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Put a bird on it!

Updated: 2016-12-10T07:30:01-05:00


Saturday Bird Droppings


The Winter Meetings are but a memory, but the Hot Stove, does it really ever cool down? More Rule 5 talk and a possible outfield option “So much for the narrative that no contending team would make a pick in the Rule 5 draft. There were 18 players selected yesterday and picks were made by Boston, Toronto, Cleveland, Texas and Detroit. Add in the Orioles’ two selections and all five teams that made the American League playoffs in October made Rule 5 selections on Thursday.” Welington Castillo emerges as the top catcher target for O’s “According to industry sources, the Orioles have had continued negotiations with Castillo’s representatives since the winter meetings ended Thursday in Washington D.C., and there is optimism that a multi-year deal could get done. But it is still firmly in the discussion phase.” Baseball bombshell: Robinson traded to Orioles 51 years ago “A "bombshell was tossed into baseball circles" 51 years ago on Friday, when a future Hall of Famer and all-time Reds great was traded to the Baltimore Orioles.” Examining how Caleb Joseph will impact the Orioles' catching search With Matt Wieters likely out the door as the current jewel of the catching free-agent market, the Orioles are pursuing a catcher who they can pair with Caleb Joseph until top prospect Chance Sisco is ready to be a major league catcher Can you relate, Rangers fans? Orioles don’t want Jose Bautista because their fans don’t like him “Baltimore's general manager Dan Duquette recently told a Toronto radio station that his team wouldn't be signing Bautista. The reason has little to do with Bautista's baseball skills.” Rumor Central: Mets asked about Brad Brach? Brach is eligible for arbitration for the second time in his career this offseason. He made $1.25 million this year and is scheduled to be a free agent in 2019. JAWS and the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot: Mike Mussina “Unlike 2014 Hall of Fame honorees Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine or 2015 honoree Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina didn't reach 300 wins in his career. Nor did he ever win a Cy Young award, in part because a teammate practically stole one out of his hands thanks to superior run support. As well as he pitched in October, his teams never won a World Series, because even the best relievers sometimes falter, to say nothing of what happens to the rest of them.” Birthdays and History Happy Birthday to former Orioles Pedro Florimon and Luis Polonia. They share today with famous people like Poet John Milton 1608; actor Kirk Douglas 1916; Redd Foxx 1922; actor/writer Buck Henry 1930; actor Judi Dench 1934; NFL Hall of Famer Dick Butkus 1942; actor John Malkovich 1953; singer Donny Osmond 1957; drummer Tre Cool (Green Day) 1972; actor Simon Helberg 1980. On this day in Baltimore baseball history... not much happened. On this day in world history... 1803 - The 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress. With the amendment Electors were directed to vote for a President and for a Vice-President rather than for two choices for President. 1926 - The United States Golf Association legalized the use of steel-shafted golf clubs. 1914 - The Edison Phonograph Works was destroyed by fire. 1960 - Sperry Rand Corporation unveiled a new computer known as "Univac 1107." 1990 - Lech Walesa won Poland's first direct presidential election in the country's history. 1993 - At Princeton University in New Jersey, scientists produced a controlled fusion reaction equivalent to 3 million watts. 2013 - AMR Corporation and US Airways Group completed a merger and was listed on the NASDAQ as American Airlines Group, Inc. Consider this your discussion space for UFC 206: Holloway vs Pettis. [...]

