Brian Roberts’ Potential Replacement

Brian Roberts still hasn’t made an appearance in a Spring Training game due to his back problem, and there’s a distinct possibility that he won’t be ready for the start of the season. Heath over at Dempsey’s Army looked at what was available for the position on the free agent market… nothing*. That means the team might need to go the trade route if they want a replacement, but first let’s take a look at the in-house candidates.

* I thought that maybe there was a third-baseman or shortstop that could be shifted over… nope.

Assuming that Roberts is only out for, say, a month*, the team needs someone to take his spot for around 25 games. For Brian, that’s about 115 plate appearances. His replacement probably wouldn’t be batting lead-off though, so let’s say 100 PA. (Projections using rough approximations of CHONE for offense and Jeff Zimmerman’s UZR projections for defense – with some adjustments.)

* He may be ready for Opening Day. I have no injury expertise, but I’ve heard that back problems can linger. Just picked a nice round number.

wOBA^ Batting Runs Fielding (150 gms) Fielding Runs^ Total Runs Above Average Drop-off in Runs
Roberts, Brian 0.350 1.9 -4 -0.7 1.2 -
Wigginton, Ty 0.330 -0.1 -5 -0.8 -0.9 2.2
Andino, Robert 0.280 -4.4 4 0.7 -3.8 5.0
Turner, Justin 0.310 -1.8 -2 -0.3 -2.2 3.4
Abreu, Miguel 0.270 -5.3 0 0.0 -5.3 6.5

The drop-off is relatively steep for even one month, which makes sense since Roberts is around a 3 Wins Above Replacement player (~.5 wins per month), and all of these guys are around replacement level players. Wiggy isn’t projected to be that good overall, since he’ll see time at 1B and DH which carries a stiffer positional adjustment (and, for some reason, his defensive numbers at second-base haven’t been nearly as atrocious as at third).

On the trade front, Tim Deirkes suggested a few lesser names:

wOBA Batting Runs Fielding (150 gms) Fielding Runs Total Runs Above Average Drop-off in Runs
Lugo, Julio .310 -1.8 -4 -0.7 -2.5 3.7
Young, Delwyn .320 -1.0 -6 -1.0 -2.0 3.2
Vazquez, Ramon .300 -2.7 -2 -0.3 -3.0 4.3
Ojeda, Augie .300 -2.7 8 1.3 -1.4 2.6
Petit, Gregerio .270 -5.3 0 0.0 -5.3 6.5

Not a lot of good options there. Certainly nothing worth giving up any assets for in a deal, given that the O’s already have Wigginton.

I was thinking that a nice solution might be to actually trade for a decent shortstop, and either play him there with Izzy moving to second (and when Roberts comes back, have him be the team’s utility man) or having the new guy take that role. Then, when Izturis leaves at the end of the season, there would be an option for 2011 at short in-case the team can’t get anyone better*.

* Having another season with guys like Luis Hernandez there is not an option. The free agent pickings look pretty slim though.

Ideally, it would be a young guy who the O’s might be able to rely on going forward. For example; the Nationals’ Ian Desmond. With Christian Guzman making a lot of money at short and the Adam Kennedy in the fold, they could be willing* to deal Desmond (a not top 100 prospect, and rated just a C+ by John Sickles) for some pitching – perhaps a guy like David Hernandez?

* I realize that Desmond is the Nat’s “shortstop of the future”, but David Hernandez could be their “#3 starter of the future” or whatnot. I’m not sure if I’d make that trade if I was them, but who knows?

Desmond is projected to be close to a league average hitter, with CHONE having a .265/.326/.412 line, and a below average fielder at short (though reportedly he has good tools there). He’s not a star, but the O’s system is barren at short at the upper levels. It’s probably not realistic, but it’s the kind of thing I’d be looking into. That, or just sticking with Wiggy/Andino and hoping Roberts ends up being OK (which we’re doing, regardless). Still 4 years and $40 M left on his extension, by the way.