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Rebuilding without Stinking

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Jonah Keri wrote a great article for The Athletic yesterday where he examines a rebuilding alternative to the Astros and Cubs' "stip everything to the studs" approach - by profiling the Mariners, Brewers, and Athletics.

The article is behind a paywall, but I encourage people to check it out. I think a lot of people here will find it interesting to compare the approaches of these teams to what the O's are doing - especially because these mid-and-small-market teams felt that the "strip everything to the studs" approach wasn't a good move for them. Instead, they searched for players who were blocked or undervalued by their previous teams. Or, looked for players where they thought they identified a problem and they felt they could fix it. In the Mariners' case - Domingo Santana, Tim Beckham, Jay Bruce.

I believe we're allowed to paste some excerpts from articles - mods please feel to delete if this is against the rules:

1. “We went (into the offseason) with an open mind, to do whatever was the right thing for the Mariners,” said M’s assistant GM Justin Hollander. “Some teams, most notably the Astros, went down to the studs. Doing it one draft pick at a time, assuming no compensation picks, was going to be tough for us. We were 30th out of 30 in future value of our farm system, by internal and external metrics. So building that up would have taken forever.”

2.[Brewers GM] Stearns had come from Houston and played a role in building the team that both went through three straight seasons with 106 losses or more and a bunch of 0.0 local TV ratings. That same franchise was on the rise by the time he left (and would win the World Series two years later), so you could understand if Stearns preached a total gut job in Milwaukee. He just never did.

“I had some personal knowledge of the strategy in Houston, and I thought I had a solid understanding of the costs — and benefits — of going with that approach,” Stearns said. “I also had an appreciation for the unique nature of the Houston situation in terms of both the business and baseball challenges that led to their strategy selection. As we evaluated the state of the franchise in Milwaukee at the end of the 2015 season, the situation we had was different than what Houston had faced. It really is a combination of factors including revenue streams, fan engagement, market tolerance and player talent presently in the organization. There probably isn’t one overriding reason; it’s evaluating the entirety of the organizational environment and then selecting the strategy that best aligns with that environment.”

3. Oakland’s executive vice of president of baseball operations Billy Beane said the Astros and Cubs had the financial wherewithal to eventually keep the great young players who came out of all the high draft picks and selloff trades that came with losing. If the A’s felt their window to keep their best young guys was more like two or three years than the five to seven that richer-market teams might have, than a complete teardown made less sense.

https://theathletic.com/914123/2019/04/09/keri-the-red-hot-mariners-are-trying-something-different-rebuilding-without-stinking/

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I think those excerpts point out that every situation is different.   The Astros/Cubs model doesn’t fit every situation.   But I think it fits ours because we were already a 47-win team with very few assets to build on, and because we have a $92 mm albatross around our neck.   This isn’t a case where we have 4-5 really good cornerstone pieces and no contracts weighing us down.    

So long as I see the talent base improving each year and the team making moves that will help them in the long run, I’m fine with it.   

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It's a lot easier to decide to tear it down to the studs when you have the 3rd-worst record since WWII and a bottom 5-ish farm system.  They could have added $20-30M in today's equivalents of Kevin Millar, Jay Payton, and Danyz Baez and still ended up with 67 wins.  There's a good argument that 81 wins is better than 67.  But it's a harder case to make to claim 65 wins is worth 10s of $millions over 50 or so.  

Also, the 1998-2011 Orioles already tried the build-while-spending-on-placeholders method and it went about as poorly as possible.  I'm open to the new approach, just on the hopes that we don't relive the circa 2007 Orioles.

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8 minutes ago, Frobby said:

I think those excerpts point out that every situation is different.   The Astros/Cubs model doesn’t fit every situation.   But I think it fits ours because we were already a 47-win team with very few assets to build on, and because we have a $92 mm albatross around our neck.   This isn’t a case where we have 4-5 really good cornerstone pieces and no contracts weighing us down.    

So long as I see the talent base improving each year and the team making moves that will help them in the long run, I’m fine with it.   

