Tag Archives: Baltimore

Diamond Exchange: The Gallardo/Smith Trade

It’s a new year, time to get my baseball hat back on! The news front has been quite quiet lately, but today’s deal of Yovanni Gallardo and cash by the Orioles to the Mariners for Seth Smith provides something to analyze.

Trade Background: Yovanni Gallardo had become expendable for the Orioles because of bringing Wade Miley on board. Meanwhile, their right-handed heavy hitting lineup needed another left-handed bat. For the Mariners, the trade of Taijuan Walker created an innings pitched void. They also will be giving left-hander Ben Gamel a shot at the everyday right-field job which made Smith theoretically expendable. (Update this all changed with the acquisition of Jarrod Dyson later in the day shifting Gamel to a backup role, Haniger to right field and keeping Leonys Martin in center.) I’ll have more on that deal later.

Roster Impacts: As mentioned, losing Gallardo does not impact the Orioles rotation given the presence of Miley. Smith’s role will be pretty much unchanged from his career-long role of platoon outfielder. As the left-handed half, he’ll likely consume his usual 425 to 450 plate appearances. Right-handed platoon mate possibility include Joey Rickard and Christian Walker with minor leaguers Dariel Alvarez, Adam Brett Walker, and Mike Yastrzemski dark horse candidates for that honor.

In Seattle, Gallardo appears to be the #4 starter on opening day. As mentioned, Ben Gamel will get first crack at the right field job. Danny Valencia is also a potential platoon partner or could in theory win the right field job outright from Gamel with prospect Mitch Haniger (acquired from Arizona in the Walker deal) likely to open the season in left. (Update: again, Haniger is now expected to start in right with Gamel in a back-up role and Dyson/Martin manning left and center field respectively). Valencia may end up in a supersub role.

Player Analysis: Seth Smith, 34, has been rather consistent over the course of his career though his strikeout rates have gone up over the last few years and a batting average in the .240s to .250s are now the norm. Smith’s HR/FB rates were well above normal in 2016 at over 18% compared to his normal 11 to 12% mark. However, the move from a below average HR hitters park to an above average one in Camden yards may mitigate some of the regression especially when you consider Camden Yards consistently rates as one of the better places for left-handers to hit the longball. In other words, instead of dropping back to the 10 to 12 HR range, Smith might remain in the 14 to 16 HR range. It may also help a tad in the batting average department too.  A .254 15 HR line seems quite reasonable.

Gallardo’s 2016 campaign was bar-none the worst of his career with the metrics backing up the fact that he deserved an ERA over 5.00 with an xFIP of 5.22 and the highest walk rate and home run allowed rates of his career. It should be noted that his velocity has dropped over recent seasons, losing a mph off all his pitches with his fastball dropping below 90 mph. His 2016 season also was notable in terms of his splits with right-handers, who he handled effectively in the past holding them to a sub .400 SLG over his career, slugged .469.

To be fair, Gallardo battled a shoulder injury for much of his season and may never have been fully healthy. He’ll only be 31 on opening day, so a return to full health (if that was the sole reason for the off-year) is not out of the question. Pitching in Seattle will help, and if healthy, a return to career norms should help in the walk, groundball, splits, and home runs allowed department. The combination, however, still suggests barring a massive improvement in velocity and strikeout rates, an inning eating pitcher with ERA into the 4’s and at most a $1 end game type pick.

Final Thoughts: The Mariners acquired, health permitting, an inning eater, but given that they are tentatively slated to use rookies in their outfield in lieu of Smith, they may lose lineup stability/predictability. As far as from a fantasy perspective, this is not a deal that will substantially change either player’s draft day value.

What’s a Joey Rickard?

