Archive for the ‘Baltimore Orioles’ category

Conner Menez Watch

June 27, 2019

24 year old Conner Menez has made three starts at AAA Sacramento.  He has a 3.31 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 16.1 innings pitched.  In a woefully bad season for the San Francisco Giants, this is something to be excited about.

Menez is from Hollister, a semi-rural small city in San Benito County, where some people probably commute to work in San Jose in what must one of the more brutal commutes going.  He went to the Master’s College, a Christian school in SoCal.  He was drafted by the Giants in the 14th round of the 2016 Draft.

Jerry Owens is the only Master’s College matriculant to play in the majors.  Absent major injury, Menez will be the second.

One of the great things about baseball is that seeming nobodies from small schools can be drafted after hundreds of other players (Menez was the 425th player selected in 2016) and still reach the major leagues if everything breaks right for them.

Menez’s first two years of pro ball weren’t particularly impressive.  He had decent, but not particularly impressive, strikeout rates and he needed to learn how to pitch.  He started the 2018 season at A+ San Jose and had a pedestrian 4.83 ERA through 11 starts.  However, he struck out 70 batters through 50.1 innings.  Did he add a new pitch, or improve on a pitch that became his new strikeout pitch?  I don’t know.

He was promoted to AA Richmond, where his 4.38 ERA across 15 starts in a pronounced pitchers’ park was not impressive.  But he struck out 92 batters in 74 IP at the level in which the real prospects predominate.  Meanwhile, he made a couple of emergency starts for AAA Sacramento in which he posted a 3.27 ERA and struck out nine in 11 IP.  He was also assigned back down to A- Salem-Keiser several times, but never actually made a start there, in what I have to assume were roster moves designed to give other pitchers a look at the AA level.

In short, Menez finished the 2018 season with a 4.46 ERA across three levels of play, but he struck out 171 batters in 135.1 IP (!).  That strikeout rate is what you look for in a pitching prospect.  He also walked 60 and allowed 127 hits, which is why his ERA was so high.

This year, Menez’s command has improved.  That, or he’s more willing to challenge hitters with his stuff.  Through 11 AA and three AAA starts, he’s struck out 101 batters in 76 IP, but only allowed 50 hits and 25 walks.  He’s allowed nine home runs this season, which is one more than he allowed in 2017 and 2018 combined across a total of 249.2 IP.  That’s what makes me think he’s challenging a better caliber of hitter more often with his stuff.

My guestimate is that the Giants will give Menez at least 2-4 more starts at AAA Sacto, and if the results are the same or better, he’ll replace Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Beede or a traded Madison Bumgarner in the rotation, at least to start.  As Earl Weaver once said, the best place for a rookie pitcher is middle relief.


San Francisco Giants Claim Yet Another Mediocre Outfielder

June 21, 2019

The Giants’ quest to obtain every major-league-marginal outfielder in MLB continues.  Today the team claimed Baltimore Orioles wash-out Joey Rickard, who batted .203 for the major league club this year and .203 at AAA Norfolk.  Rickard’s OPS numbers are better, but not good enough to get around that consistent .203 batting average.

My guess is that Rickard will play about as well for the Giants or the Sacramento River Cats about as Mac Williamson has played for the Mariners since they claimed him off waivers from the Giants, which is to say not very well at all.

It seems to me that it isn’t too early to start the fire sale of Giant major leaguers who still have some value to other major league teams.  The Gints are 18.5 games out of the NL West lead and have the worst run differential in the Senior Circuit.  The Giants are only eight games behind the Brewers for the second wild card spot, but have eight teams between themselves and the Brew Crew.

After Madison Bumgarner‘s poor outing in L.A. and the published comment that the Yankees won’t trade Clint Frazier for a “rental” yesterday, a MadBum for Frazier trade looks a lot less likely than it did a few days ago.  Still, the Giants have a lot of other assets than another team might covet, and the Yankees’ resolve to get value for Frazier may waiver as the 2019 trade deadline nears.

It’s fair to say, however, that such trades rarely get completed before the All Star Break, and probably won’t be in the 2019 Giants’ case.  One thing I am more sure of than ever, though, is that at least one 4-A player in Giants’ system will be playing in one of the Asian major leagues in 2020.

