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November 20, 2010

Is Victor Martinez exactly what the Orioles need?

I’ve debated this question recently with several people, including a couple of members of the Orioles organization.

Those who say yes talk about Martinez’s ability to pound left-handed pitching. The switch-hitter batted .400 against southpaws this year with an astonishing 1.173 OPS and is a career .301 hitter against lefties. Hitting lefties has been a huge issue in recent years with the Orioles, and it will continue to be problematic in a division that includes David Price, CC Sabathia and Jon Lester.

They mention his offensive consistency, pointing out that the 31-year-old has hit 20 or more homers in five of the past seven seasons, and batted .300 or better five times during that span. He has also driven in 100 or more runs three times.

And finally, they bring up what a complete pro Martinez is and how much the Orioles’ clubhouse needs an intense, no-nonsense personality, a player who isn’t afraid to get into other players' faces and hold teammates accountable.

Then, there are those who point to his numbers and conclude that they wouldn’t constitute great production coming from a first baseman. Martinez hit .302 for the Boston Red Sox this past season with 20 homers and 79 RBIs. For a catcher, that’s great production. For a first baseman, the position he would play if he were to sign with the Orioles, those numbers wouldn’t look as impressive -- though the Orioles would probably be thrilled with them when you consider what they have been getting from first base in recent years.

Those against signing him maintain that he has never been an everyday first baseman and his defense would be a question mark. They also question the logic of giving a lucrative four- or five-year deal, which the Orioles surely would have to do to bring the coveted free agent to Baltimore, to a close-to-32-year-old with a ton of wear-and-tear on his body from being behind the plate all these years.

I see both sides, though I’ve always liked and respected Martinez and you simply cannot debate that he would be a significant upgrade in the lineup, though not the feared cleanup hitter the Orioles so desperately need.

However, the only opinions that matter come from Peter Angelos, Andy MacPhail, Buck Showalter and the rest of the Orioles' decision-makers. By all accounts, they are very high on Martinez and he is one of their top offseason priorities. They have let his agent know just that.

Still, they remain a sizable underdog to signing him. Martinez reportedly still wants to catch regularly, and he wouldn’t do that in Baltimore with Matt Wieters here. The Red Sox, Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers all want Martinez, and he would probably catch for all three. It stands to reason that the Orioles would have to go above and beyond and blow everybody else's offers out of the water to land Martinez, and their track record doing that is not very good.

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Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 12:12 PM | | Comments (53)
        

Comments

Jeff -- Good column. When I first heard the Orioles were interested in Martinez sometime back, I took a look at his power numbers and was disappointed and a bit confused.

Hadn't the O's said they wanted a legitimate middle-of-the-lineup kind of hitter? Martinez, a four-time All-Star, is an excellent hitter (.300 for his career; oh, and by the way, his .305 was in the tenth in the AL), but he's not a power guy, topping out at 25 homers in best year.

Nevertheless, after reading your column and researching a bit more, I don't think he'd be a bad fit. First, although he's probably not good for more than 20 homers, he's a reliable doubles man, averaging over 30 a year when healthy, and with a high of 40. Not only that, he's a good run producer, driving in 100 or more three times, 90+ four times and 80+ five times (he just a sixth time after amassing 79 rbis in 2010).

The real clincher for me is his batting average against lefthanders. That's exactly what the O's need in their lineup, as woeful as they've been for so long against southpaws. This is why to my thinking a Victor Martinez (or a Paul Konerko, also strong against lefties) seems a better fit than, say, an Adam Dunn, who despite his prodigious power numbers, wouldn't help the team against a Lester, Price, Sabathia or Andy Pettitte.

As for preferring to catch, the O's could promise him some time behind the plate when Matt Wieters needs a day off; in fact, they could just make Victor the backup catcher, which would give the team more flexibility in who else it signs (Luke or Wiggy, should he re-sign can always play some first).

And while you're right about the O's track record not being very good for going above-and-beyond is true, if they really want Martinez and really want to field a better team in 2011, it's high time they change their tune in that regard, don't you think?

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Jeff Z's reply: Yes, I agree Ken. Great post. THere are also some people out there who think that Victor would hit more homers if he wasn't catching so much. That position takes a toll physically obviously and the thought is that if his body took less of a beating, he'd be fresher and stronger for the whole season and that woudl help his power numbers.

I think Martinez is the guy the Orioles should target this winter: we need that big bta against lefties. The big issue is how important catching is to him. On our side, I would think a 4-year deal would be the max, and with the position switch, I think that could work out.

Martinez might want to be a full time catcher, but you would have to think he's realistic enough to know that at the age of 32, no team is going to give him any more than three years as a catcher. Any additional years would have to be contingent on him being willing to move to 1B.
So, if the Orioles came up with 5/80, which I don't think is out of the realm of possibility, Martinez would have to at least think about it. At the end of a deal like that, he would be a full time 1B/DH and could lead him another payday at age age of 37/38.

Also, if the Orioles could play up his role as a mentor/tutor for the young Wieters, that might be enticing to a solid professional like Martinez. Wieters has never had a veteran catcher to help teach him the ropes and Victor certainly qualifies.

And Martinez has to be intrigued by the Orioles young staff. He would no doubt have a role in their development, something that might be a lure. Having not only a young and upcoming catcher with whom to grow, Matusz, Tillman, and company would also have a veteran standing over at first base ready with suggestions. Martinez would not have that kind of responsibility with Boston, Texas, or anyone else and it again might be something in which he'd be interested.