The Orioles should target Franklin Gutierrez in free agency


Gutierrez has quietly been a very good part-time player for years now. What if I told you that there was an outfielder who has a .261/.320/.496 batting line over his past four seasons, is capable of playing passable defense, and is probably available for a contract similar to (or less than) what Pedro Alvarez got from the O’s this year? Sounds ridiculous, right? As it turns out, that guy is out there. He’s available on the free agent market right now, is getting virtually zero press, and is someone who I honestly forgot existed until a couple days ago. His name is Franklin Gutierrez. There’s obviously a catch to all this: Gutierrez is a part-time platoon bat. In those last four seasons (which include 2012, because he didn’t play at all in 2014), he has just over a single full season’s worth of plate appearances - 786, to be exact. Of those plate appearances, 58% have been against left-handed pitchers. Once the Mariners figured out he crushes left-handed pitching around the start of the 2015 season, that number jumped to 70% for the past two years. It’s not hard to see the reason why. Gutierrez has a OPS nearly 200 points higher against southpaws in his career: .846 (.289/.351/.495) vs. .652 (.240/.289/.363). Over the past two seasons he’s improved across the board but especially against left-handers: he’s hitting .293/.368/.546 against lefties since the start of 2015. That’s equal to an OPS one point below the 2016 version of Nelson Cruz. That’s obviously valuable, but how valuable if he only gives you 250-300 plate appearances per year? For help, we can turn to Beyond the Box Score’s free agency calculator. It estimates Gutierrez would be worth around $6 million per year given his position, age, and WAR over his past three years. The calculator is a year old now, but the numbers shouldn’t change too much. Let’s call it $6.5 million. That also aligns with what Gutierrez got from the Mariners last year. After missing the entire 2014 campaign and having a terrific partial season in 2015, they gave him a one-year deal for $1.5 million that was laden with $4.25 million in plate appearance-based incentives. If he hit all of those (it’s hard to find the specifics), he would have earned $6.75 million. He’s basically the same player now that he was last year, only with more data to back it up, so it makes sense that his value would be similar, albeit in guaranteed dollars. A full-time player with an OPS around .900 would certainly get close to $20 million if not more, so is a player who does it over 250 plate appearances worth a third of that? Probably, and especially so when you consider that the Orioles as a whole are horrible against left-handed pitching. Furthermore, they have a natural platoon partner for Gutierrez in Hyun Soo Kim. Of Kim’s 323 plate appearances last year, only 23 came against left-handers. In those 23 plate appearances, Kim had zero hits. It’s safe to say the O’s would love to keep Kim in a platoon role if they can afford to do so, and Gutierrez gives them an affordable way to do that. He’s also a better fielder than Kim, even more reason to put him out there against lefties and let Kim sit. Gutierrez isn’t a Gold Glover, but he’s at least passable out there. He was worth -5 defensive runs saved (DRS) and -1.9 ultimate zone runs (UZR) over 785 corner outfield innings the past two seasons. Compare that to Kim, who was worth a horrid -13 DRS and -7.1 UZR over 665 innings last year. To give a sense of scale, Fangraphs considers -5 to be “below average” and -15 to be “awful” for both of those scales. Anything above +15 is considered “Gold Glove caliber.” In other words, Gutierrez isn’t great, but Kim was almost as bad last year as a Gold Glove outfielder is good. Gutierrez is unlikely to return to Seattle next year after their trade for fellow lefty-masher Danny Valencia. Their outfield was already crowded, and even though Valencia will mostly play DH and first base, it still means there are less at-bats to go arou[...]

