Archive for the ‘Baltimore Orioles’ category

More Asian Comings and Goings

December 2, 2019

In terms of players moving between MLB and the Asian majors, the biggest news since my last post on the subject is that slugging 1Bman Justin Bour will be playing for the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s NPB in 2020.  No word yet on what Hanshin will be paying him, but it’s likely for a guarantee of over $1 million, given Bour’s major league pedigree.

I don’t think it’s necessarily a great signing by Hanshin.  Bour is entering his age 32 seasons, and players of his talent level and size (he’s listed at 6’4″ and 270 lbs).  His 2018 season was a big step down from 2015-2017, and in 2019 he played his way out of a major league contract for 2020.

Bour also has a big career platoon split, which helped make him a useful major league platoon player, but which doesn’t bode well for Japan, where he will expected to play every day for the money he’s getting.  If Bour can hit NPB right-handers well enough to stick, it may just be a matter of time before we see him getting a day off to “rest” every time Hanshin faces a tough lefty starter.

The Hiroshima Carp have signed South African born Tayler Scott to a deal that pays him a $175K signing bonus and a $525K salary, which may or may not be guaranteed.  Scott has major league stuff, but not major league command — sometimes these kind of pitchers do very well in NPB, where the margin for error is greater than the MLB majors.

Drew VerHagen and Aderlin Rodriguez are two more MLB system products who will be playing in NPB next year.  VerHagen has enjoyed some MLB major league success and should be a good bet to perform well for the Nippon Ham Fighters in 2020.  Aderlin Rodriguez is something of a bargain-basement player for a bargain-basement team, the Orix Buffaloes.

Rumors have it that Pierce Johnson and Joely Rodriguez will be returning to MLB for 2020, at least if they get the contract offers they are hoping for.  IMHO they are both likely to receive major league contract offers.

The SK Wyverns of the KBO will be posting South Korean ace Kwang-hyun Kim.  You may remember that Kim was posted a few years’ back, but failed to reach agreement with the winning bidder, the San Diego Padres, and returned to South Korea.  Kim then promptly tore his elbow tendon and missed a season.

Since then, Kim has firmly re-established himself as one of the KBO’s two best domestic starters, and he wants to give MLB another shot, although he’s already 31 years old.  Reports have it that MLB teams are interested, but we’ll see what kinds of offers he gets or doesn’t get.

New MLB system players who will be plying there trade in the KBO in 2020 are Aaron Altherr, Mike Wright, Adrian Sampson, Dixon Machado and Nick Kingham.  The NC Dinos signed both Altherr and Wright and is giving them the best deals so far for first year foreign KBOers this off-season — both Altherr and Wright will reportedly receive $200K signing bonuses and $800K guaranteed salaries, which is the most they can make under the league’s salary cap.  Nick Kingham will also reportedly receive a $900K guarantee, although $200K of that is for a team option for 2021, most likely also for $900K, so if things go right for Kingham and the SK Wyverns, he’ll earn $1.6M over two seasons.

Meanwhile, the low-budget Kiwoom Heroes re-signed pitcher Eric Jokisch for a second KBO season at a modest $700K max, which includes have-to-earn-’em performance incentives.  No one ever said life was fair.

Are Qualifying Offers Negotiable?

November 28, 2019

I saw on mlbtraderumors a few minutes ago that the Orioles are putting middle infielder Jonathan Villar on outright waivers because the O’s don’t want to pay him the $10.1 million he’s projected to get through arbitration, and they couldn’t find a trade partner for him.  As MLBTR points, it seems like kind of a crazy move by the team, as baseball reference ranks Villar as the team’s best position player in 2019, fangraphs says he was worth $31.7M last year, and the O’s 2020 payroll will be low with or without Villar.  It does tend to show why the O’s have been so awful in recent years.

Anyhoo, it made me wonder if O’s could have tried to get Villar to sign at the 2020 price the team wanted, say $7M or $8M (assuming the team valued Villar at that much), and tried to sweeten the deal by releasing any ability the team might have to give him a qualifying offer next off-season.

