25, however, and still has much to learn. Rangers veteran Colby Lewis had similar problems during the early parts of his career. He had to go to Japan to figure it out, and then played a prominent role on a World Series team last season, so it can be done.”

    Mitchell: “I loved Arrieta in the minors and always thought he’d be a #3 type starter even though better talent evaluators said he looked more like a #4-5. He kind of irks me a bit, and I bet he does the same with O’s fans. You just never know which Arrieta will show up: the one who K’d 9 Yankees in 6 innings or the one who walked 4 Mariners in 2.1 innings. He has good stuff with a fastball that sits 92-93 and slider that sits 85-86. That can be electric! But he lacks command of the pitches and it hurts his chances of going in deep into ball games. If his curve or change do not get better soon he may be bullpen bound but I think he could be lights out in the pen although I would still hold on to him as a starter for at least the next year and a half. I think he’s better than this.”

    Rogers: “He’s a typical young power pitcher who is struggling to survive 30-plus starts against major league lineups. He’s got a big upside but he’s not going to get there on ability alone. He needs to become a better pitcher.”

    Sussman: “There is always has been a lot of potential with Arrieta. Though, like you mentioned, the walks are out of control. He won’t come close to realizing his potential until that happens. I could see him settling in as a nice number three who spins a gem every once in a while.”

    Orioles Hangout: “The best Brian Matusz has ever looked in a Baltimore Orioles uniform was his last 10 starts of 2010. (August through October). During those 10 starts, Matusz was 7-1, with a 1.88 era. In those 72 innings of work, Matusz allowed 48 hits, 5 homers, 16 walks, with 52 k's. In that time frame his average 4 seam fastball was 89.4, and his average 2 seam fastball was 89.2. Returning from the DL, Matusz made 6 starts in June before being sent back to the Minors after his outing last night. During those starts, his average 4 seam fastball was 87.3, and his average 2 seam fastball was 87. To me, the issues with Matusz right now are location, pitch selection, endurance, and a lack of velocity differential between his fastball and change-up. Do you see the velocity drop as indication he is not physically sound? If there is no physical issue, do you expect a return to prior expected performance?”

    Harkins: “It’s possible that Matusz is not physically sound, but I don’t have any specific knowledge about that. You’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head, though, as far as what makes a successful pitcher. Any coach will tell you that it’s all about keeping hitters off balance, and you do that by changing location and changing speed. If everything is the same speed and located poorly, major league hitters will crush it. That’s why it’s possible for guys like Jamie Moyer to be successful with an 82-mph fastball, and guys like Aroldis Chapman get knocked around. Matusz has proven he can be successful, and there is no reason to think he can’t do it again. But the Orioles should be careful and not push him if he is struggling with health issues.”

    Mitchell: “I believe he is hurt. The command and velocity would both be better after the amount of starts he has had since returning from the DL. If he were healthy I believe at least his command would be ok. His AAA start last night wasn’t the best either. He allowed 7 hits and 2 walks including 2 homeruns in 5.1 innings. If he happens to not be injured then I would expect his performance to return but it hasn’t so I believe he is hurt.”

    Rogers: “I like Matusz a lot, and the velocity drop you reference explains his inflated ERA in 2011. But I’ve watched Mark Buehrle for 12 seasons now. He demonstrates that the upper end of velocity is only a small part of the equation. The question when youre velocity drops below 90 is can you also take velocity off the changeup? Buehrle has had an uncanny ability to do that, and it makes the ongoing thoughts about his aging process relatively moot. The onus is on the pitcher to adjust. Some guys like Buehrle can; some guys can’t. Matusz is on the clock to make an adjustment, it seems to me.”

    Sussman: “I can't comment really, as I haven't seen him enough this year. I'd also be hesitant to talk about injuries. Without hard data, it’s just speculation.”

    Orioles Hangout: “As far as long-term potential, who is the better trio? Markakis/Jones/Wieters or Matusz/Arrieta/Britton?”

    Harkins: “Hitters tend to be more reliable than pitchers when making long-term forecasts. Just look at guys like Mark Prior and Dontrelle Willis. So if forced to choose I will go with your trio of hitters. That being said, those three pitchers hold a lot of potential, and Orioles fans should be optimistic. It’s just going to take time for all of these guys to develop.”

    Mitchell: “Tough question. If I had to build a team around one group and contracts were not an issue I would probably take Markakis/Jones/Wieters because Arrieta is still a wild card and I am scared about Matusz’ injury/non-injury. You get two up-the-middle talents with the offensive group and that is hard to come by.”