The Orioles aren’t waiting around for Matt Wieters


Duquette said the O’s will get a catcher before January. Scott Boras says Matt Wieters might not sign until January. Do we connect those dots? Dan Duquette appeared on 105.7’s Hot Stove Show on Thursday night. When he wasn’t in the middle of a rant against the writers who rate the Orioles farm system poorly, Duquette opened up - as much as he ever is capable of doing, anyway - about some of the Orioles offseason pursuits. One of the things Duquette said is that he expects the Orioles to find a catcher before January. This is interesting because it’s not really Duquette’s style to pin himself down and set a date where he hopes to accomplish something like that. The other thing about it that makes it interesting is what Scott Boras, agent to Matt Wieters, said about free agency and his catchers, as transcribed by MASN’s Steve Melewski: “Well, the clubs that need catching are pretty well defined,” Boras said. “And some are thinking about moving players to make room for him so, the timetable always on catching, I don’t know what it is, I can’t think of one I’ve represented that didn’t sign in January.” If Boras is waiting around to find a deal for Wieters, he may find the door back to Baltimore closes on him. It’s not definite from that quote above that Wieters couldn’t reach an Orioles reunion contract before January comes along, but you probably won’t want to bet your mortgage on Boras doing something outside of the usual Boras pattern of action. One report puts the Orioles as working towards a deal with recently-non-tendered Arizona catcher Welington Castillo. FanRag Sports described the two sides as “building momentum towards a deal.” That doesn’t mean that the O’s will sign Castillo and won’t sign Wieters, of course. MASN’s Roch Kubatko checked in on the rumor and said, “Nothing is imminent.” It could all be a smaller version of the grand game of chicken that the Orioles and Boras played about Chris Davis last offseason, with lots of back and forth and rumors coming out about the Orioles talking with other high-priced players like Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes, as if they were trying to say, “See, we’re serious! We’ll do it!” Wieters definitely doesn’t seem to fit the mold of catcher they say they’re looking for, and ought to be looking for, since it’s hard to imagine he’ll sign for the kind of veteran one- or two-year stopgap kind of contract they would give to somebody else. Still, if there’s one thing the Orioles have shown, it’s that, absent some kind of physical concern, they’ll spend to keep “their” guys - for better or worse. Mark Trumbo seems to become one of “their” guys after just one season, given how sticky their interest in him seems to be despite an initial absurd price tag. And also despite, you know, the fact that Trumbo wouldn’t solve any one of their problems. Wieters, the former future savior of the franchise, is definitely one of “their” guys, even if he never turned into the hyped “Joe Mauer with power,” or even Joe Mauer. The main reason to be anxious about the O’s signing him to another contract is that it’s money they can’t spend on making their outfield defense better. The idea of the O’s spending $10+ million a year on both Wieters and Trumbo for next year, given the team’s needs, is really not appealing. But if it’s money that’s mostly only there to spend on “their” guys, then they aren’t necessarily missing out on other opportunities by signing either one. If the Orioles are really determined to sign a catcher before the calendar turns and Boras is really determined to wait, then that will be that and one of the longest-tenured Orioles will be moving on. But maybe someone will blink and something will still get worked out. What do you think? Should the Orioles spend much effort trying to bring Wieters back to Baltimore? What kind of contract is the most that you would want to give him? [...]

Aroldis Chapman contract another occasion to ponder Zach Britton’s value to Orioles


The Orioles shouldn’t trade Zach Britton, but with each huge closer contract, they’ve got to at least think about it, right? Maybe not. The idea of the Orioles trading Zach Britton is not appealing. The team’s barren farm system and major wave of expiring contracts between now and the end of the 2018 season seem to signal that they have little choice but to do everything they can to win over the next couple of seasons. Yet even knowing that, each successive closer trade or signing elsewhere in baseball makes it more tempting to think that the Orioles should at least explore the idea of trading Britton. The current worth of a closer makes it impossible for them not to. Within the past year, there were big hauls in trades for Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman, and on this year’s free agent market, Chapman and Mark Melancon have already cashed in and Kenley Jansen stands poised to cash in soon. This is the price for elite relievers right now. There is no doubt that Britton is on that level. Given all of that, baseball writers almost seem to not be able to start talking about the idea that the O’s could or should move Britton. One representative example is ESPN’s prospect writer Keith Law, who told MASN’s Steve Melewski at the Winter Meetings that the Orioles could probably demand two top 50 or 60 prospects for Britton with lesser prospects thrown in as well. That’s a big haul, and a tempting one even to someone like me who doesn’t want to see the O’s trade Britton. The Orioles presently have either one or zero top 100 prospects in baseball, depending on whether the publication likes Chance Sisco. Other than Sisco, they have effectively no near-term prospects on the way to fill any of the soon-to-be-vacant roster spots. Regardless, the Orioles have a horrible farm system that will not be doing much to help the team in the future, no matter how much Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette protest this reality. When J.J. Hardy becomes a free agent after next season, sure, you can slide over Manny Machado, but then you need a third baseman, and Machado will be a free agent one more year down the road anyway. Chris Tillman, Yovani Gallardo, Wade Miley, and Ubaldo Jimenez could all end up being free agents after next season. You may not want to see any more of several of those guys, but the fact is that if you don’t see them, you’re going to see someone like Mike Wright or Tyler Wilson. Barring a new contract extension, 2018 will be the last year for Adam Jones in addition to Machado, and for that matter, both Showalter and Duquette currently have contracts that expire after the 2018 season. The way things look right now, things are very bleak for the team’s fortunes beyond that point. There are two reasonable, diametrically opposed ways to look at this. One is to say, “Leeroyyyyy Jenkins!” and charge into battle with the AL East. As my fellow nerds reading this know, Leeroy ultimately lost and brought defeat to all of his companions, but hey, at least he had chicken. The other is to step back and say, you know what? The Orioles really need to re-stock for the future. You can put me in the Leeroy camp. As I’ve written in the past, trading your closer is for losers, which the Orioles, who’ve made the playoffs three times in five seasons, are not any longer. But I do understand the temptation to cash in and replenish the farm somewhat. It is dire down there. A problem for the trade Britton proponents is that the evolution of the market over the last year or so doesn’t seem to leave many potential “Britton for two top 50 prospects and more” deals dangling around out there. For the most part, the teams that have a lot of good prospects aren’t the teams looking for a closer. They’ve either already got their closer - like the O’s division rival Yankees and Red Sox - or they’re wheel-spinning teams who are going nowhere, know they’re going nowhere, and have no business trading for a play[...]

