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Orioles have added economic adviser to help evaluate players

In a fairly unconventional tweak to the Orioles' front office structure, new executive vice president Dan Duquette has hired an economic adviser with local ties to help determine players’ financial value to the organization.

Stephen Walters, a Loyola University economics professor, is now also working for the Orioles, providing financial and statistical valuations of players to help Duquette make personnel decisions. Walters believes he is the only such adviser employed by a big league team, though, “if [other clubs] have them, they are not talking about them.”

The Orioles have not officially announced Walters' hiring, but he has been doing work for Duquette since mid-November. He has already provided financial valuations -- based on an undisclosed formula -- that have aided the Orioles in their pursuit of several minor league free agents they have signed this offseason.

In its simplest form -- and none of this is simple -- Walters attempts to show how many additional wins a player can create and how much a specific team should pay for those wins.

“If you incorporate ‘Player X’ into the mix, how many wins does that add and how much are those wins worth in that market?” Walters said. “It can vary from case to case, and there is a time dimension question with any player transaction -- what are the future ramifications? … So the puzzle pieces come together, and ultimately, Dan is the guy who masterminds that information. But a lot of people supply him with the information.”

The Orioles already had baseball operations employees dealing with advanced statistical analysis -- known as Sabermetrics -- so Walters’ work is in addition to that research.

A Massachusetts native who first worked with Duquette when he was the general manager in Boston, Walters is best known in baseball circles for making a numbers-based argument before the 2002 season on why the Red Sox should sign outfielder Johnny Damon, who eventually helped lead Boston to a championship title in 2004.

Besides his duties at Loyola, Walters had most recently been the economic adviser to the Chicago Cubs. But when Duquette was hired in Baltimore, the local professor asked out of his deal in Chicago so he could re-join Duquette.

“It was a very fortuitous situation,” Walters said. “It came together nicely. We had a relationship previously, and now we will be able to see each other face to face a lot and work together on a day-to-day basis.”

Walters would not go into specifics of his position but said his role, in vague terms, will be “anytime they have to talk to about an economic dimension, I am available to talk to them.”

Said Duquette: “Steve Walters and I worked together in Boston, and he helps me with economic analysis of player contracts.”

When Duquette first started using Walters’ services, statistics-based evaluation was just beginning to emerge. Now most baseball organizations use some form of Sabermetrics.

“I just think it has been accepted in the mainstream,” Duquette said.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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