Offensively, well, you don't necessarily need a 40 HR guy in the four hole. You just need a solid hitter who makes the rest of the lineup better. If they were to surprise everyone and sign Dunn or trade for Reynolds, fine, make one of them the cleanup hitter. But, a middle of the lineup combination of Markakis, Martinez, Scott, Jones, and Wieters is a pretty good start.

This is one guy I think they should go all out for and if need be, over pay.

Thanks, Jeff, I really look forward to your updates, makes the waiting for whatever they do a little more bearable. Will you be doing a live chat sometime during December?

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Jeff Z's reply: Thanks Ken. Good post, too. Not sure about the live chat, but I can propose to my editors that I do one.

Jeff: As often, a very good summary.

I'd like to see the O's stay away from the big name-big bucks free agent model they used unsuccessfully for more than a decade.

Garrett Atkins was a horrendous signing. Awful. Inexcusable. And yet, it's over. There's no extended pain. He wasn't Marty Cordova or Omar Daal or Albert Belle.

If the O's were close to contention, it might be worth overpaying a guy like V-Mart. As is, if they were to become a shocking contender overnight, they could get a bat like that in July in a salary dump.

But as long as they're still looking up from under 70 wins, I'd rather not see them add any players as old and expensive as V-Mart for more than two years. I'm tired of shooting for 75 wins. I'd rather see them keep accumulating high draft picks and talented young players until they're ready to really make some noise.

jeff good article. if the orioles really want victor martinez they should quit waffeling and go for the gusto in trying to sign him. as has been stated by many it is time for pa and am to do what needes to be done.

The .300 average, 25 dingers, and 90 rbis the Os would get from V-mart at 1b would be easier to absorb if Wieters was hitting .280/25/85 which would out do most catchers...If Jones can continue his track (even accelerate a bit with a better eye) and Wieters picked it up in the 6 and 7 spots in the order, thats good stuff. Still like to see a BOPPER in the middle of all this.

I think he'd be a plus for the O's. But if we have to offer 5/80 to get him I'd rather have Werth. He offers the same or better offensive potential and is a plus defender at any outfield position...which he'll likely stay throughout the length of contract.

It's an easy argument to take him but the question is at what cost and years does he prove more valuable than someone else. 5 years is a stretch and I think we'd regret the contract in the last two years.

I was curious about your thoughts on the Tejada trade now that Pelzer was unprotected. Tejada is a Type A player and it would have been a risk to offer him a contract. We did get to see what Bell can or can't do and Pelzer is a legit relief prospect. What do you think in hindsight?

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Jeff Z's reply: Interesting question, JC. But one thing you can't totally overlook is the question of whether Tejada would have been a Type A free agent if he stayed the whole season with the Orioles. I don't think he would have and then we probably wouldn't be having this conversation. Tejada really was energized when he was traded to San Diego both offensively and defensively. Not to mention, if the Orioles had offered arb to Miggi, he might of well taken it and he'd be back in 2011 at about $7 million or more. But with all that being said, I was a little surprised they left Pelzer unprotected and I could easily see them losing him at least for much of spring training.

I think Martinez is a perfect fit for several reasons -- and as you will see, it's a "win win" for both the O's and V Mart.

For the O's -- switch hitter, middle of the order, crushes lefties, adds versatility to the bench by serving as back up catcher, obtainable (unlike Crawford or Werth), protects against Wieters injury, tutors Wieters, established in AL East, hurts the BoSox a bit by leaving.

One of the worst aspects about the O's in recent years has been their need to carry a short bench because they have had to have a lonjg bullpen -- with the young starters, that is probably not changing too soon -- so having to only carry Wieters and VMart as the catchers allows the O's to carry another positional player who could actually hit instead of a banjo hitting MIF or backup C. Similarly, the fact that he's a switch hitter helps, too.

Yes, his counting stats (HR's and RBI's) weren't great last year but he only played 127 games last year and is usually money for .300-23-100 seasons. Those are Markakis numbers -- as is his career .838 OPS. He'd immediately be our first or second best hitter. One would also think that by catching 2x per week and playing 1B the rest, he is more likely to stay healthy and post numbers as good for longer.

Why a win-win for V-Mart, too? Likely to get paid more by the O's than other teams due to our Confederate money; catching less extends his career and ability to earn a high baseball salary longer thus having the opportunity for a contract after the O's 3 or 4 year deal is up; and expands his versatility for future contracts --

It is a perfect fit --

Is he Pujols? No.

You've got to start somewhere. And his salary doesn't truly break the bank -- leaves room for a decent middle rotation starter or 3b or SS signing, too.

Thanks Jeff. Good insight into the Victor and the O's outlooks. I'm a huge advocate of V-Mart and have been for a while. When it comes to the free agent class this year, I think Victor is far and above the rest.

Jason Werth is nice, but he's never hit in the middle of any line-up. Dunn can blast it, but his base running, K rate, and AVG kill his other offensive tools. And that's not even the defensive part of the game, which Dunn is a big downgrade for. Crawford is equally amazing, but as a middle of the line-up guy, he's had little time there (this year), and putting him in the 3/4 spots hurts his most valuable commodity...speed.

In the end, I continue to believe that Victor is the only proven middle of the line-up guy that has few negatives and fits well.

Unfortunately, I'm under no illusions of the fact he's going to be wearing Orange and Black. Much like with Tex, there are a million reasons he wouldn't come to Baltimore. I think even that Nationals are more of a compelling place for Victor than Baltimore.

But I can dream...

