• Jul

    July Q&A w/ Dan Szymborski, BBTF / ESPN

    On a Monthly basis Orioles Hangout will be checking in with Dan Szymborski, the Editor-in-Chief of Baseball Think Factory (http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/) and a contributing writer for ESPN (http://search.espn.go.com/Dan-Szymborski/ ).

    You can also find Szymborski on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/DSzymborski

    Below is our fourth installment in this series.

    Orioles Hangout: “Bill James has received two World Series rings for his work as a Senior Advisor for Baseball Operations for the Red Sox. I believe Tom Tango is employed full-time with a specific team. While you are obviously plenty busy with your work with Baseball Think Factory, and ESPN; if approached by the O’s with a full-time position similar to what James does in Boston, would you be interested?”

    Dan Szymborski: "Are you trying to give me an ulcer? But more seriously, doing some consulting is one thing, but a full-time position is another. Having everything you work on locked up forever in a maze of non-disclosure agreements is a pretty bitter pill to swallow.  Of course, I’d listen if offered, but writing is a lot of fun and would be damned hard to give up on a full-time basis."

    Orioles Hangout: “You can easily argue that beyond the on-field product, that the O’s are also beyond their Divisional peers in Amateur Scouting, International Scouting, and Player Development. They also appear to have a minimal Sabermetrical influence within the current Front Office. Is there anything throughout the game that you see as currently being under utilized, where the O’s could quickly become the best at with proper investment?”

    Dan Szymborski:  "I don’t know if there’s really anything juicy enough to quickly and lucratively become the best at it, but the O’s would go a long way towards being relevant just by actually having a long-term plan and utilizing resources towards where they can actually have a benefit.  Those 6 years of team control in the majors is a benefit that is structural, rather than one built on simply knowing something first and the team’s international mess causes them to have less of those players."

    Orioles Hangout: “With a 6-21 stretch into the All-Star break, the Orioles have fallen 16 games under .500. Despite the struggles of the pitchers the O’s are trying to build around, none of them are being moved in the near-term if for no other reason than their respective values are currently at a low. On a positional basis, it is pretty clear that Wieters has no chance of being traded either. Should the O’s make Jones, and Markakis available at the Non-waiver deadline, or do you continue to try and augment around this current core?”

    Dan Szymborski:  "It really depends on who they can get for them.  But the team needs to make a decision.  Even a bad plan at this point would be better than no plan.  From what I observe, the team really did think that they could hot-shot a good season and now that they didn’t, it’s a real mess.  Sign Jones long-term or trade him, but make a damn plan." 

    Orioles Hangout: “Assuming Jones is not traded, he will be with the O’s and 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 .328 wOBA (.344 wOBA this year). 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?”

    Dan Szymborski: "Every day the Orioles don’t sign or trade Jones, both his trade value and the team’s leverage in negotiating a contract decline.  I’d start and offer 4/32 or something along those lines, but it may be hard if his camp feels that another team will like his defense."

    Orioles Hangout: “We initially discussed a possible extension for Hardy in December, and at that time you said the O’s would not come out too unhappy for a 2-3 year deal at $5-8M per year. The Orioles are now attempting an extension prior to the non-waiver deadline. Hardy currently has a .361 wOBA, and is 1.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). If it takes 3 yrs, and $27M; should the O’s agree to that or trade him?”

    Dan Szymborski: "I would agree to that given that Hardy’s young enough to be relevant for quite a while.  It would, of course depend on what the offer is.  But again, as with Jones, the team needs to stop dithering and make a decision – the 2011 season is over, no matter how much they wish that to not be true."

    Orioles Hangout: “Matt Wieters has had an exceptional year behind the plate. The 1st time All Star calls a good game, blocks the plate well, and he has thrown out 20 runners with a strong arm and quick release. He has improved against LHP (.987 OPS) and is currently 4th among all Catchers in WAR. On the negative side, after 9 xbh's in April, he has had just 14 in the 203 ab's since. Should O's fans be happy with his development, or does the fact he has yet to become a transformative offensive force make him a disappointment?"

    Dan Szymborski: "Well, disappointing compared to expectations, yet, but he’s still a solid catcher.  Top prospects always take a lot of heat when they’re merely good players rather than Hall of Famers.  I hope fans realize that it doesn’t make him a failure. I wouldn’t worry about month-by-month splits; that’s really noisy data and has led more than one good analyst into concluding too much."

    Orioles Hangout: “Last Month you stated that Guthrie would figure to only bring back a Grade B prospect, and maybe a couple of throw-ins. If that is all the value he has, should the O’s move him, or is his potential 200 innings next year more valuable?”

    Dan Szymborski: "They’re going to get less than they would have a month ago.  An innings-eater is useful for anyone, but the O’s shouldn’t overvalue that.  They may just hang onto him because after two pretty lousy months, he has a lot less appeal."