Friday Bird Droppings: The Orioles are laying in the weeds



Not much happened at the Winter Meetings for the Orioles, except for Rule 5 picks and a lot of talking to Mark Trumbo's agent. Now, they're talking to Welington Castillo, and in case you forgot, the O's farm is bad, no matter what Dan Duquette says.

I'll give Dan Duquette this: he seems to know what he wants. His Jose Bautista comments notwithstanding, does he care what we think? Should he? Probably not and that's largely for the better. Doesn't mean we have to heartily endorse every move and I guess I'm still a little shell shocked from last offseason.

Duquette has resumed negotiations on new Trumbo contract - School of Roch
Sometimes, I feel like Dan Duquette isn't quite the negotiator I thought he was.

Murray - Orioles And Welington Castillo Building Toward Deal Bring me the Beef!

Nats' Eaton trade shines light on O's draft/development failures - What would you pay to see Dan Connolly and Steve Melewski fight?

Aneury Tavarez Tops Orioles Rule 5 Class - Baltimore Sports and Life More than you thought possible to know about Aneury Tavarez.

On this day in 1965 the O's acquired Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas and some other guys. The Orioles acquired J.J. Hardy for the low, low price of Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson on this day in 2010.

Hall of Famer Joe Kelley was born this day in 1860. Kelley played for the great Ned Hanlon teams of the 1890s and moved to back Baltimore when his playing days were done. A couple Tonys (Tarasco and Batista) celebrate birthdays today as do a whole bunch of guys with whom I am not familiar (Ed Fitzpatrick? Joe DeMaestri? Darold Knowles? Darold?). Former interim manager and human windmill Juan Samuel turns 56 today. Future star Hunter Harvey turns 22 today. Get well soon, bud.

Dexter Fowler signs with Cardinals for five years, $80+ million



The Orioles almost got their man back in February, but they never came close to Dexter Fowler this time. Fowler got paid.

Orioles fans thought back in February that the team had Dexter Fowler for three years up until the moment he walked into Cubs camp instead. That was a disappointing decision here in Baltimore since Fowler went on to have a monster season in exactly the ways the Orioles needed.

That whole reversal was good decision for Fowler, though, since he’s now a free agent again, with a monster season for the World Series champion Cubs under his belt. This time, Fowler will be getting the money no one wanted to pay him last year.

The Cubs’ division rivals, the Cardinals, have plucked Fowler away from the champions, according to various news reports, with Jon Heyman putting forth a currently-rumored five-year contract worth somewhere in the $80-90 million range. That’s some big money for a contract that will be starting in Fowler’s age 31 season.

I’ve been eyeing Fowler’s career .366 OBP (.393 in 2016) and imagining what that would look like in an Orioles uniform and what his defensive skills might look like in the outfield compared to Mark Trumbo. It’s hard not to. Yet it seems that the Orioles were never really in the picture this time around.