For certain players, a release of any ability by the team to later give the player a qualifying offer in the future would be well worth a much lower salary to the player now.  There are certain teams, the tightwads particularly, who would also likely be willing to trade away the right to make a Qualifying Offer for the ability to save money during the player’s six years of control.

One issue would be whether a team could permanently waive the QO even if the player is traded to another team later.  Frankly, I don’t see any good reason why not, because any later acquiring team would go in knowing that they they also couldn’t make a qualifying offer and would price that fact in to any trade they make for the player.

A real good example would be Christian Yelich earlier in his career.  The cash-strapped and just plain cheap Marlins might readily have been willing to sell the QO for a smaller salary when they gave Yelich a seven year deal before the 2015 season.  Teams like the Marlins know they are going to lose their best players sooner or later, and maybe selling the QO would have made it possible for the Marlins to hold onto Yelich longer

Meanwhile, had the Marlins sold the QO, the Brewers could have factored this in when traded for Yelich before the 2018 season.  In fact, it would likely not have changed Yelich’s worth at all, because the Brewers would be receiving the same player owed less future salary under Yelich’s long-term deal because Yelich had purchased the QO from the Marlins.

One has to remember that the Qualifying Offer regime is ultimately about holding down player salaries, and I very strongly suspect that teams are intentionally overvaluing what little they actually lose by signing a free agent tied to a QO because there is more sophisticated collusion going on than the old in-your-face collusion the owners got burned on in arbitration back in the 1980’s.

Still, like using opt-out clauses to obtain lower guarantees on long-term contracts, there is no reason why Qualifying Offers should not be negotiable also.  If it does not require further bargaining between the players and owners, it may only be a matter of a crafty player agent like Scott Boras or a crafty team executive to put the QO on the bargaining table as a bargaining chip,  In the case of a young superstar like a Ronald Acuna or Juan Soto, there might be real value to both player and team if the QO is on the table as a subject of discussion.

Aaron Brooks and Ricardo Pinto to Join the KBO in 2020

November 17, 2019

The Kia Tigers of South Korea’s KBO have reached agreement on a one-year deal with soon to be 30 year old former Baltimore Oriole Aaron Brooks, while the SK Wyverns have inked former Tampa Ray Ricardo Pinto.

What I find interesting about the signings is that contract amounts are small, both well under $1 million, but both look to be fully guaranteed, which is unusual for new foreign pitchers joining the KBO.  Brooks is getting a $200,000 signing bonus and a guaranteed salary of $479,000 (so, $679,000 in total), and Pinto is getting a $100,000 signing bonus, a $450,000 guaranteed salary and a $250,000 team option for 2021, at what I would bet dollars to donuts would be a for another $800,000 salary.

Aaron Brooks’ major league record in 2019 looks a lot like Tim Adleman‘s 2017, both players’ respective age-29 seasons.  Adleman got a $1.05 million contract to pitch in the KBO in 2018, which was probably guaranteed, in light of the facts that at the time the contract amount was not as high as it reasonably could have been given Adleman’s 2017 season and that the Samsung Lions kept him around all season in spite of the fact that his performance didn’t match his relatively-high-for-the-KBO salary.

First year contracts for foreign players was limited to a cool $1M effective the 2018-2019 off-season.  It’s entirely possible that Brooks, in particular, could have negotiated a contract that paid a $300K signing bonus and an unguaranteed $700K salary, but it’s just as likely that the Tigers were willing to guarantee his full salary in order to lock him in a lower total compensation amount.  KBO attendance was down in 2019, so a bigger guarantee to lock in a lower salary would certainly make sense from the team’s perspective.