Jeff- One thing you KIND of addressed, is that signing Martinez is really like signing two players. With him as a back-up for Wieters, you free up a bench spot previously filled by the likes of Tatum and Zaun. You could sign Wiggy for that spot and go about still grabbing a Reynolds for third.

But I'll settle for Konerko at 1st. ;o)

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Jeff Z's reply: That's very true. Instead of carrying a weak-hitting backup catcher, you could use roster spot for another bat off the bench or another relief arm to protect your young starters. Makes perfect sense.

It doesn't have to be Victor Martinez, but the Orioles need to find someone that can play catcher and let Wieters DH at least once a week. Lack of rest isn't the only thing wrong with his offense, but it's part of it (IMO). He was less than a game's worth of innings from leading the league in innings behind the plate, and I don't think that's going to work out well for a kid who's 230 and probably won't get smaller.

Give him 2 games/week at DH and you might have a bat that's worth having in there for 150+ games. Obviously, having a player like Victor Martinez to rotate through 1B & DH with Luke Scott would be ideal.

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Jeff Z's reply: Very much agree Tim. I think you sign Martinez and you tell him he's going to catch twice a week and first base 4/5 times a week.

I've been hearing some people saying that the O's may have interest in trading for Justin Upton. Have you heard anything regarding that?


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Jeff Z's reply: No, the O's may have put in a courtesy call just to see what it would take, but I can't see that going any further. The Orioles simply don't have enough trade commodities to land Upton unless you want them to move Adam Jones, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton and Xavier Avery in the same deal. I assume that type of package is close to what it would take. But again, that's just a guess on my part, but it's been reported in multiple places that the D'backs have a "ridiculous" asking price, as they should for a player of that age and talent.

Why aren't the O's interested in Adam Dunn? He seems to be exactly the type of power hitter they need. Consistent, reliable and feared. I know his defense is questionable but he just started playing first and if there is a position where offense should be a priority over defense, then first is it.

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Jeff Z's reply: I wouldn't say the Orioles aren't interested in him. He's on their list, but his defensive problems and the fact that he doesn't want to DH regularly are certainly issue.

Why are we even discussing this? Andrew and Ole Pete are NOT going to shell out the money and years necessary to put a winning product on the field.

Plus pursuing big name free agents would require proactivity on the part of the F.O.

Not happening!

We'll hear about "nice conversations" with V-Mart's agent. But that is all.

Jeff - It would be great to see the O's target Martinez and really go after him. Too often it seems that both the warehouse and the fans get caught up with what one player will cost in terms of dollars and years, when it's not about the one player, it's about the team. Refusing to "overpay" for a guy like Martinez or Beltre is like not buying a house because the kitchen is too expensive, even though the total cost of the house is affordable. You have to include in the equation how little we are spending right now for the young pitchers plus Adam Jones. It's okay to "overpay" in a couple of places if you are underpaying elsewhere. Really. We should live a little.

I don't care what it takes. Sign Konerko for 1B and Beltre for 3B. Overpay if you have to. Then move Jones to SS (his original position with the Mariners) and get Crawford to play CF and Pie can play everyday in LF. If you add Cliff Lee to the equation, the World Series would be a reality. If only Peter Angelos would spend the money.

adam dunn is gone detriot close to getting him , we will wind up with laroach , and couple of journeyman, there nothing to suggest otherwise.by agust of next yeat buck will look like hes 70 and will quit only to have another poor soul to take over . its takem me untill this year after 40 years of being a big fan to surrender, because its the same every off season , sit and watch and sign a 35+over the hill player. dunn wouldve been a good fit , they wont get a franchuise player like prince and martinenz best years are gone .not to mention two of his last three years hes been injured. at best he hits maybe twenty out ,and thats not what we nedd , wiggy did that

While I believe Konerko would be a better fit for the Os needs, I do note that while Martinez has averaged 10 les HRs than Konerko over his career, his BA is .300 vs .274 and the RBIs are about te same. Wouldn't it be true that the RBIs would be the more important number?

I agree that if the Os could sign him, he would free a spot usually used for a backup catcher.

One more comment: with Showalter, the Os 34-23 finish under him and the Os young and coming pitching staff, why would Werth be "UNOBTAINABLE"?

I just don't see Martinez as a fit. He's not worth a "blow him away" offer if that's what it takes to convince him not to be a full-time catcher. He's a nice hitter, but not the true power threat the O's really need. Have you heard any rumblings about Konerko or Beltre, Jeff?

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Jeff Z's reply: Nobody seems to want to believe it or listen to it, but everything I've heard about Betlre and Konerko is they are extremely unlikely to come to Baltimore. Both players have been courted by the Orioles before and decided against coming here. I don't think two months of winning baseball is going to change their minds

True, Konerko did take less money to stay with the Sox--five years ago. He'll be 35 when next season starts, so this will be his last big contract. And Beltre played for Boston in 2010 for $4.4 million less than he made in 2009. After a monster season in 2010, I'm sure he'll be looking to get back to the 13 to 15 mill per year range. What does this mean? They'll go to the highest bidder, regardless of the team. Count on it.

Jeff, I hope you're wrong about the fact that Martinez wouldn't get to catch because of Weiters. That would make this org. one of the dumbest of all time. Anybody who wouldn't make Weiters the back up after signing Martinez, needs to have his head examined. Weiters is not some untouchable All-Star, Buster Posey is. Weiters simply isn't what we thought he'd be. Do we want to win or continue the 13 year losing streak?

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Jeff Z's reply: My challenge to you David would be to find me more than one scout that believes that Victor Martinez is a better defensive catcher than Matt Wieters.

