During this winter, the message from the Orioles brass has been that they are reluctant to trade their young pitchers and that they place a high value on them. If they don’t get a similar value in return, they have said they will be happy to hang onto them and not trade. We have heard basically that exact message for weeks from both Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter.
There are a lot of ways to rank and value players. There are more stats in the game than ever, and more stories written and opinions expressed about player value than ever before.
But one huge factor, especially for those that occupy the front offices of big league teams, is a player’s salary. All teams covet lower-salaried younger players who have a year or two to go before arbitration, when their pay scale starts a steady climb upward.
Maybe you’ve seen this pretty incredible interview over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal with the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira, the Severna Park native who O’s fans once thought might sign a huge contract with their club. Teixeira admitted his better years in the stat department are behind him and said he understood if any fan said he was overpaid because he thought he was, as well.
He also said this: “Agents are probably going to hate me for saying it. You’re not very valuable when you’re making $20 million. When you’re Mike Trout, making the (big league) minimum, you are crazy valuable. My first six years, before I was a free agent (making a huge salary), I was very valuable. But there’s nothing you can do that can justify a $20 million contract.”
He makes a great point there and we can relate it to the Orioles. The Orioles have several young pitchers in their pre-arbitration years and there is value in having players that contribute to your team for at or near the big league minimum.
Here is a stat comparison from last year for two Yankees and two Orioles:
CC Sabathia: 15-6, 3.38 ERA with 1.14 WHIP and .238 average against.
Hiroki Kuroda: 16-11, 3.32 ERA with 1.17 WHIP and .249 average against.
Chris Tillman: 9-3, 2.93 ERA with 1.05 WHIP and .207 average against.
Miguel Gonzalez: 9-4, 3.25 ERA with 1.21 WHIP and .235 average against.
Of course, this is not a straight comparison or completely fair one, as Sabathia and Kuroda spent all 2012 in the majors pitching 420 combined innings while the O’s duo spent a lot of time in the minors and pitched a combined 191 innings for the Orioles. But when they did pitch in majors last summer, the O’s duo did it very effectively.
Last season, Sabathia made $23 million and he’ll be paid that same amount for 2013, while Kuroda made $10 million last year and is being paid $15 million this season.
The exact salaries of Gonzalez and Tillman for 2012 were in the range of the major league minimum of $480,000, for which they earned a pro-rated portion for only the actual days they spent in a big league uniform.
This season while Sabathia and Kuroda will earn a combined $38 million the O’s duo will earn around $1 million combined.
The lower salaries for young players with little service time are a huge reason why all teams are prone to stick with their young pitchers much more than their fans might be willing to. What clubs, including the Orioles, wouldn’t want numbers like Tillman and Gonzalez put up last year at the minimum salary?
Furthermore, those players allow you to spend money elsewhere on your roster. There are reasons teams show patience with young pitchers and the salary factor is a key one. A Yankee - Teixeira, of all people - made that point indirectly in that interview over the weekend.
More farm system ratings: ESPN’s Keith Law published his rankings of the talent in each organization’s farm system. The Orioles were ranked No. 13. They rated No. 17 in the Baseball America prospect handbook. Law wrote that the ranking for the Orioles would be higher had Manny Machado not used up his rookie eligibility.
As for other AL East teams, Tampa ranks No. 3 with New York No. 10, Boston No. 17 and Toronto No. 24. Law ranks St. Louis No. 1.