The MLB major league minimum in 2020 will be $563,500 in 2020, but neither Brooks nor Pinto had any real shot of getting a major league (i.e., guaranteed) contract.  Aaron Brooks likely would have earned $575,000 for major league service time in 2020, but after an age-29 season in which he posted a 5.65 ERA and corresponding ratios, it was certainly uncertain that Brooks would have spent even half of the 2020 season on a major league roster.  Better to go to South Korea for a guaranteed $679,000, with a big chunk up front.

Despite his much more limited MLB success, Pinto commanded a bigger guarantee because he has a lot more leverage entering his age 26 season.  His chances of spending a big chunk of the 2020 season on a major league roster are probably better than Brooks’.  Also, the Wyverns have apparently locked him into a second KBO season for what would be a total commitment of $1.35M (at least based on the way second year options almost always work for KBO foreigners).  The Wyverns have been quoted by Yonhap as looking at Pinto as a player they can develop into a mult-year star, although KBO teams almost always treat their foreign players as win-now, immediate-performance.

Pinto is expected to replace Henry Sosa, which is a shame, because Sosa proved he was still a KBO starter after spending the first half of the season in Taiwan’s CPBL.  That’s baseball, and it could mean a repeat performance by Sosa in the CPBL in 2020.

Brooks will replace either Jacob Turner or Joe Wieland, assuming the Tigers don’t decide to replace them both.  I have to assume that Turner is the one who just lost his job, but Wieland shouldn’t be laying out money for living expenses in South Korea in 2020 either.

Ubaldo Jimenez Sighting And Other Winter League Notes

October 17, 2019

It looks like Ubaldo Jimenez is starting a comeback in the Dominican Winter League this month.  He lost his first start, but allowed only one run in five innings and struck out five.  Before this start on October 12th, Jimenez appears not to have pitched anywhere since his final season with the Orioles in 2017.

Whether Jimenez is intent on pitching again in the MLB system, or more likely the Mexican League given that he’ll be 36 in January, remains to be seen.  Jimenez is Dominican so his goal may only be to pitch in front of his home fans and make good money for 2.5 months of play that comes with his status as a former major league star.

I noticed that Evan MacLane is back for another winter in the Dominican Republic at age 36 (he turns 37 on November 4th).  This is his 12th season in the DWL, the last 11 with the Estrellas (Stars) de Oriente.  Interestingly, MacLane appears not to have played summer baseball anywhere since 2015, with the exception of an unsuccessful three-game trial in the Mexican League in 2018.

Typically, a player of Evan MacLane’s talent level and experience will play summers in one of the top three Independent-A leagues, often doing double duty as a pitching or hitting coach in order to earn a living wage and to keep one’s skills sharp for better paid Winter League play.  At MacLane’s age, he apparently doesn’t need to play in the summer to continue to be successful in the Dominican Winter League.  I’d guess that MacLane earns his living in the States coaching baseball somewhere during the summer and is thereby free to continue pitching in the Dominican Republic each winter.

MacLane got a cup of coffee with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2010 and played parts of two seasons with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s NPB in 2011-2012.  He hasn’t made a lot of money or succeeded at the pro game’s highest levels, but he’s put together a nice little career as an Estrellas’ ace.

Another of my favorite minor league players, John Nogowski, is also playing in the Dominican Republic this winter.  So far, so good: after three games, he’s 3-for-8 with a double and four walks.

Nogowski had a good year with the AAA Memphis RedBirds, slashing .295/.413/.476 in 463 plate appearances.  Unfortunately, he turns 27 in January and hasn’t yet played in the Majors, so his window is closing fast.  I’m hoping he can get some major league playing time in 2020, and then if he hasn’t established himself as a major league player by the end of the 2020 season, go to Asia.  We’ll see…

Meanwhile, now 40 year old Chris Roberson has opened up his ninth season with the Aguilas (Eagles) de Mexicali and his 15th in the Mexican Pacific League (LPM) overall.  He slashed .338/.405/.512 this past summer in the Mexican League, but injuries limited him to 72 games played.