San Francisco Giants Outfield Churn Continues

March 23, 2019

The Gints are still trying to improve their outfield mix as the regular season rapidly approaches, but they keep bringing in more of the same marginal players.  They released Cameron Maybin, and traded for Michael Reed and Mike Yastrzemski, while trading John Andreoli for Reed and RHP Tyler Herb for Yaz.

Reed is going into his age 26 season, and he was really good in 53 games at AAA Gwinnett last year (.997 OPS).  In that sense, he looks a lot like Connor Joe, whom the Giants just brought in yesterday.  Reed can apparently play all three outfield positions and is expected to split playing time with Steven Duggar in center field, assuming Reed makes the major league club out of Spring Training.  For the Twins this spring, Reed went 5-for-18 with a home run.

While Reed seems like an improvement over Andreoli, he’s obviously not much of an improvement.  The recent spate of moves feel very much like a grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side-of-the-mountain situation, with the has-beens and never-have-beens the Giants started camp with mostly underwhelming and now being replaced at the last minute with a new crop of perhaps, marginially better has-beens and never-have-beens.  None of it inspires much confidence.

Yet another outfielder we could signed by the Giants in short order is former Giants prospect Adam Duvall.  The Braves gave Duvall a $2.88 million contract for 2019 in spite of how poorly he played late last season in Atlanta.  If the Braves release him before the regular season starts, the team will only be on the hook for slightly less than $700,000 of the $2.88M total as severance pay.

Duvall would be a natural fit for the Giants, who can always use a another right-handed power bat in left field (where Duvall’s defense is great), and the Giants have been collecting marginal outfielders like Duvall all off-season.  I’d certainly like to see the Giants give Duvall a shot on a minor league contract if the Braves release him, particularly as it seems more and more clear the team has no intention of bringing in anyone significantly better.

Jake Barrett Gets Screwed

March 1, 2019

It’s tough to be a marginal major leaguer who designated for assignment on the eve of Spring Training.  The Giants claimed Jake Barrett off waivers earlier in the off-season, but then designated him for assignment in order to claim Hanser Alberto off waivers on February 22nd.

Barrett apparently sat in DFA limbo until today when he was claimed by the Pirates.  In the meantime, he didn’t get to pitch even one game this spring for the Giants.

Although Barrett still has time to make an impression with the Bucs, for a marginal player to miss any opportunities to show what he can do (even if it’s across only half a dozen games) in Spring Training is an absolute killer.  A couple of missed relief appearances could be all it takes to decide whether he starts the season in Pittsburgh or AAA Indianapolis.

Ironically, the Giants apparently just designated Hanser Alberto for assignment, as he was reportedly claimed by the Orioles today.  At least Alberto was able to get eight plate appearances (he had two hits and two walks) for the Giants this spring before switching teams. No word yet on who the Giants claimed off waivers or are assigning to their 40-man roster to take Alberto’s place.

I’m a little sad to see Barrett go.  He looks a lot like one of those scrap heap relievers the Giants seem to find every off-season who pitches well and helps the team in San Francisco.

Some Order Has Been Restored to the (Baseball) Universe

February 20, 2019

It’s being reported that Manny Machado and the San Diego Padres have reached agreement on a deal that will last ten years and guarantee Machado $300 million, with an opt-out after the fifth season, the money fairly evenly spread over the ten year term and a limited no trade clause.  It was a long time in coming, but it sure seems in line with the other free agent contracts already signed this off-season.

I was figuring that unless the teams were in fact colluding, Machado would get at a minimum eight years and a $250 million guarantee, because that would a bargain for the age 26 through 33 seasons for a player of Machado’s caliber.  This is, in fact, what the White Sox offered Machado, although the ChiSox offer also included a whopping $100M in performance incentives and additional years.

That Machado got an extra two years and $50M guaranteed over an eight year, $250M deal seems in line with what the best offer would be in light of the tough negotiating teams have been performing this off-season.  Still, until the deal was finally reported with Spring Training already underway, one certainly couldn’t be sure what Machado would finally get.