Fans & writers can say what they will, but I know Buck Showalter is smart enough to know that if Martinez was picked up, he'd immediately become the starting catcher just like he would with the smarter, better teams of Bos, Tex, etc. Last time I checked Weiters wasn't in the running for a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, or MVP. He's not that good.

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Jeff Z's reply: You'd be wrong David.

So funny to read where people think that Adam Dunn is consistent. Well he is. He consistently strikes out and hits HRs. Paul Konerko and his .400 OBP is the 1B the Os need. Vic Martinez would be great as the #1 catcher. Weiters simply isn't producing at the ML level.

Just another outfit offering excuses for the O's not to spend money,,,,typical

Jeff,

Honestly, do you see the Orioles signing a big name free agent, whether it be VMart or Beltre or someone else? It seems that all they are doing is "kicking the tires," drumming up some fan interest, but in the end deciding not go after anyone of note. How correct is that assessment? And, if it is correct, why?


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Jeff Z's reply: I don't necessarily think that's accurate. Look Joe, Andy is painfully deliberate at times. We all know that. But he's also one of the most close to the vest GMs in the game. He does not like when stuff gets out to the media and he does't care if there is a perception that the team is just sitting on its hands. They are talking money with different free agents. They are talking with teams out trades. I know the fans are impatient and the front office deserves that with the lack of activity at times in the past, but I wouldn't be too worried at this point. As for big-name additions, I think they'll sign a free agent first baseman. I don't see Konerko, Dunn or Beltre for that matter, but I could be wrong.

Hey Jeff,
Good looking player for sure.
Switch Hitter, Consistent year in & out. .297 BA batting cleanup in his career. .307 BA w/ RISP for his career (.271 BA w/RISP last yr). A big thing w/ me is how do they perform against the AL East? Well, here are his career stats:
vs. Boston: .331 BA in 136 AB .963 OPS |
vs. New York: .282 BA in 255 AB, 16 HR, .863 OPS |
vs. Tampa Bay: .384 BA in 224 AB, .978 OPS |
vs. Toronto: .307 BA in 218 AB, .868 OPS |
vs. Baltimore: .321 BA in 190 AB, .868 OPS |

He barely even strikes out. .994 FD % @ 1B in 1150.1 Innings.

He has the middle name "Jesus" & the Orioles could certainly use a savior after 13 losing seasons.

This is what I'd love to see for the O's 2011 Lineup:
1. Roberts 2B | S
2. Nishioka SS | S
3. Markakis RF | L
4. V-Mart 1B/C | S
5. Jorge Cantu 3B(backup 2B/1B/SS) | R
6. Luke Scott DH | L
7. Adam Jones CF | R
8. Matt Wieters C | S
9. Felix Pie LF | L

V-Mart is worth giving Boston a 2nd Rd. compensation pick unlike Adrian Beltre.
Beltre had a great season. However only 2010 & 2004 impress me. He's very inconsistent any other year.
7...almost 8 years his OPS was in the 700's. 2 others they were in the 600's. Forget about him, he grounded into 25 Double Plays. 1 year ago he had a .683 OPS & just 44 RBI. NO Thanks. He would not be worth the contract.

Jorge Cantu's seasonal averages are almost a mirror image of Beltre's. Plus Cantu is younger & more versatile. Jim Presley is also are new hitting coach, the same coach that instructed Cantu to 50 RBI the first 3 months of this season. What happens if B-Rob goes down again? I really like Cantu's age..he's just entering his prime (turning 29 in January vs. Beltre's 32). Hand Cantu $3-5 Million for a year or two vs. Beltre's $10-14M+ for 4-5 + years!

I certainly hope the O's make a bid for Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Nishioka's 2010 numbers were similar to Carl Crawford's.

Nishioka: 596 AB, .346 BA, 206 H, 32 2B, 8 3B, 11 HR, 287 TB, 59 RBI, 22 SB, .423 OBP, .482 SLG, .905 OPS
Crawford: 600 AB, .307 BA, 184 H, 30 2B, 13 3B, 19 HR, 297 TB, 90 RBI, 47 SB, .356 OBP, .495 SLG, .851 OPS

Yoshi wins BA, H, 2B, OBP, OPS. I'll take him for a #2 hitter in the order(which we need) and I love the fact that he is just turning 26. (of course the numbers may come down coming to USA, but who knows it's worth a shot, at least Andy can say he tried if nothing else)

If V-Mart is interested, make a dealio!
Get me Yoshi, Cantu, & either Jon Garland or Jorge De La Rosa to add another vet to the rotation.
Or check out trading for Casey McGehee as the Brewers are rumored to be open to trades outside of Prince & Braun. Or Mark Reynolds, Kevin Kouzmanoff or something along those trade-lines.
Call it a very productive offseason.

Thanks Jeff!

Jeff,
Doesn't it seem like the Orioles have, and continue to wait until they think they can get the perfect alignment of existing players at their peak (Roberts, Markakis, etc.), and a top line player who will sign wwith the Oriles for less than market value?

You can't bank on everything working perfectly (in their minds) and hope you win at that moment. You play every year and to plan for a 1 or 2 year window, you won't win. Inhuries, poor performance need to be considered, and the Orioles are afraid to commit to win.

The Orioles have the money. While they have left millions off the plate due to their own ineptitude by drawing 1.5 million less for years now. Just think, at an average ticket price of $15 (low and not including parking and concessions), they missed out on $22.5 million on just last year alone!