Interestingly, both Evan MacLane and Chris Roberson played baseball at Feather River Community College in remote Quincy, California.  MacLane is originally from Chico and Roberson is from Oakland, so they’re both Northern California boys.  Feather River CC apparently has a pretty good baseball program, as it has produced three major leaguers including MacLane and Roberson (the third is Cody Anderson who pitched briefly for the Indians this summer), and 12 players drafted by MLB organizations.  They probably did not attend the school at the same time, and I don’t know if they’ve ever had the opportunity to face each other professionally.

Minnesota Twins Start Randy Dobnak with Predictable Results

October 6, 2019

What were the Twinkies thinking?  They had nobody better than Randy Dobnak to start Game Two of the ALDS against the Yankees?

Dobnak may or may not go on to have a great major league career.  His 2018 and 2019 minor league campaigns certainly don’t suggest he’s going to be the next Johan Santana, but he’s young enough that anything is possible.

What I am dead certain of, however, is that it is unquestionably foolish and almost unforgivable to start a rookie with 28.1 major league innings pitched, a rookie pitcher who had not pitched above the full-season Class-A level before this season, in the second game of a play-off series in which your team is already down 0-1.  No rookie deserves to be thrown into that much pressure after only 28.1 major league innings pitched.

As Earl Weaver once said, the best place for a rookie pitcher is middle relief.  Sometimes, injuries make that impossible.  However, the Twins won their division by eight games.  There is no way they couldn’t have prepared their rotation to have somebody other than Dobnak start Game 2.  Maybe if Dobnak had shut down the Bombers in one of his five regular season starts, but no way if he’d never faced them before, which he hadn’t.

Presumably Rocco Baldelli was playing a hunch, but it wasn’t a good one.  He would have looked like a genius if Dobnak had pitched even reasonably well, but, of course, Dobnak didn’t, and now Baldelli looks like the rookie manager he is.  In fact, it feels like an admission that Baldelli thinks there’s no way his starting rotation can hold back the Yankees’ line-up.

After today’s pasting, it’s going to take some serious stones from Jake Odorizzi, even pitching at home, to prevent this from being a three-game sweep.  It’s worth noting here that in 18 career games against the Yankees, Odorizzi has held the Bombers to a manageable .235/.289./.446 in 418 plate appearances — only the home run ball has been a real threat.

Pan Wei-Lun Sets CPBL Record with 142 Career Wins

September 11, 2019

Right-hander Pan Wei-lun set Taiwan’s CPBL record with 142 career wins two days ago, and no one outside of Taiwan had any idea.

I thought that Pan entered the 2019 season as the CPBL’s all-time wins leader, because he is the all-time leader on the CPBL’s own website, at least as far as all the stats the CPBL publishes indicate.  Ah, but it’s more complicated than that.

The CPBL includes stats from the competing Taiwan Major League (TML) which operated for six seasons between 1997 and 2003, before the TML folded/merged with the CPBL.  Two major leagues in tiny Taiwan?  Yes, baseball is that popular in the former Japanese colony and United States ally/dependent.

Unfortunately, two major gambling scandals in Taiwan pro-baseball’s 30 year history have prevented Taiwanese pro-baseball from drawing the fans Taiwanese baseball fandom otherwise deserves, and Taiwan isn’t and has never been big enough to reasonably support to separate pro baseball leagues.  It’s a shame, but if the CPBL can stay clean on the gambling front, it can one day grow to being a league a shade lower than South Korea’s KBO, rather than a shade better than Mexico’s LMB.

Early CPBL ace Chen Yi-Hsen won 92 games in the CPBL and 49 games in the TML (thanks CPBL Stats).  The CPBL counts TML stats for purposes of its all-time records, but does not publish TML records, which makes it just about impossible for anyone who does not speak Mandarin to figure it all out.

142 career wins isn’t a whole lot as a record for a league (or two) that has been in existence for 30 seasons.  However, history again explains it.  Taiwanese pro-baseball started play in 1990, by which time extensive relief pitching was part of the professional game everywhere.  Additionally, the CPBL hasn’t had the revenue streams necessary to prevent MLB and Japan’s NPB from routinely poaching all of the best Taiwanese amateur talent, especially pitching, since the CPBL’s inception.