Joey Rickard was on virtually no one’s radar heading into spring training. A quick scan of just about every prominent prospect publication on the market not only doesn’t list the former Devil Ray amongst the top prospects but do not even mention him on any lists or are any prospect depth charts. Still, the Orioles selected him in this past off-season’s Rule-5 draft as a potential back-up, a role that seemed to be consistent with his ceiling at the time. The former ninth-round pick certainly has some attractive skills, particularly for that role, as a solid defender at all three outfield positions.  Offensively, Rickard enjoys having plus speed and is coming off of a twenty-four stolen base season amongst three different levels of minor league play. The righty also possesses a fundamentally sound approach at the plate, walking more often than he struck out between A+ and AA ball last season. That approach fell somewhat apart as he made contact just 81% of the time in 104 Triple-A plate appearances while watching his walk rate slip to under 10%. Tools-wise, Rickard’s most significant shortcoming in his game is a lack of power. He managed just two home runs last year and has hit no more than eight in any previous single minor league season. Fortunately, Rickard has at least shown modest gap power, hitting doubles and triples at solid rates in the minors.

As of this writing, it appears Rickard has forced the Orioles hand and will open 2016 as their starting left fielder and will likely force them to rework Korean import, Hyun-Soo Kim’s contract to the point of either requesting he go to the minors or have his contract voided altogether (with compensation of course).

As fantasy players, with stolen bases in such high demand, it forces our hand too. In order to obtain him, if you’ve already drafted that is, AL-only leaguers will have to commit a fairly significant amount of FAAB in order to claim him. Such a bid comes with substantial risk. Rickard is clearly no sure thing to stick particularly once scouting reports on him circulate about the league.

This is still the same player who managed a .243/.337/.296 line in AA as recently as 2014 and has also, at times, showed signs of having difficulties against right-handed pitching. Rickard may end up starting for much of 2016 but he still probably profiles as a fourth or fifth outfielder beyond this year.

So often we see the next great speedster all set to make his debut only to be overpowered by major league pitchers. Much of it can be tied to a lack of translation of their contact skills and/or overall plate discipline fail to the Majors. Rickard is in that same boat and the odds are stacked against him. I wish him luck but remain skeptical for now.

A Word About Jesus Montero

If Montero could catch, we wouldn’t be talking about him being put on waivers, claimed on waivers, and then the Blue Jays most likely trying to slip him through waivers to get to the minors. Instead, we’d be probably be analyzing the righty from the standpoint of a player entering his fifth season as a full-time player. That is a testament to his bat in that our expectations of production from catchers are far more forgiving and when compared to other current backstops, he fits in nicely and would be more coveted than quite a few.

Coming up through the minors Montero’s raw power and original position created quite a bit of hype. As a right-handed hitter with his power potential who did not strikeout overly much and who walked a fairly average amount, it looked like Montero had a bat that would not only stick, but that should translate fairly quickly to the Majors. Unfortunately, Montero did not advance defensively as planned and became one of a plethora of right-handed first basemen/designated hitter types. Still, the Yankees extracted Michael Pineda from the Mariners from him and the Mariners indeed gave him a shot.

Looking back at 2012, while Montero certainly did not dominate, for a 22-year old playing full time in the majors he did actually translate most of his minor league skills fairly well when considering most players his age were still in AAA, batting .260/.290/.386 with fifteen homers isn’t all that terrible. Again, were he a catcher of any skill, it might have been heralded as quite a success to not only handle a major league staff but to show some offensive potential. Regardless of position, 2012 looked like something Montero could build off. Instead, he struggled early in 2013 and ended up spending a lot of time out of action. By 2014 he was already out of the Mariner’s plans. While Montero has yet to fulfill his promise and has not dominated at any minor league level, he is still coming off of two solid AAA seasons. At 26 the move to journeyman AAA roster filler has probably begun in earnest. There is a chance he could push his way into a platoon at first base depending upon the volatility of Chris Colabello, but it’s likely the Jays are not the best fit for him and that Toronto could end up being one of a few pit-stops in 2016.

The Stove Stays Hot, Even in Spring Time

It seems a bit late for the hot stove league to still be in full force what with pitchers and catchers having already reported, but the Cubs, A’s, Orioles, have gifted us with some transactions worthy of discussion!

The Gallardo Signing
Yovanni Gallardo’s signing by the Orioles comes as no surprise since it has been rumored for more than a week now. The soon to be thirty-year-old essentially replaces Wei-Yin Chen who signed a five-year deal with the Marlins earlier this off-season. Gallardo will slot in as the Orioles’ number two starter behind Ubaldo Jimenez.