Whether that’s because there was lingering bad feelings over what happened last February or whether the price tag was too much for what the O’s wanted to pay is not something that really even matters. They didn’t get Fowler and now they’ll have to find someone else instead. That someone will almost assuredly be worse than Fowler in the crucial upcoming 2017 campaign.

Actually, if it was too much money for the O’s, maybe that does matter, if only because if they deem Fowler too expensive at $16-18 million per year and then turn around and re-sign Trumbo most of that amount - say, $13-15 million per year - well, that’s not a decision that would make me very happy.

There’s more to it than just the AAV, of course. If it had to be five years for Fowler, while Trumbo takes four years, or even three years plus an option, that’s significant. Also, the Orioles would have to give up their top draft pick, currently #22 overall, to sign Fowler or any other qualifying offer-attached free agent from another team.

To retain Trumbo, they would essentially give up a compensation pick they never actually had. Those are definite differences. Whether they should have led the O’s to shy away from Fowler is another story.

What’s done is done. The only outfielder worth giving up a pick to sign is off the market. The Cardinals sacrifice their top pick, #18 overall, once the signing goes final. It is still pending a physical, after all - and, given that it’s Fowler, pending him actually showing up in St. Louis for that physical instead of going to Chicago.

With the Cardinals dropping out of the first round, the O’s first round pick moves up to #21 overall, while their potential compensation pick for Trumbo, which they seem bound and determined not to collect, is now at #29 overall. Not that they’re likely to find a star, or even necessarily a useful big leaguer, with either of those picks. It’s the principle of the thing. Get the picks!

At least the Orioles have Rule 5 outfielders Aneury Tavarez and Anthony Santander in the fold. That was sarcasm just there.

Orioles take two players in Rule 5 draft: Aneury Tavarez, Anthony Santander


You can put it up there with death and taxes: The Orioles picking somebody in the Rule 5 draft. This year, they picked two outfielders. The Rule 5 draft is like another Christmas for the Orioles front office, only instead of opening their own presents, they get to open up other teams’ presents and keep it all for themselves. You can understand why this draft is so exciting for the O’s when they’ve gotten players like Ryan Flaherty and Joey Rickard in the draft. That was sarcasm just there. The 2016 edition of the draft saw the Orioles take two players in the MLB phase. They grabbed a pair of outfielders. With the regular pick that everyone expected them to make, they grabbed 24-year-old Aneury Tavarez from the Red Sox organization. Then, just because they could and because they’re the Orioles, they picked a second player after everyone else was done: 22-year-old Anthony Santander from the Indians. If you have never heard of either one of these players, that’s OK, because you could have scoured either team’s top 30 prospects before the draft and you wouldn’t have found either one. A beat writer on Twitter optimistically described this as “the O’s do their research.” Yes, that’s one way of looking at it. Probably not the right way, but it’s a way. And anyway, that’s not even correct, because Santander ranked #30 on the Indians prospect list. The Orioles drafted a top prospect, you guys! Let’s go celebrate. So who are these guys? With the O’s picking two different corner outfielders, one more experienced and one raw, it’s a lot like the Rule 5 draft that brought the Orioles both Logan Verrett and Jason Garcia. Verrett was the lower-upside, closer-to-the-bigs pitcher, while Garcia was the raw prospect. Tavarez has at least played some games at Triple-A, although the bulk of the most recent season was spent at Double-A Portland, where he batted .335/.379/.506. That included 13 triples, more than double the number of triples of the 2016 Orioles. The lefty has played almost exclusively right field over his minor league career, though he’s played a bit of left field and center field. He stole 20 bases this past season, which is something that sounds impressive until you get to the part where he was caught stealing 11 times. That’s the kind of stolen base rate where a player should not be stealing bases, ever. Hey, he’ll fit right in on the Orioles! The thing about Tavarez is that he’s never had anything like that kind of success at the plate at any of his other stops in the minors. So the Orioles are probably taking a chance that maybe Tavarez’s breakout is for real and lasting. I’m quite confident that they’ll spend more money for a worse reason before the offseason is done. I’m not so confident that a Double-A breakout at age 24 will carry over to MLB success the next season. If the Orioles strike out or cheap out on any attempt to sign or trade for a real right fielder over the course of this offseason, Tavarez could be the Opening Day right fielder. No offense meant to the guy, but I sure hope that’s not what happens. Is the picking of two outfielders a sign that the O’s aren’t planning to get a real outfielder with MLB experience? Not necessarily. Even for a Rule 5-loving team like the Orioles, they’re not that crazy. They had open 40-man spots and they took two guys. If they don’t keep them - though we know the O’s love to try to keep them - it costs them little. Santander is the head-scratcher, because he’s never played above the High-A level before. Which makes him the Garcia in our “repeat two years ago, only with outfielders” scenario. Whether it means the Orioles are more likely to keep him is another story. The switch-hitting Santander is another guy who just enjoyed what he Orioles are presumably betting is a lasting 2016 breakout. He batted .290/.368/.494 over 128 games in the[...]