Agreed. "Retool" is an option that can work for some teams, but we had no assets to get value back. Might have worked in 2017 when Manny would have been more than a rental and Schoop had more value. Instead, we signed Trumbo.

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26 minutes ago, Frobby said:

I think those excerpts point out that every situation is different.   The Astros/Cubs model doesn’t fit every situation.   But I think it fits ours because we were already a 47-win team with very few assets to build on, and because we have a $92 mm albatross around our neck.   This isn’t a case where we have 4-5 really good cornerstone pieces and no contracts weighing us down.    

So long as I see the talent base improving each year and the team making moves that will help them in the long run, I’m fine with it.   

Rebuild to studs is the lazy way out.  If you read the post you would have seen the Mariners GM said they were 30 out of 30 teams in prospect rankings and a total rebuild would have taken too long. I don't buy into the breaking it down to the studs approach.  The Astros had some great players in the system when they didn't a total rebuild. If they didn't have Keuchel and Altuve they might still be rebuilding.  And they acquired most of their pitching. 

 

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2 minutes ago, atomic said:

Rebuild to studs is the lazy way out.  If you read the post you would have seen the Mariners GM said they were 30 out of 30 teams in prospect rankings and a total rebuild would have taken too long. I don't buy into the breaking it down to the studs approach.  The Astros had some great players in the system when they didn't a total rebuild. If they didn't have Keuchel and Altuve they might still be rebuilding.  And they acquired most of their pitching. 

 

Let me know when the Mariners, A’s or Brewers win the World Series or win 100 games two years in a row.    

There’s nothing lazy about this approach.   It’s probably the hardest way to go, because the fans have so little reason to support the team in the initial phases.   But it’s necessary.

And nobody said that this approach means you never acquire talent from the outside.    It’s a matter of who and when, not if.   

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2 minutes ago, atomic said:

Rebuild to studs is the lazy way out.  If you read the post you would have seen the Mariners GM said they were 30 out of 30 teams in prospect rankings and a total rebuild would have taken too long. I don't buy into the breaking it down to the studs approach.  The Astros had some great players in the system when they didn't a total rebuild. If they didn't have Keuchel and Altuve they might still be rebuilding.  And they acquired most of their pitching. 

 

Considering who they have on the roster in Seattle, a total rebuild didn't make sense either. Hence why they did what they did. Same thing in Milwaukee, they had talent on the roster, just had to make trades, draft well and have some INT signings pan out so they could add around it. Milwaukee also didn't tank, but from 2012 to 2017 there were either mediocre or just flat out bad, giving them time to rebuild the farm. Hence why the Brewers are so dangerous even though ATM their pitching is vastly overperforming and their INF bats have yet to get going. 

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10 minutes ago, Frobby said:

Let me know when the Mariners, A’s or Brewers win the World Series or win 100 games two years in a row.    

There’s nothing lazy about this approach.   It’s probably the hardest way to go, because the fans have so little reason to support the team in the initial phases.   But it’s necessary.

 And nobody said that this approach means you never acquire talent from the outside.    It’s a matter of who and when, not if.   

It is laziness. Instead of seeking out players to help your team you sit back and do nothing and lose tons of games for years.  

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Just for fun, here's a breakdown of how the 2016 Cubs were constructed. Theo became GM in October 2011:

C - Wilson Contreras: Signed as Amateur Free Agent in 2009, pre-Epstein

C - Miguel Montero: Traded for Zack Godley and Jefferson Mejia, 2014

1B - Anthony Rizzo: Traded for Andrew Cashner, 2012

2B - Javier Baez: Drafted 9th Overall in 2011, pre-Epstein

SS - Addison Russell: Traded for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, 2014

3B - Kris Bryant: Drafted 2nd Overall in 2013

OF - Ben Zobrist: Free Agent, 2016

OF - Dexter Fowler: Free Agent, 2016

OF - Jason Heyward: Free Agent, 2016

 

SP - Jon Lester: Free Agent, 2015

SP - Jake Arrieta: Traded for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger, 2013