I agree with Justin Verlander that signing Machado or Bryce Harper to a long-term deal is actually a good move for a rebuilding team like the Padres.  Even if the Friars need another three years to put together a contender, they’ll still have Machado for another five years (barring injury) of peak or close-to-peak performance.

Paying generational players like Machado or Harper even record-setting contracts tends to be a better risk than signing most other free agents, because they reach free agency younger and their peak performance lasts longer.  Of course, there is risk, since ten years is a lot of time for a debilitating injury to occur.

Machado’s offensive numbers are going to drop playing half his games at Petco Park, but the fact that Machado is not a “Johnny Hustle” type who gets too high or too low may actually be a good thing.  I don’t see Machado losing confidence in his abilities just because his offensive numbers drop off a little.

Now we’ll see what Harper gets, most likely from the Phillies.  I’d guess at least $330M guaranteed and possibly as much as $360M guaranteed over 10 to 12 seasons.

Yoon Suk-Min Takes Record Pay Cut

January 30, 2019

Remember Yoon Suk-Min (or Suk-Min Yoon, if you prefer)?  He was a top KBO hurler who fell on his face after the Baltimore Orioles signed him and sent him to AAA Norfolk in 2014.

He returned to South Korea after his disastrous American season on a generous four year deal with the KBO Kia Tigers.  Unfortunately, arm problems (too many innings pitched at too young an age for a guy who isn’t very big) have kind of dis-railed his pro career.

Anyway, Yoon is back in the news in a very minor way.  He just set a KBO record by taking a 1.05 billion ($940,000) won pay cut for the 2019 season.  He made 1.25 billion won in 2018 and will be making 200 million won ($180,000) in 2019.

By way of comparison, MLB players cannot be paid less than 80% of their previous year’s salary by their current time, although, of course, teams can simply release any player who they don’t think is worth 80% of their previous year’s salary.  As a practical matter, no MLB player ever takes a 20% pay cut unless they are badly injured.  Players who aren’t arbitration eligible generally aren’t paid enough to take a 20% pay cut, and arbitration eligible players are either non-tendered or get a pay raise simply by virtue of service time additions.

The good news for Yoon is that he made good money on his previous four-year deal, and even $180,000 a season is a good two or three years of income for the average South Korean man Yoon’s age (he’s now 32).  Playing professional baseball in a true major league is good work if you’re good enough to get it.

Los Angeles Dodgers Sign A.J. Pollock for $55 Million

January 26, 2019

So much for the Giants signing A.J. Pollock, one of the few premium free agents the team had been linked to.  The Dodgers signed Pollock for four years and $55M, only $5M less than had predicted.

At least the Giants get to keep the draft pick compensation that signing Pollock required, and management is making noises that they will still find a way to improve the outfield mix before Spring Training starts.  I’m really starting to feel, though, that new General Manager Farhan Zaidi was brought in to start a quiet re-build of the team that will begin in earnest next July if the 2019 club, with it’s core of veteran players, doesn’t play better/win more than they did last year.

The Padres have reportedly gotten in on Manny Machado because his market isn’t where everyone was expecting it to be.  It’s possible the Gints could similarly jump in on Bryce Harper, but I won’t have any expectations of that front until a signing is reported to be imminent.

What I am starting to anticipate with so many top free agents still unsigned is that the final contract guarantees will be disappointing, but will feature lots and lots of player opt-outs.  When teams originally began giving players opt-out clauses, as I’ve written before, it seemed absolutely crazy because the players getting the opt-outs were also getting record-setting deals.  Times have changed in a big way, and now the player opt-outs have become the miss congeniality, second banana prize in place of the record-setting contract guarantee.

J.D. Martinez‘s contract last year was the perfect example of this.  The $110M guarantee was disappointing, but he gets two opt-outs after each of the 2019 and 2020 season.  I could easily see either or both of Manny Machado or Bryce Harper getting $75M to $100M less in guarantee than projected, but getting like three or four or even five separate opt-outs over the length of the contract.

Why not?  The opt-out clauses make sense if the team can short the player on the guarantee.  In Bryce Harper’s case in particular, I have no doubt that Scott Boras will wring out every single possible term he can to get that benefits his client, particularly if he can’t get a record-setting guarantee.  Manny’s agent Dan Lozano won’t be far behind Boras.