Thanks again for all of the questions we received for this week’s Mailbag. As you know, we can only pick a short few, but you can ask the MLBTR staff considerably more questions during our three weekly chats — Tuesdays at 2pm CT with myself, Wednesdays at 6:30pm CT with Jason Martinez and Thursdays at 2pm CT with Jeff Todd. Onto this week’s questions…
The Orioles desperately need an infusion of OBP, and appear to have a RF spot open for next season. The question is… who might be available via FA or trade that could provide that at a cost the team can afford? Jon Jay? Matt Joyce as a strict platoon with Joey Rickard? Ryan Braun if Milwaukee eats a bunch of that contract? Choo if Texas eats a bunch of that contract? I just don’t think that a reincarnated Michael Bourn is the answer. Thanks. — Patrick D.
Agreed that Bourn isn’t any kind of answer for them in right field. And, as impressive as Mark Trumbo’s power was this season, his glovework in right field negated a fair bit of the value his home runs provided. He’s better-suited at first base, but with Chris Davis’ presence, that’s not really an option.
The Brewers haven’t shown much of an inclination to eat a huge amount of Braun’s contract, and the more of it they covered, the greater the return they’d seek. As this year’s trade deadline exemplified, the Orioles aren’t exactly deep in top-tier prospects. Choo is older than Braun and comes with durability question marks (plus platoon issues).
On paper, a Rickard/Joyce platoon has at least a chance of being productive at the plate, but Rickard drew poor defensive ratings in the outfield this season and looked lost against right-handers, whom he’d have to face at least occasionally even in a platoon setting. Moreover, patchwork platoon setups in the corner outfield have been a staple for the O’s for years now without terrific results. Baltimore has cycled through names like Nolan Reimold, Delmon Young, Dariel Alvarez, Chris Dickerson, David Lough, Travis Snider and many others in recent years while trying to patch up the outfield corners. And Hyun Soo Kim will already require some degree of platooning in left field in 2017.
Jay would make a nice outfield target for Baltimore, given his career .352 OBP and relatively even platoon splits. Plus, he’d probably like the idea of rebuilding some value in a more hitter-friendly division/ball park and would provide some insurance if center fielder Adam Jones needs a rest or suffers an injury. That fit makes the most sense of anyone on the free-agent market, unless the Orioles want to beat the market for Jose Bautista and continue to live with questionable defense in right field, which seems unlikely. Colby Rasmus, Nori Aoki and non-tender candidate Ben Revere all had down seasons, and I doubt Dexter Fowler’s camp is going to be anxious to rekindle talks following last winter’s debacle. (Plus, he figures to be rather expensive.) Matt Holliday can still hit but has never been a right fielder (or even a particularly great defensive left fielder.) Revere intrigues me as a buy-low candidate, but he’s never been a big OBP guy. Likewise, Josh Reddick has only a .316 career OBP. Though he has trended up in that regard of late, he might be out of the O’s price range. All things considered, Jay makes a good bit of sense in Baltimore.
Should the Brewers keep, non-tender Chris Carter, or maybe try to trade him? — N.
I don’t see any real cause to non-tender him, even if his steep $8.1MM salary projection ends up being accurate. Milwaukee has so very little committed elsewhere on the payroll that they can handle that without much trouble, and fans like seeing home runs. Carter hasn’t had much value in the past — hence last winter’s non-tender — so considering that and a fairly sizable bump in salary, I doubt there will be many clubs lining up strong offers to get him. But, he was a solid bat last season even with the punchouts, and the Brewers don’t have anyone immediately pushing for his job at first base. Keep him around and, barring a surprising change in his valuation on this winter’s trade market, see if a club needs some DH/1B help at next summer. If not — at least you have another season of a 40-homer bat with a penchant for tape-measure shots to elicit some admiration from those attending the games.
What kind of contract do you see Greg Holland fetching? Maybe a one-year deal with some high AAV team/mutual options? — Shay C.
I don’t really envision Holland and Scott Boras jumping on board with a team option when Holland should theoretically be ready to suit up for Spring Training next season. I’m leaning toward a two-year deal with a lower salary in the first season and a steeper one in year two — possibly something in the vein of $12-16MM total. Alternatively, Boras and Holland could try to go the Brian Wilson route and sign a one-year deal with a steep player option for the second season. That’s effectively an opt-out clause, and it’s pure downside for the team, so I have a tougher time seeing it.
All that being said, that kind of contract has obviously been given out before, and there will be intense demand for high-upside pen arms. The fact of the matter is that a lot of mediocre relief arms are going to get two- and in a few cases even three-year deals this winter — there aren’t tons of other places to spend your money — and some team could look at Holland as an opportunity to add a guy that was not long ago projected to compete with Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen for the top relief contract this winter at what will be a relatively bargain rate. Two years and $12-16MM might seem steep for a guy that didn’t pitch this year, but that’s the type of money that teams pay fourth outfielders (Chris Young) and back-of-the-rotation starters (the other Chris Young, Mike Pelfrey). If some team thinks it can get a legitimate relief ace in Holland — or even something close to it — why not?
How many QO’s are given out this year and who do you think gets them? — Adam D.
I’ll break this up into a couple of categories: Locks for qualifying offers and guys that I can see getting consideration.
As for players that I think have a chance of receiving them — we’ll say 20 percent or more, to put a rough number on it… basically as a means of illustrating that it wouldn’t shock me — I’ll list Neil Walker, Michael Saunders, Wilson Ramos, Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli and Matt Wieters.
Of that bunch, I do think Walker will still get one, barring a huge setback in his recovery from back surgery. I lean toward giving one to Saunders, as I don’t think there’s huge downside to having him at one year and $16-17MM, but I’m aware of his terrible second half, and not everyone on the MLBTR staff shares that viewpoint with me.
I’d like to wait until after Ramos’ surgery before making a prediction, but I’d lean toward no on the QO unless there’s confidence that he can be ready in mid-2017 and a belief that he’ll have multi-year interest elsewhere. I’d steer clear of Napoli, Morales and Wieters as well, though sticking either Napoli or Morales with a QO could lead to an accelerated two-year deal worth a few million more than the QO value, which isn’t a bad outcome — say, $24-28MM. It’s also not clear whether the Indians or Royals will be okay with taking such a big payroll hit if either of those sluggers were to accept. Wieters accepted last season and would probably again this year after a solid but not great year. That’s not the worst situation, but the O’s have enough questions elsewhere on the roster — and, perhaps, enough of a payroll crunch — that they needn’t be allocating ~$17MM to a catcher that hasn’t been a decidedly above-average bat over the life of a full season since 2011-12.
So that puts me at 11 QOs that I feel like should be offered. Realistically, I can see both Walker and Saunders not getting them, and some from my group of “no” players receiving them. I’ll estimate between 10 and 13 are ultimately extended.