With the way the 2019 season has stared, Orioles fans have plenty of time to think about what could’ve been, as they sit through three hours of the Orioles bullpen throwing batting practice. The worst part? The team the Orioles could’ve had would be… downright good. The incremental WAR added by the players on the roster would increase the Orioles team WAR to be fractions of a point below the Rays, who are six team WAR points above the first place Yankees.
All of this for the low low cost of about an additional $104 million a year. Taking the O’s from the 29th highest salary in the league to about the 5th, depending upon your source. Obviously, most of this is in the contracts of Manny Machado and Jake Arrieta, the first who left the team for free agency (kind of), the latter, well… we don’t talk about that.
So with that, let’s run down the starting nine, shall we?
C – Matt Wieters 2019 WAR 0.5, .387 / 3 HR / 9 RBI / 1.121 OPS $1.5 Million/year
Okay, so he’s 33, he got on the roster as a Spring Training invitee, but… Matt Wieters! His half a win above a replacement player is about the same as Severino’s, so this one could go either way as to whether it’s worth the $1.5 million, but it’s always nice to have a little depth at catcher.
1B – Chris Davis 2019 WAR -0.7, .171 / 5 HR / 17 RBI / .575 OPS
Look, I said the team was better, not that it was perfect. Davis has pretty much been the only 1B Orioles fans have seen since… *shudders* Mark Reynolds. Woof. Let’s just move on.
2B – Jonathan Schoop 2019 WAR 1.1, .254 / 10 HR / 29 RBI / .799 OPS $7.5 million
Villar is going to move over since we can’t pull J.J. Hardy off his boat in retirement, and man oh man does that middle infield look good. Schoop adds some punch to the lineup, and getting Richie Martin out of the lineup takes away his negative 1.0 WAR. Sorry Richie.
SS – Jonathan Villar 2019 WAR 1.0, .259 / 7 HR / 25 RBI / .740 OPS
As promised, we move Villar over and the middle infield goes from a combined 0 WAR to a +2 WAR, which ain’t bad at this juncture.
3B – Manny Machado 2019 WAR 1.3, .264 / 9 HR / 27 RBI / .830 OPS $30 million
Okay, so this one is probably unreasonable. The Orioles had the chance to sign Manny and he didn’t. So as an alternative we can keep Renato Núñez and his 14 HRs and +0.5 WAR for only $560,000. That alone would drop the Orioles from 5th highest payroll to 13th.
LF – Trey Mancini – 2019 WAR 0.6, .295 / 10 HR / 26 RBI / .874 OPS
The third piece of the team that stays put, Mancini is number two in WAR for the Orioles so far this season, batting nearly .300. Now, given the potential lineup, you could have Mancini batting as low as 6th. I’m sure O’s fans would kill to have a 6th hitter just a shade below .300
CF – Adam Jones – 2019 WAR 0.2, .281 / 11 HR / 35 RBI / .834 OPS $3 million
One of two fan-friendly moves, bringing Adam back seems like a no-brainer with the discounted contract in Arizona. Oh, and did we mention he’s on absolute fire this spring with 11 HRs already?
RF – Nick Markakis – 2019 WAR 1.1, .278 / 4 HR / 28 RBI / .794 OPS $4 million
Along with Adam, this is for the fans, but Markakis can still slash, batting nearly .280 on the season, which isn’t bad for a guy nearly 36 years old. And besides, let him retire an Oriole!
DH – Nelson Cruz – 2019 WAR 0.7, .270 / 7 HR / 22 RBI / .862 OPS $14 million
This is an expensive one for a nearly-39 year old guy who can’t play in the field, but hey, it’s the 2019 Orioles. We’re winning it all with these moves in our hypothetical universe.
So that’s it for the field, but as we all know, the Orioles need pitching more than anything. Here are a couple of adds, though not necessarily the full rotation, I would consider these upgrades to likely be enough to get the team to “serviceable” levels.
SP – Jake Arrieta – 2019 WAR 1.5 5-4, 3.60, 70 IP $25 million
Sure, this is an overpay. But he won a Cy Young as soon as he left, and if they brought him back I’m telling the pitching coaches to leave him alone and let him throw his cutter.
SP – Wade Miley – 2019 WAR 1.5 5-3, 3.25, 69 IP $4.5 million
This is a surprising value play for a guy who was mostly just eating up innings without spectacular performances a few years ago. The Orioles could very desperately use someone to do this to keep the bullpen off the field.
SP – Dylan Bundy – 2019 WAR 0.9 2-6, 4.58, 59 IP
The final keep. Despite his record, he’s one of the best WAR players on the roster. It’s too bad he can’t get any run support.
CP – Zack Britton – 2019 WAR 0.8 2-0/2 Saves, 2.22 ERA 25 appearances $13 million
Bring him back as a closer, put him in for the Wild Card game, let’s exorcise all the demons at once.
Manager – Buck Showalter
Okay I just miss Buck. I like Hyde too but I really like Buck.
Andrew Miller, Setup Man – The contract is just too much for what he has on offer, sorry Andrew.
Steve Pearce, LF – Another negative WAR add, plus the O’s would have about the three favorite players in the last 10 years playing in the outfield with the reassembled trio of Mancini, Jones, and Markakis. Sorry Steve.
Larry Bigbie, LF – Ok, he hasn’t played for 20 years but we miss you. You can throw BP or something.