Pan Wei-lun;’s career is pretty much what I would expect the best CPBL pitcher to look like.  Pan doesn’t have the kind of elite stuff that would have made his signing by an MLB or NPB organization a foregone conclusion.  But he really knows how to pitch.

Like a lot of pitchers without terrific stuff but who really know how to pitch, Pan was a CPBL ace from his age 21 through 28 seasons (2003-2010), but then he experienced a series of nagging injuries.  However, he didn’t have a career ending injury, and he was just healthy and hitter-fooling enough that he has continued to pitch through 17 CPBL seasons.  Since 2010, Pan only been truly healthy (in terms of actual innings pitched) in 2015 and this season, but when he can pitch, he’s always been good enough for his team, the 7/11 Uni-Lions, to keep him around until the wheels truly and finally fall off.

Pan now has a 142-87 career record with a 3.24 ERA in what has been, for most of his career anyway, an extreme hitters’ league.  MLB major league pitchers I might compare Pan to are Mike Flanagan, Ray Sadecki and John Candelaria.

Will the Baltimore Orioles Finally Dump Chris Davis?

August 8, 2019

News out of Charm City is that Chris Davis had to be restrained from going after manager Brandon Hyde today after being pinch hit for in the bottom of the 5th inning.  You know what?  You don’t get to cop an attitude when you’re an aging slugger with a .589 OPS in August.  Not now, not ever.

If I were the Orioles’ General Manager, or whomever holds the real power in the Orioles’ organization, I’d release Chris Davis tomorrow and eat the remaining $69M+ on his contract.  When a player is playing as far as Davis is playing below replacement, you just have to eat the contract and hope somebody else is willing to pay him the major league minimum — the same cost to the O’s as the replacement level player they should be able to find to replace him.  A team can’t afford to accept attitude from a worse-than-marginal player no matter how much he is being paid.

It’s uncertain if Hyde will last beyond the end of the 2019 season, but that’s beside the point.  Even if Hyde is proving he’s no better as a manager than Davis is a 1B/DH, you can’t hold onto a player who isn’t performing now and isn’t likely to perform in the future.  Hyde’s record as a manager would certainly be better if word wasn’t coming from somewhere higher that he has to keep playing Davis solely because of all the money the O’s committed to Davis.

Just admit that a mistake was made, and move on.  The Orioles are so bad that it is certain that no matter how much of a comeback Davis could potentially make going forward, he won’t be good enough to make the Orioles a post-season contending team.  Find that replacement-level player now, and try to develop a real star for 2020 or 2021 or 2022 and on.

Chris Davis’ contract is yet another reason why teams have gotten a whole lot stingier on free agents thanks to sabrmetrics than they once were.  Hope springs eternal, but the objective data says that free agents are way overpaid when they ought to be merely overpaid.  For every Chris Davis and Albert Pujols, there is a Nelson Cruz, but those aren’t great odds.  And teams have been generally stingy with their contracts to Cruz since his PED positive test to their great benefit.

The objective lesson is treat ’em all like Nelson Cruz and then some.  The Mariners gave Cruz a four-year $57M deal going into this age 34 season, so even in Cruz’s case, the team took some risk.  Teams collectively only benefit by holding the line on free agent salaries, and superstar players will still get paid because many teams still believe and will likely continue to believe that they are only one or two free agents away from contention.

If Davis gets the axe in Baltimore, it will be interesting see if another team signs him to a major league contract, even at the MLB minimum salary.   If Davis can’t hit playing half his games in Baltimore, is a change of scenery really going to make a difference.  Maybe the Rangers would sign him to play at the major league level — Davis is from Texas, and there’s no better place to hit in the Junior Circuit than the Ballpark at Arlington (or whatever it is now called).  The O’s should let the Rangers give Davis a shot.