By the way, they recently switched their concession vendor because they weere asking too much from Aramark. I heard the new vendor will lose money this year, but is hoping for a turn-around. The Orioles are so greedy and near-sighted it is amazing.

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Jeff Z's reply: Yeah, I think fans are sick and tired - and rightfully so - of the team saying, 'We're still not one player away, so why spend on Player A or Player B?" Sooner or later, it has to be about winning and getting players that will narrow the massive gap between the heavyweights in the AL East.

I like VMart as a player but I don't see how he fits what they need. He isn't a first baseman nor does he want to be and as you stated here his numbers don't translate to first base production. I would rather they trade for JJ Hardy and Mark Reynolds. Then take a flyer on Jorge Cantu. Not big names but all offensive upgrades at relative cost. Is Cantu even on their radar at this point Jeff?

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Jeff Z's reply: He's another name on the list Tom, but haven't heard much about him. I'll be honest, I may rather have Wigginton back than Cantu.

I think they would also have to carry an additional catcher even with VMart. Remember this year when we just had Fox as the back-up catcher, he never got to play because we didn't want to have both catchers in the game and end up having to lose our DH(something like that). We would have to have a 3rd catcher available if Martinez was on 1st and Wieters C.

Jeff--Good stuff. I would love to see Victor Martinez in an Orioles uniform and I have a strong feeling that Buck "covets" him. Here's a spot where the Birds need to put up the bucks and make it happen.

What a lift to Baltimore Victor would be.

Jeff, Beltre didn't want to come to Baltimore last time because he was looking for a one year deal to maximize his production and get back out on the market. He turned down a multi-year deal from Oakland as well. The Orioles didn't want him for just one year, thus he wasn't interested. Of course the losing didn't help as well. So that's why he went to Boston. But the Orioles are a different team under Showalter who has said he will help recruit talent.

Beltre is looking for a mutli-year deal now and obviously being a Boras client wants the most money. If the Orioles offer the most, they'll land him.

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Jeff Z's reply: Much of what you said was correct, but Beltre also told O's that he was either going to play for Boston, or play on the West Coast. He even declined Philly's overtures at the time.


Jeff,

Most reports about the O's seem to mention the "big" 1B/3B free agents like Konerko, Dunn, Beltre, and VMart. In your opinion, where does Derek Lee fall on the Orioles' 1B wishlist,? I feel that, when healthy, he is as good as, if not better than, any of the other 1B free agents. He is right-handed, hits for power and average, and plays great defense.

...............................................................................................Jeff Z's reply: Real tough to say, Chris. Team officials have been mum about their level of interest in most of the guys. I do think defense at first matters, which obviously works in Lee's favor. If you were to rank the options, I would say he's middl e of the pack but that's more by gut feeling than anything.

I dont see Weiters looseing playing time maybe they feel having him will help out wieters game. I doubt he can play 1st base very well but hopefully its something he can improve with time. Iam not sure if its worth breaking the bank for him cause there is other options out there with more of a power bat for cheaper dollars, but 1st base has been such a black hole for such a long time.

Chris mentioned Derrek Lee. He's a very good player but I agree w/ Jeff that he should be a middle of the pack consideration. I'd like to point some things out about Lance Berkman. No 1B free agents have put up the numbers Berkman has over his career. Every single free agent 1B has an area of concern. I'm just guessing but he will probably only be due $5-9 Million -- he understands his age, & is open to any team that is willing to give him a full time job. I just like the idea of getting a guy from the yankees, having him turn out to be a top player in the AL East (which he has potential to be) and just be a standout professional at 1B as he's always been. 209 AB out of 404 AB's this year Lance hit with nobody on & still had about 60 RBI. Derrek Lee hit .257 w/ RISP. Lance was at .278 w/ RISP.

2010 RISP 1B Free Agents:
Paul Konerko .323 BA
Adam LaRoche .306 BA
Lance Berkman .278 BA
Xavier Nady .278 BA
Nick Johnson 278 BA
Troy Glaus .277 BA
Jorge Cantu .273 BA
Mike Sweeney .273 BA
Victor Martinez .271 BA
Derrek Lee .257 BA
Lyle Overbay .250 BA
Carlos Pena .239 BA
Ty Wigginton .221 BA
Adam Dunn .217 BA
Garrett Atkins .212 BA
Russell Branyan .162 BA

Runners On 2010:
Paul Konerko .333 BA
Mike Sweeney .304 BA
Adam LaRoche .288 BA
Victor Martinez .286 BA
Jorge Cantu .285 BA
Troy Glaus .275 BA
Lance Berkman .273 BA
Lyle Overbay .265
Xavier Nady .252 BA
Adam Dunn .236 BA
Derrek Lee .234
Ty Wigginton .224 BA
Carlos Pena .197 BA
Garrett Atkins .194 BA
Nick Johnson .182 BA

Notice who IS top 3 w/ RISP, Lance Berkman

Derrek Lee: has hit 90+ RBI just 5 times in his career.
Lance Berkman: has hit 100+ RBI 6 times(126, 128, 106, 136, 102, 106 + one season @ 93). Lee only 2x(107 & 111).
Lee has 9 seasons with 110+ K's. Berkman just 3.
Lee has only had 3 seasons with a 900+ OPS.
Berkman has had 9 seasons with 900+ OPS (14 pts shy of 10) & 3 years of 1.000+ (1.051, 1.016, 1.041).
By the way Derrek Lee just had surgery on his right thumb last Friday. Lee is a year older also.
Lee has 120 Postseason Plate Appearances to the tune of a .243 BA, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 29 K, .624 OPS. Oh ya, what did he do THIS postseason? .125 BA in 17 PA's, 2 Hits, 0 RBI & 6 strike outs.
Lee has said he wants to play for a contender. Berkman said he'll be glad to find an opportunity where someone will give him an everyday job @ 1B.