    Rogers: “Give me the pitchers. As a catcher, Wieters is a valuable part, but the standard is really high for outfielders. I’m not sure there’s a No. 1 starter in the pitching mix but there are two or three No. 2/3 types, and those are the guys you build championships around. Think Andy Pettitte.” 

    Sussman: “Give me the arms. Only because Weiters is the only special guy you've listed for the hitters whereas the arms all have upside. Sad to see Tillman has fallen so far.”

    Orioles Hangout: “While improved, the O’s are outside of contention. Guthrie is a Free Agent after ’12, and there does not appear to be a lot of starting pitching available. Should he be moved before the non-waiver deadline? If so, what type of value can he bring back? Is Yonder Alonso obtainable?”

    Harkins: “Yes. Most teams are hoarding their pitching, so it makes sense to take advantage of a market shortage.Yonder Alonso and his .860 OPS in AAA Louisville look pretty good right now. And the Reds certainly need some pitching, so you might have yourself a match there. The problem is that there could be other teams out there with pitching to spare who covet Alonso as well (Seattle?), and the Reds know it. The Orioles might be forced to sweeten the pot.”

    Mitchell: “Only if they get a fair return on him. Like Yonder Alonso from a few questions ago. If the best offer is something that cannot help them in 2012 or 2013 then I think the O’s should hold on to Guthrie. I may catch some flak from some people but I do think that is close to fair. I think Duty Baker would do it for sure. Guthrie is vastly underrated and I am scared teams would see his loss total and try and talk down a deal. He has an ERA+ of 109 since joining the AL East and could be a race changer in the NL. Plus he is still under team control through next season. The only problem is I could see the Reds possible getting more for Alonso elsewhere but if they find the market a bit bare I could see the trade working out.”

    Rogers: “Absolutely. No-brainer. Alonso should be attainable in the right trade, as he’s clearly blocked in Cincinnati. But would Guthrie get him? Probably not but Walt Jocketty would have to be interested in a Guthrie/Hardy package. Edgar Renteria hasn’t exactly lit up Cincinnati, and the Reds need a jump start.” 

    Sussman: “Alonso may be obtainable because he is blocked. Though, I think most teams understand that Guthrie is pitching overhead. If I was the Reds I’d try Alonso in left before trading him for Guthrie.”

    Orioles Hangout: “In recent years, the O’s have tried to build a bullpen going young, and also through Free Agents; with neither method proving successful. How would you address the O’s bullpen this off-season? Uehara and Johnson can both return for ’12, but you can make the case for trading them as well. Similar to Guthrie, what type of value do they have?”

    Harkins: NA.

    Mitchell: “They need to find value. Do not overspend on the save stat. The Rays may be the best team at that and they should follow their lead. I think you trade both Uehara and Johnson if someone offers a B-level prospect but nothing below that. They could be a major part of the bullpen next year and won’t cost much.”

    Rogers: “Texas is aggressively looking for relievers, and might give you Chris Davis or a prospect if they have good reports on one of the two Orioles. There are a lot of other teams looking for arms, and the O’s should be open to listening. The only two type of relievers I wouldn’t move are successful closers and left-handed set-up men. You can rebuild bullpens year to year.”  

    Sussman: “Absolutely trade every RP who has value. It is such a volatile position from year to year. I'd spend as little money as possible there and bring in as many guys as possible next spring on minor league contracts to compete with any young pitchers in my system. It isn't a pressing issue until the core gets better. Uehara should have a decent amount of value because his option will vest.”

    Orioles Hangout: “After Sunday, the Orioles are 36-45 overall, 10-18 against the East, 26-27 against everyone else. How should being in the East, impact the decision making process for the O’s Front Office? What are your basic overall thoughts on the O’s?”

    Harkins: “Being in the AL East should definitely affect the way the Orioles do business. An $86 million payroll gets you a lot further in other divisions then it does with those two monsters looming at the top of the standings. The Rays have a good method for the Orioles to follow, only the O’s have a lot more resources than Tampa does, so that’s good. Develop young players through the draft, look for talent overseas, and find under-valued talent on the free agent market. If they can do that, there is no reason they can’t compete. But it’s going to take time, and lots of patience.”

    Mitchell: “They have to function as a team that knows they cannot compete every single year. It just is not possible unless you have $170M+ to spend or if you take 10 years of horrible seasons to build a farm system that will sustain your success for the next 10 years. The O’s have money to spend but they need to spend wisely. If they are going to pay for talent it cannot be like this past offseason when they got aging guys. They have been doing the right thing by building a solid farm system and starting this offseason I could see them add key pieces via free agency to the existing young core.”