SP - Kyle Hendricks: Traded for Ryan Dempster, 2012

SP - John Lackey: Free Agent, 2016

SP - Jason Hammel: Free Agent, 2015

RP - Hector Rodon: Rule 5 Pick, 2012

RP - Pedro Strop: Traded for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger, 2013

RP - Carl Edwards: Traded for Matt Garza, 2013

RP - Aroldis Chapman: Tradeded for Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren, and Billy McKinnley, 2016

 

Of the main pieces - only Kris Bryant was drafted under Epstein's watch and Javier Baez was the only other player drafted. Everyone else was acquired in a trade or free agency.

 

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45 minutes ago, DrungoHazewood said:

It's a lot easier to decide to tear it down to the studs when you have the 3rd-worst record since WWII and a bottom 5-ish farm system.  They could have added $20-30M in today's equivalents of Kevin Millar, Jay Payton, and Danyz Baez and still ended up with 67 wins.  There's a good argument that 81 wins is better than 67.  But it's a harder case to make to claim 65 wins is worth 10s of $millions over 50 or so.  

Also, the 1998-2011 Orioles already tried the build-while-spending-on-placeholders method and it went about as poorly as possible.  I'm open to the new approach, just on the hopes that we don't relive the circa 2007 Orioles.

The poorly as possible part is important.  

12 minutes ago, atomic said:

It is laziness. Instead of seeking out players to help your team you sit back and do nothing and lose tons of games for years.  

Laziness, is describing the clear, specific actions of others as doing nothing, when what you really mean, is that the team is doing nothing along the lines of what you would.

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And here's the Astros. Lunhow was hired December 2011:

C - Brian McCann: Traded for Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman, 2017

1B - Yuli Gurriel: Amateur Free Agent, 2016

2B - Jose Altuve: Amateur Free Agent, 2007

SS - Carlos Correa: Drafted 1st Overall, 2012

3B - Alex Bregman: Drafted 2nd Overall, 2015

LF - Marwin Gonzalez: Traded for Marco Duarte, 2011

CF - George Springer: Drafted 11th Overall, 2011

RF - Josh Reddick: Free Agent, 2017

DH - Carlos Beltran: Free Agent, 2017

DH - Evan Gattis: Traded for Mike Foltynewicz and Rio Ruiz, 2015

 

SP - Dallas Keuchel: Drafted in 7th Round, 2009

SP - Justin Verlander: Traded for Daz Cameron, Franklin Perez, Jake Rogers, 2017

SP - Charlie Morton: Free Agent, 2017

SP - Lance McCullers: Drafted with 41st Overall Pick, 2012

SP - Collin McHugh: Selected off Waivers, 2013

 

RP - Ken Giles: Traded for Mark Appel, Vince Velsaquez, and others, 2015

RP - Chris Devenski: PTBNL in Brett Myers Trade, 2012

RP - Luke Gregerson: Free Agent, 2014

RP - Brad Peacock: Traded for Jed Lowrie, 2013

 

 

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1 hour ago, DrungoHazewood said:

 

Also, the 1998-2011 Orioles already tried the build-while-spending-on-placeholders method and it went about as poorly as possible.  I'm open to the new approach, just on the hopes that we don't relive the circa 2007 Orioles.

The Orioles of those years had some really high draft picks. It didn't help that under AM we drafted Bundy, Matusz, and Hobgood all in the top 5. In fact we had a top 5 pick 6 years straight. 

 

We did draft Markakis, Roberts, Wieters and Machado during the 1998-2011 era. And traded for Jones and Tillman  So it wasn't a total waste and did get us to the playoffs mutliple years once we started acquiring players to help. 

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The key to those rebuilds was an almost total autonomy of the GM to make those moves they saw as necessary.  We dont know if we have that now and the obvious absence of that over the last few years lead to a partial tear down under a constrained leadership, which arguably has threatened our ability to do that.

The Brewers, Rays and Mariners have been extremely active traders, something I hope to the orioles do more of in order to speed along the rebuild.

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