If we did compete this year & make the playoffs, you want Lance Berkman playing for your team. There are guys like Mark Teixeira who hit .214 BA, 26 K's in 103 AB's, .650 OPS for his postseason career (.148 BA this year) or you could buy a big time FA for cheap who has a .320 BA with 17 extra base hits (7 HR) & a 1.001 OPS for his postseason career. I'll take Berkman b/c he has proven once again he can get it done when given the chance. Yet everyone thinks he's declining judging on 1 year where he was injured all year. Just b/c they Yankees did bad in the playoffs (A-Rod .219, 0 HR, 3 RBI, Jeter .250, 0 HR, 3 RBI, Posada .267, 0 HR, 3 RBI, Swisher .176, 2 HR, 2 RBI) Doesn't mean Berkman(.313, 2 HR -1, 4 RBI) did bad.

Berkman didn't even get as many opportunities and still outperformed A-Rod (35 PA), Jeter (42 PA), Posada (32 PA), & Swisher (34 PA)...Berkman (19 PA..with 2 BB's)
He battled a groin & knee injury (separate times) when he was with Houston & sprained his ankle with the Yankees. I believe Berkman will be a great bounce back candidate to the team who gives him a fresh start.

For me, I think it's pretty clear career-wise who the better player is. However, Lee is a great ballplayer himself...but I think Lance still has some things to prove & can write the final chapter of his possible hall of fame career in Baltimore.

Jeff if you had the choice who would it be, Berkman or Lee?

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Can I say neither of them? Both good ballplayers, both would constitute upgrades, but have also slowed down considerably. Ultimately, I think O's need bigger upgrade but I guess beggars can't be choosers. Probably would go Lee because his defensive edge, but you made a nice argument for Berkman.

I enjoy the speculation about players the O's could sign, but too many years of Angelos/MacPhail have left me a cynic about the O's. MacPhail drums up fan interest with these efforts, but he has no intention of doing what it takes to actually sign an impact player.

Could you imagine V Mart or any of the premier FA's this year signing with Pittsburgh or Kansas City? There is not much difference between the O's and these woeful franchises.

dspedden;

Go have a look at the Fielding Bible for their opinion about Martinez and Wieters defensively. Wieters was rated 7th best in MLB while Martinez wasn't even in the top 20. As well, an article in Baseball Prospectus put Wieters top 3 in the AL and argued that there is a not unreasonable argument in favour of him winning a GG for last year.

Obviously, Wieters made great strides in improving his defence last year. Too bad you missed it.

Your last sentence is correct which makes this debate pointless.

The Orioles refuse to show a committment to winning. Instead they would rather put a subpar product on the field and count their money.

Isn't this a business anyway?

What I'm waiting for is someone at your organization explain where all the MASN money is?

Wasn't the main reason to allow the O's the cash to compete with their AL East brothers?

Until then it will yet another season of lip service. The O's can't get this guy, they can't get that guy. Instead they will settle for scraps and fans will settle for mediocrity.

"THere are also some people out there who think that Victor would hit more homers if he wasn't catching so much. That position takes a toll physically obviously and the thought is that if his body took less of a beating, he'd be fresher and stronger for the whole season and that woudl help his power numbers. " Same thing could be said about Weiters.

Jeff- How about signing Orlando Cabrera for that "clubhouse" personality? He can still give decent production and capable defense. I really think it should be all in on Adrian Gonzalez- make all pitchers available aside fron Matusz and Guthrie.

I don't agree he is exactly what we need. He is a very good productive player and had a career year last year when healthy. BUT WITH all his years of stats they don't compare to konerko, fielder or even pena. Lee and berkman are on their downslide like we usually sign..THIS trade or signing is going to symbolize and prove if Andy and Peter are seriously trying to compete. I think they have names on most of the others parts but this is the one that makes or breaks us..

He's not the 4 hitter they need, but he is the 3 hitter they need so Nick can stay in the 2 hole. As a catcher, I think his D at 1st will improve and be an upgrade over Wiggy. I also agree his numbers may improve without the wear and tear of catching. He could also catch 30-40 games reducing wear on Weiters who could DH somebof those days. I know he wants ton catch, but just don't see his D as that of an everyday catcher anymore. Those who think Buck would sit Weiters just weren't paying attention. No one has been rougher on Matt's , offensive performance than me, but he is a top 5 defensive catcher (and getting better) and Buck clearly expanded his role as the leader of the pitching staff. Sign Him.

Victor Martinez = Javy Lopez v 2.0

Martinez adds so much to our line up that we don't have. I can't believe how many people don't want this guy. A lot of people are looking at Weiters with rose colored glasses. He was very poor at the plate for most of the season. How many 3 & 4 pitch K counts did he have. Defensively he is becoming impressive, not a top 5 yet. He is going backwards at the plate, especially from the right side he is no threat at all. VMart gives incredible line up and bench flexibility. If we have a chance for this guy we should definitely take it. NO BRAINER!

Very few catchers hit after age 33. For every Jorge Posada, there are tons of examples like Mickey Tettleton/Chris Hoiles/Javy Lopez. And moving V-Mart to 1B going forward will not erase all of the wear and tear he has already accumulated as a catcher.