    Rogers: “If Tampa Bay can compete, the Orioles should be able to. They just haven’t done things anywhere near as well as have the Rays since Gerry Hunsicker and Andrew Friedman arrived. I’d approach the Yankee/Red Sox blockade by emphasizing the win total on a yearly basis, trying to get to .500, then 85 wins, then 90. The biggest key is young, tough pitching? Are the Orioles’ pitchers tough enough mentally? That’s the biggest evaluation that Buck Showalter/Andy MacPhail have to make. If the answer on any of them is no, then they should be traded while they have value (and before they take up payroll going 12-15 every season).”

    Sussman: “Being in the East isn't fun. And I don't see realignment happening anytime soon. With that said, the front office needs to build the best team possible. That goal and strategy doesn't change depending on who you face. If they keep spending in the draft, things will turn around soon.”

    Orioles Hangout: “Andy MacPhail has recently reached his 4th anniversary with the Orioles. He is not under contract for ’12, but Orioles Majority Owner Peter Angelos stated in March that MacPhail is not going anywhere. Do you believe MacPhail is capable of building a division winning caliber team in the American League East?”

    Harkins: “Overall, MacPhail has the Orioles on the right path. I think this team was in a situation where it had to take a step back before it could move forward. It hasn’t won 70 games since 2006, and had a lot of bad parts that had to be replaced. Remember Kris Benson? Daniel Cabrera? Jay Payton? Steve Trachsel? The Bedard deal was a great move that helped bring in some young talent. Those are the kinds of moved the Orioles should be looking at making right now. If MacPhail can remain patient, he can do it in Baltimore.”

    Mitchell: “I’m not sure. He’s the kind of guy that needs a good supporting cast and I believe he has that in Baltimore but he is not aggressive enough for my liking. When he makes trades, other than the Bedrad trade, he doesn’t really deal talent or receive talent. It’s usually low-tier trades. A little more aggressiveness is needed to compete in the AL East but he does have a supporting cast that has helped him build a good future if he is extended beyond this year.”

    Rogers: “Yes. But he might have to be hired by the Red Sox or Yankees to make that happen.”

    Sussman: “I'm not sure. He has his share of questionable moves (Hobgood for one), but I also don't think four years is long enough for one's vision to be realized either.”

    Orioles Hangout: “Danny Knobler of CBS Sports recently wrote that the O’s might be targeting Prince Fielder. (http://danny-knobler.blogs.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/entry/8590096/29723768)

    ESPN’s Jim Bowden wrote that Baltimore could make the most sense. SI’s Jon Heyman wrote (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/201...?sct=mlb_wr_a1) that average predicted contract for Fielder between himself, two Agents, and two GM’s was 6yrs $145M. Fielder turned 27 on May 9th and has a .929 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. Would you advocate Baltimore offering Fielder 6yrs $145M? Who else could be a primary suitor (Texas, Cubs, Cardinals - if they lose Pujols)?"

    Harkins: “I understand the temptation, but I don’t think the Orioles should be in the market for any high-priced free agents. They have too many holes, and one big bat, or one big arm is not going to turn them into a winner. They need to spread their resources around to increase their talent levels across the board, both in the majors and the minors. Handing a big contract to Prince Fielder isn’t going to fix things.”

    Mitchell: “I would love to see Baltimore offer Fielder big money. That is the type of signing I think a team like Baltimore should be eyeing. They build from within with young, cheap talent, and then pounce on the big thunder with the money they do have to spend. They have over $25 committed to Derek Lee, Vlad, Kevin Gregg, and Mike Gonzalez and they could have Fielder for a little over $24M. It would constitute a large chunk of the budget but they did had a 93.5M budget in 2007 and if they believe in contending in 2012 then I see no reason why they would not bump up the budget. I do see the Cubs being players as well as Brewers and possibly the Giants as a sleeper team.”

    Rogers: “I’d absolutely give Fielder crazy money, and not worry about weight. That was a concern coming out of high school, as you might remember, and so far it hasn’t kept him from being one of the three or four best first basemen/sluggers in the game. The Angels will be aggressively pursuing hitting this off-season, and (hide your eyes) I don’t rule out the Yankees should they lose in the first round or to Boston in the ALCS. The Cubs are a wild card but I haven’t seen any indications that owner Tom Ricketts has this healthy of an appetite. They might talk themselves into keeping Carlos Pena and using their resources to pursue pitching.”  

    Sussman: “Prince Fielder is a much better athlete then given credit for. I'm not sure how he ends up aging but I'd suspect it'll be better than what some people will predict. I’d suspect the Os will be in the race for him, but the Cardinals will not be.”

     


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