If nothing else, Gallardo has been durable, averaging thirty-two starts a season and one hundred ninety-one innings over the past seven seasons. Well, unfortunately for the Orioles, it may not be much more than that given some disturbing trends. The righty’s strikeout rate has dropped each of the past four seasons to an alarmingly low 5.9 K/9 with the Rangers coupled with posting a career low average velocity of 90.4 mph on his fastball. This becomes even more troubling when one considers 2015 was one of his best seasons in terms of disallowing home runs despite no real change in skill set and rather what appears to be an out of career context, home run on fly ball rate of just under 9%.

Concerns over the condition of Gallardo’s shoulder resulted in a restructuring of his original deal from three years to two years with a team option, though a point in his favor, were not strong enough to take the deal off the table entirely as happened to other potential Oriole signees in the past.

At thirty years of age, there is still a chance for a rebound, but the trends are not in his favor and an ERA of well over 4.00 may well be in the cards for 2016. I could not recommend a bid exceeding a $1 or, in the end-game of AL-only leagues.

Fowler Returns
In a much greater surprise today, Dexter Fowler returned to the Chicago Cubs when it was all but certain that such a reunion would not occur. The move of Chris Coghlan, which I’ll get to in a bit, to Oakland clears up a roster spot for him but makes playing time for Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber a bit murky. The most simple solution may be a platoon scenario whereby Fowler and Soler share left field duties with perhaps Soler also coming in the latter innings for defensive purposes. On the other hand, further wheeling and dealing, whether in the preseason or amidst season may be a foot.

Getting to Fowler, the move saves the Cubs from having to watch the adventure that would have been Jason Heyward manning centerfield every day. For fantasy players, Fowler has a fairly stable skill set, having always been a disciplined hitter who will once again on most days be the Cubs’ leadoff hitter. While no blazer, the opportunity to bat leadoff and his OBP skills should, in theory, continue to get him enough opportunities to once again approach or twenty stolen bases. His lack of success against righties, however, continued last season with a .228/.331/.395 line, so despite batting leadoff on the days he is in the lineup, the Cubs may be more inclined to mix and match on days they face tougher right-handers. It remains to be seen, therefore, whether he will be able to match his career high in plate appearances ever again.

Fowler’s power production has been up and down over the years, but in his favor is a four-year trend of increasing fly ball rates. His home run on fly ball rate, however, was not his career best and his career high in homers is more likely the result of extended playing time, rather than the development of new skill.

Heading into 2016, expect more of the same – a .250s to .270s hitter with 15/15-plus potential. He remains a more favorable target for OBP and sim leagues.

Deal of the Day
The lone trade of the day was perhaps the least headline creating in terms of name value. Chris Coghlan Aaron Brooks. For both teams involved, the deal improves their depth in areas of greater need.

Brooks, a former ninth round pick of the Royals, will more than likely begin 2016 in the Cubs’ Triple-A rotation, but will likely see action in spot start duty. His best path to an extended MLB look will be due to injury. Brooks does a good job of pounding the strike zone with walk rates right around the 2.0 mark. While he commands what he has well, at the MLB level he is more of a soft-tossing, pitch to contact pitcher who relies on a plus changeup to get outs. His tendency to be in the strike zone, however, also tends to leave him open to the long ball. A move from a pitcher friendly park to Wrigley may not be suited to his style of pitching either.

Chris Coghlan will mainly be a bench player for the A’s, but given his defensive versatility and his left-handed bat, should find his way into a good amount of at-bats as a part-time DH, occasional outfielder spelling Khris Davis, and may even see action at third base or second base depending on the effectiveness of Danny Valencia and the ability to stay healthy of Jed Lowrie.

2015 saw Coghlan receive the most playing time of his career since his rookie season back in 2009. Despite an up and own career, the lefty remains a patient, line-drive hitter, who makes a fair amount of contact, has slightly above average speed, and power that that has been trending upwards both in terms of a number of fly balls hit as well as fly balls converted into home runs.

While not written in stone, especially given the path of Coghlan’s career, it is well within the realm of possibilities that he could eclipse his 2015 playing time totals as a result of the change in scenery.