I start, as the Orioles always do, with the assumption that none of the best FA's (e.g., Lee, Crawford, Werth, Beltre, Jeter, Rivera) will come to Baltimore.

If it is true that Arizona third baseman Mark Reynolds (27 years old, .817 career OPS) is available in trade, then the Orioles should offer a package including Zach Britton or Jake Arrietta.

In free agency, the Orioles should target Japanese shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka (26, .790 in Japan), first baseman Lance Berkman (34, .954), and outfielder Andruw Jones (33, .826). Jones had a .931 OPS against lefties last year, and his overall OPS last year (.827) was a point higher than his career average. Nishioka should get about 5 years/$25 million, Berkman 3y/15m, and Jones 3y/9m.

The Orioles should also target the healthiest of the three recovering former aces: Brandon Webb (31, 3.27 career ERA), Erik Bedard (31, 3.71), or Ben Sheets (32, 3.79), on the theory that the further behind you are, the bigger the risks you have to take. Cost: 1y/7m.

It would also help to add a few relievers to go with Berken (R), D. Hernandez (R), J. Johnson (R), and M. Gonzalez (L). The Orioles should target lefties Brian Fuentes (35, 3.41) and Arthur Rhodes (41, 4.06), and righty closer Rafael Soriano (30, 2.73). Soriano will cost about 6y/60m, but has amazing numbers and proved that he can dominate the AL East. Fuentes should go in the neighborhood of 4y/40m, and Rhodes around 1y/4m. I would rather put the money into position players, but the Orioles have many young starting pitchers, and having a bullpen that is a weapon will ease the pressure on them.

So, for a payroll of about $90m, you get:

1. 2B Brian Roberts S
2. RF Nick Markakis L
3. 1B Lance Berkman S
4. 3B Mark Reynolds R
5. DH Luke Scott L
6. LF Andruw Jones R
7. C Matt Weiters S
8. CF Adam Jones R
9. SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka S

BC: Craig Tatum R
BI: Robert Andino R
BO: Felix Pie L
BO: Nolan Reimold R

SP1: Jeremy Guthrie R
SP2: Brian Matusz L
SP3: Brad Bergesen R
SP4: Chris Tillman R
SP5: Webb/Bedard/Sheets (R/L/R)

CL: Rafael Soriano R
RP1: Brian Fuentes L
RP2: Mike Gonzalez L
RP3: David Hernandez R
RP4: Jim Johnson R
RP5: Arthur Rhodes L
RP6: Jason Berken R

DMG - ggod thought but the Orioles won't spend $90M

Jeff,

There is currently player on the Orioles roster who:

1) averaged more than 20 homers and 79 RBIs the three seasons prior to 2010
2) can catch twice a week and play first base 4/5 times a week.
3) plus he can play third base, too.

HINT: The Orioles traded Ross Wolf to get him.
____________________________________
Response from Steve Gould:

Not to step on Jeff's toes, but if you're talking about Jake Fox, that first part is true only if you're counting minor league statistics. Obviously, there's a colossal difference between combining for 20 homers and 79 RBIs at Double-A and Triple-A and reaching those totals at the major league level. Maybe you're just pointing it out for fun (and by all means, go for it), but to imply that Fox has put up comparable numbers to Victor Martinez without some context is a little (or a lot) misleading.

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Jake Fox averaged 20 homers and 79 RBIs in three big league seasons prior to 2010?

Bealzy: We agree on a lot. It's improbable that the O's are one of the places a guy like Carl Crawford is dreaming about coming to or any of the other top FA.

I like the Reynolds idea too as long as we don't add another high strike out 1B.
» Dunn + Reynolds = 410 K's
» LaRoche + Reynolds = 375 K's this year.
» Lee + Reynolds = 345 K's
» Berkman + Reynolds = 296 K's
The O's as a team including everyone who batted this year totaled 1082 K's. That's 7th best in the Majors so we can afford a guy with a lot of K's, but I'd rather stay away from adding 2 big strikeout guys.

What we do need to work out is the Grounding into Double Plays. We were #3 in the majors with 154 GiDP's, the worst was 159. Double Plays take you out of innings & games.

If you strike out & there are runners on..that runner still has an opportunity to advance by stealing or being batted around by the next guy. If you GiDP you deflate the tires of most chances of scoring that inning and take away your base runner.

Andruw Jones is a quality player but he grounded into 15 double plays in just 278 At Bats. Past 4 years he hasn't had an average over .230. He does have 10 Gold Gloves and still hits a fair amount of HR's. Last time I saw him he looked very pudgy. If you can persuade me more I might be more into him but I'm good with Felix Pie/Reimold/C-Pat in left. I'm HUGE on the clutch stats & Felix Pie was great w/ RISP despite his injuries. .319 BA & 27 RBI in 72 AB. He was the best player MLB player on the team out of spring training...he hit .342 w/ a 1.077 OPS in 34 AB. 7 of his 13 hits were extra base hits(2 HR, 4 2B, 1 3B). I really have a feeling he's going to step it up another notch this year. His fielding was really good this year too. 9 Outfield Assists, 4 Double Plays and only 1 Error all year. For Reimold, I don't think he is a bust yet, I really think he needs more time to heal & then show us what he can really do.

I'd go all in on Nishioka.

I'd go all in on Berkman. Here's why. He most likely could settle for a 1 yr deal. Let's see we A) could get tied up with a 3-5 year deal with somebody not worth it this year. or..
B) wait for a guy with the letters "PUJOLS" on the back of his jersey for next year. Alright, don't think he's possible? Adrian Gonzalez...no? Prince Fielder...Swisher...Cuddyer. There's a much better class next year that would really be worth waiting for. Berkman's perfectly fine for 2011.