The Orioles rejected Jose Bautista, but asked about another Birdland villain


Dan Duquette said the O’s aren’t interested in Jose Bautista because fans don’t like him - but he’s checked in on 2014 ALCS villain Jarrod Dyson. Earlier this week, Orioles GM Dan Duquette famously, hilariously, and absurdly told Jose Bautista’s agent that the Orioles would not be pursuing his client because Orioles fans do not like Bautista. Although he’s since gone on to repeat that statement in front of anyone who will put a microphone in front of his face, I don’t believe him, and neither should you. One way we can be fairly sure that there’s not a “no villains of Birdland” policy in the Orioles front office is that the Orioles have made inquiries about at least one other, lesser-known villain of Birdland this offseason. According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Orioles made inquiries about the Royals regarding outfielder Jarrod Dyson. If you don’t hold baseball grudges like I hold baseball grudges, you may not remember Dyson. If not, you’re probably happier for that. To refresh your memory, Dyson, in what is, despite the Royals going on to win that series in four games, still one of the most ridiculous pieces of trash talk in history, proclaimed, two games into the 2014 ALCS, that the series would not go back to Baltimore. I haven’t read that post I linked above again because thinking about that series is still bad for my health, but if you look at it, I’m fairly sure you’re going to find my applying a bunch of negative phrases towards Dyson, including calling him a “failed pinch runner” and also a “bench-warming gum-flapper.” Make no mistake, Dyson was both of those things in that series and in the subsequent World Series that his team lost. Over the balance of those series, he stole no bases and in fact was thrown out the two times he attempted to steal. He was not good enough to play regularly, probably because of what was at that time a career .256/.323/.335 batting line. Yet there he was, talking trash. It was all two years ago, and really, it was the only time Dyson has ever done anything to give me any reason to notice him. Yet he was not liked in Baltimore during that series and to the extent that he’s remembered, isn’t liked now. I have specially selected the photo for this article because when it happened this past April, it made me happy, and looking at it again today makes me happy still. Of course all of that is not going to stop the Orioles from inquiring about Dyson. That would be stupid. Even if Dyson was somehow worth being public enemy #1 in Birdland - which he’s not and never will be - the Orioles would be idiots if they didn’t check in on Dyson solely because some fans like me think he’s annoying. Who cares? If he comes here and he’s good, all will be forgiven. Dyson is a lot of what the Orioles say they’re looking for. He’s a left-handed outfielder who has played all three outfield positions and played all three well in his career. Dyson was a +9 by DRS in 462 innings in center field this past season and added another +5 in 177 innings in right field and +5 more in 119.2 innings in left field. That’s a total of +19 runs saved. The Orioles, who had the absolute worst outfield defense in all of MLB this past season, do not have any player who can do that. They act like Joey Rickard could, but they’re wrong. The 32-year-old Dyson, who will be a free agent after next season and is expected to get a $2.5 million salary in his final year of arbitration, is that player the Orioles need. Dyson is coming off what was, for him, the best offensive season of his career. He batted .278/.340/.388 in a career-high 337 plate appearances. No, that’s not great, but it could be worse. Bat him eighth or ninth and sometimes he might get on base and still be on base when the lineup turns over and someone better hits a freakin’ dinger. He can even steal:[...]