Rebuilding the Baltimore Orioles

A look into the Crystal Ball for the Baltimore Orioles

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At 26-69, the 2018 Baltimore Orioles are not a very good team. They currently sit in last place in the AL East, almost 40 games behind the Boston Red Sox. At 75-87, the 2017 Baltimore Orioles were not a very good team either, they also finished in last place in the AL East, this time by 18 games.

That much is bad, but it is very much likely that the 2019 and 2020 versions of the Orioles will be even worse than the ones fans have experienced over the last few seasons. Manny Machado, one of the games premier stars will leave for free agency at the end of this season. The same can be said of Zach Britton, one of the very best closers in the game. Adam Jones, a 5 time All-Star center fielder, will also depart through free agency. A team that is pushing to become the first team to 120 losses in decades, is about to lose their three best players.

And that’s not all. To rub salt in the wound of Orioles fans, their two next best players, Jonathon Schoop and Darren O’Day will be lost to free agency after 2019.

The Orioles are a mess and with a farm system ranked 24th in baseball, there aren’t any reinforcements coming to save them. With a team in this position, all signs point towards a rebuild. Of course, you already know this – that’s why you’ve been frantically refreshing MLB Trade Rumors for the last week hoping for more Machado rumors.

The Orioles are about to enter what could be a very tough few years and while many articles will be written trying to predict the return for each of these players, I wanted to do something a little different. Rather than looking at the here-and-now, I wanted to look forward to the end of the process, well I guess it’s the middle – today we are going to take a look at what the Orioles farm system might look like once the dust has settled.

Taking Stock

Before we can look too far forward, we first have to take inventory of what the Orioles might have to sell. And while many outlets are looking at the impacts of a partial rebuild (that is trading just their impending free agents) I want to take a look at what a full tear down might look like.

To do this, today we are trading every player worth trading – I count 13 of them. Below is a table that shows the (very) rough WAR projection and future earnings of each player and uses that to calculate the total surplus value the Orioles have to trade.

(Projections per ZIPS – with some fudging from the author, Contract Info per Cots… also with some meddling) 

Keep in mind this is very rough math but based off of this, the Orioles have $138m in surplus value that can be used in trade. I think this is a slight overestimation due to the false ‘linear win to dollar’ assumption but it gets us in the ballpark. For this though, the overestimation might actually be helpful.

Now that we have a feel for what the Orioles might have to offer in present value. Let’s see what we might be able to buy.

Shopping Spree

Thanks to the great work of the people at The Point of Pittsburgh, we can assign a dollar value to the top 100 prospects in baseball.

The table here is taken directly out of the article linked above. As you can see, the Orioles could theoretically buy themselves a top 10 hitter and some change but the distribution of talent the Orioles are offering here is important. As we can tell by the trade rumours that have been circling for the last week or so, even the Orioles top trade chip, Manny Machado, wouldn’t net them a prospect of this caliber. Instead, the names thrown around belong towards the back end of the 26-50 tier.

What I want to do below, is draw up a rough composition of what this surplus value might get the Orioles. As I said, I think this is an overestimation of what they could realistically obtain but that makes what comes next even more compelling. As you can see below, I have chosen what I feel to be a reasonable distribution of prospect tiers that the Orioles could request. I have then thrown some names based on the Fangraphs Top 100 Prospect list for context. I tried as much as possible to pick players from teams that have been linked to the Orioles in recent trade rumors.

  • 1 Hitter (26-50) – Alex Verdugo
  • 1 Pitcher (51-75) – Touki Touissant
  • 2 Hitters (76-100) – Yu Chang, Michael Chavis
  • 1 Pitcher (76-100) – Joey Wentz

Total Spend = $113m

On paper, that might look like a reasonable talent haul but keep in mind we just traded away every player of interest from the major league roster. Now add in the fact that they are building from the 6th worst farm system in baseball and things look less promising. As you can see the total ‘cost’ of these prospects checks in around $113m, short of the $138m available to spend. This is required to leave room for non-ranked prospects that usually build out these deals.

So what we’ve done so far is determine the surplus value the Orioles currently have to rebuild with and use that to guesstimate what that might look like in prospects. What I want to do now is talk about where this puts the Orioles going forward. As you may have guessed by the tone, it’s not particularly favourable.

To Summarise…

With the surplus value currently available in the organisation, the Orioles in this scenario were able to acquire 5 top 100 prospects. They also currently have Austin Hays bringing the Orioles top 100 prospect total to 6. Thanks to MLB.com’s pre-season farm system rankings, that would put the Orioles in a tie for 4th alongside the Rays, Phillies and Yankees. The Orioles system however, would still be lacking in depth so even in this favourable scenario, the Orioles are looking at probably the 7th best farm system in baseball and that’s after a full tear down. For context, the White Sox, after undertaking a similar process 2 years ago rank 3rd. They also managed to keep All-Stars Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia.

Further, we’ve already stated that this is a likely overestimation. I’m skeptical that the Orioles would be able to pry a bat like Verdugo away from another team and that would be a huge blow to this process.

The goal for this piece was to take a look at the position the Baltimore Orioles might be in a few years from now. While they are lucky to have a few premium trade assets to jump start this rebuild, even a full tear down would leave them in a less than favourable position.

It looks like it might be a long few years at Camden Yards.

Feature Image Credit: Keith Allison – Flickr

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