My low-risk high reward guys for SP would be:
Justin Duchscherer & Chris Young 48-34, 3.80 ERA.

Justin Duchscherer has a career .226 BAA vs Righties & 244 vs Lefties(2010 it was .192). Incredible SO vs. Walk ratio. He's extraordinarily great against AL East teams in his career. .161 BA, .437 OPS vs Boston in 129 PA. .196/.563 vs Tampa, .224/.691 vs Toronto, .229/.592 vs Baltimore, & .265/.777 vs New York. 46.4% Ground Ball rate.

Chris Young: If you thought Luke Scott was HUGE in person wait until you see Chris Young. Luuuke is 6'0" 205 lb. Chris Young is 6'10" 280 lb and most of it is NOT fat. Here's a picture: http://friarfanatic.mlblogs.com/
It's probably not a good idea to sign both Derrek Lee & Chris Young though, They were in a mammoth fist throwing fight before.

I just think Berkman is a very realistic signing for this team. He's a mid-big bat & stellar . But more importantly, Albert Pujols will be on the market with our young prospect stars are 1 year closer to competing. That's just my take.

Blow the bank wide open next year on PUJOLS or AG0NZ.

Jeff & Steve,

I don't mean to start a rubarb on your blog but Jake Fox has an .293 batting average over his minor league career. In his first 230 at bats in the major leagues, Fox hit 11 HRs and 45 RBIs prior to 2010. He has played 1B regularly in the minors and is now playing 3rd in the AFL. I think he underacheived in 2010 because he did not play regularly enough. He only had around 200 at bats with Oakland and Baltimore.

I also think Nolan Reimold and Josh Bell under acheived at the major league level in 2010. Reimold hit 15 HRs and 45 RBIs in his first 358 MLB at bats. Reimold averaged a .279 BA in the minors. Garret Atkins and Josh Bell both batted .214 in the majors last season. Atkins had 1 HR and 9 RBI in 140 ABs versus Bell's 3 HRs and 12 RBIs in 159 Abs. I don't have statistics saying he can hit major league pitching but he demonstrated that he has good right-handed power against Cliff Lee. Bell has a .287 minor league BA. In 2011, I think the tri of Fox, Reimold and Bell, given the chance, will hit more Hrs and drive in more RBIs than the tri of Tejada, Wigginton and Atkins if Fox, Reimold and Bell each get at least 350 MLB ABs in 2011.

Back to the original question of your article. Is Victor Martinez exactly what the Orioles need? I say no because I don't think any of the MLB Type A FAs are what the Orioles need for 12+ million. Why pay a FA 5 million more than Wigginton to hit 6 more HRs and 15 RBis more than Wigginton? Why not just make Luke Scott the cleanup hitter? His statistics have improved the last three years. Then the question becomes who bats around him.

So why not pay the 12 - 8 milion or whatever it is to the players who have the desire to win in Baltimore? Why overpay a player sheerly for his statisitcs when he doesn't have the desire to make Baltimore a winner?

O.K. go over and beyond what the others are offering and get a player who probably will have the best offensive numbers on the club.( V.Martinez.) Hey Matt Weiters , How about earning your starting job this year. They give Matt a break alot anyway behind the plate, ok, put him at DH and 1b when Martinez is catching. It would prolong both of their careers and maybe produce a winning lineup. It won't happen though, we will end up with a has-been FA

The Orioles need to get V. Martinez, A. Dunn, and A. Beltre to get any offensive production. If they do that , they could be next years Texas Rangers. Yes , they have to out-bid other teams but as we all know they wait around until all the high price guys are gone and what do they always say, "Lets wait to see how the market works itself out before we make any moves". How has that been workin out for us ? 1-Roberts 2-Markakis 3-Beltre 4-Dunn 5-Martinez 6-Weiters 7-Jones 8-LF 9-SS. ???

All

I looked up Jake Fox's statistics and WBAL, I have no idea where in the world your getting your numbers! Also, I want to make it clear I have a strong disdain for statistics. Bruce Lee (RIP) in his last movie (Enter the Dragon) says to the young whippersnapper in the movie. "Don't Think Feel" And this notion that Fox can play 4 to 5 games a week as catcher is laughable! Physically Fox can do it! He has NO RAPPORT with any of the pitchers. He's a decent ultilityman, although you make it sound like he's the second coming of Jose Oquendo! That's just "NUTS"

No enough of that!
Serious Squirrel now.

Jeff, I would not bring Victor Martinez.
He's clealry stated he would like to play catcher and not only that but a starting catcher at that. If the Orioles signed him and I were Matt Wieters I would find that highly insulting and would demand a trade. Martinez is not an answer for the O's! He would add another problem rather then solving one!

Someone needs to tell dspedden that he needs to get his head examined if he's looking at winning Gold Gloves as some sort of metric to measure defensive mastery.

Jeff & Steve,

Once correction about Jake Fox's winter league play. He played for Licey of the Dominican League. But my point is the corner infield positions aren't in as bad a shape as some would think.
____________________________________
Response from Steve Gould:

Fox got a grand total of 51 at-bats after Buck Showalter took over as manager last season -- 51 at-bats in two full months. Showalter wasn't exactly falling all over himself to get Fox into the lineup. To me, that's a pretty damning indictment of Fox -- or at least of Showalter's opinion of what he brings to the table. I can't see that changing next year.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.


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