    Orioles Hangout: “There appears to be a glut of RH set-up types available on the trade market. Is now the time to move Johnson, and Uehara; or do you bring them back for ’12?”

    Dan Szymborski: "Johnson’s service time means he’ll be cheap enough for awhile and worth keeping unless they really get bowled over by an offer (they won’t). Uehara’s option will almost certainly vest, so again there’s no harm in keeping him.  It’d be really nice to get someone to take Kevin Gregg, but teams are less enthralled about picking up ordinary relievers simply because they’re labeled closers than they used to be.  And one of those other teams is the O’s, so no help there."

    Orioles Hangout: “I imagine the O’s will want to provide for as many ab’s as possible for Reimold in LF, and will want to have Matusz, Britton, and Tillman back in the rotation by August 1st. If they are lucky, Roberts will be able to return and play on a regular basis to end the year. What are the biggest things that the O's can accomplish between now and the end of the year, to best position them for the off-season?"

    Dan Szymborski: "Just having a long-term plan would be nice.  A continued focus on rebuilding would be nice.  The team did try for a few years, but they left it half-finished. If you’re building a house, the house is finished when the house is ready, not when you simply get tired of building."

    Orioles Hangout: “The O’s are going to have to address 1st in the off-season. You stated previously that you do not think the O’s will be in a position where the investment that would be required for Fielder would make sense for the team. The Orioles Hangout Message Board has spent a lot of time wondering if young 1st baseman like Yonder Alonso, or Brandon Belt could be obtained. If they can not, what other options may the O's have available to them?"

    Dan Szymborski: "Yonder Alonso or Brandon Belt are real longshots.  To be perfectly frank, other teams’ top prospects are almost certainly off the table.  If you’re trading Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay, you get top prospects because you’re in a position of power and have something the other team needs.  Circumstances may just be right to be able to steal a really good prospect (the Casey Blake and Matt Capps trades), but you can’t really count on those trades to fall into your lap."

    Orioles Hangout: “If Guthrie is traded, I would think the O’s would have interest in a Veteran Free Agent starter they could obtain on a shorter contract. Jason Marquis comes to mind as a back of the rotation option. CJ Wilson if they were willing to give additional years and money. Are there other names you could see the O’s considering?”

    Dan Szymborski: "Livan Hernandez, maybe, though he may be nuts to want to come back to the AL East after having a good run in Washington. Maybe Brad Penny."

    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?”

    Dan Szymborski: "Before the season, I’d have said D.J. LeMahieu, but I don’t think he’s easily gettable anymore. Cord Phelps in Cleveland is kind of squeezed by the Indians also having Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. The A’s have a middle infield crunch with Jemile Weeks, Grant Green, Eric Sogard, and Adrian Cardenas (moved to outfield this season, but could still be moved back at this point), so at least one of them will be available for the right price."

    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 the O’s into a division winning caliber team in the American League East? Do you think he will be back, do you think he should?”

    Dan Szymborski: "I believe MacPhail is capable of building the O’s, I just have little confidence that ownership isn’t going to hinder him."

    Orioles Hangout: “If MacPhail does not return for '12, some of the candidates I would like to see considered are:

    Paul DePodesta, Mets Vice President of Player Development & Scouting
    Josh Byrnes, Padres Vice President of Baseball Operations
    John Coppolella, Braves Director of Baseball Administration
    Bob Miller, Reds Vice President and Assistant General Manager
    Rich Hahn, White Sox Vice President and Assistant General Manager
    Allard Baird, Red Sox Vice President Player Personnel
    Charley Kerfeld, Phillies Special Assistant to the General Manager
    Logan White, Dodgers Assistant General Manager / Director of Amat. & Intl. Scouting (Former O’s West Coast Supervisor)
    Ben Cherington, Red Sox Vice President of Player Personnel
    Gord Ash, Brewers Vice President and Assistant General Manager
    Tom McNamara, Mariners Director of Amateur Scouting
    RJ Harrison, Rays Director of Amateur Scouting
    Gerry Hunsicker, Rays Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations
    Kim Ng, Major League Baseball Vice President of Baseball Operations
    Tyrone Brooks, Pirates Director of Baseball Operations (Maryland native)
    Amiel Sawdaye, Red Sox Director of Amateur Scouting (Baltimore native)

    Who on that list interests you the most? Is there someone omitted from that list which would interest you more?”

    Dan Szymborski:  "I’d probably knock Baird off that list based on his previous experience.  Logan White is someone I’d like to see overlooking the minor league system with a lot of authority to build the organization, though I’m not so sure as GM. I get the impression that DePodesta would get frustrated with Angelos pretty easily. Given the Angelos factor, you’d probably need an experienced GM with enough clout to deal with Angelos that also won’t muck things up too badly, so Hunsicker is probably the most realistic candidate. But you could say the same about MacPhail.  The Orioles being a good team again is more reliant on a change in how the organization is run from the very top rather than who the next GM will be."

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Michael Williams

Lifelong. Down by the river.