They’ve let both Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis walk right onto the rosters of other teams since the end of the 2014 season. Both players who were solid in the field and on offense. Letting them walk does not seem like the best decision the Orioles could have made.
Wednesday the Orioles agreed to a one-year, $2.25 million deal with outfielder Delmon Young, 29.
Young signed a minor league deal with the Orioles last season and performed well in 83 games for Baltimore in 2014. The deal contains $750,000 in incentives that could bring the number up to $3 million by the end of the season.
Young, however, really just provides outfield depth as 38 of his 83 games last season were played at the designated hitter position and it is likely that things will stay the same in 2015. Still, Young hit .302/.337/.442 with seven home runs and 30 RBI.
30-year-old Alejandro De Aza, who was traded to the Orioles from the Chicago White Sox in late August, did hit .293 with three home runs and 10 RBI in just 20 games for Baltimore. His totals on the year were not as good, coming in at .252/.314/.386 with eight home runs and 41 RBI. Plus, he doesn’t bring much to the table with his 0.3 WAR.
31-year-old Steve Pearce can play in the outfield but is primarily a first baseman. He played 51 of his 102 total games at first while the others were divided up between left field, right field and DH.
He did have a 6.0 overall WAR in 2014 but the majority of that was through his offensive abilities, not defense. Pearce hit .293/.373/.556 with 21 home runs and 49 RBI in 2014, but his defense leaves something to be desired.
Starting the season with Young, De Aza and Pearce as the only outfield options leaves the Orioles in a predicament. With very few, if any, outfielders left on the free agent market the Orioles are going to have to trade for an outfielder.
What they’d be giving up depends on what team decides to make a deal with the O’s. Rumors have been swirling around the San Diego Padres who have an excess of outfielders after trading for Wil Myers from the Tampa Bay Rays, Matt Kemp from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Justin Upton from the Atlanta Braves.
The Boston Red Sox could be an option but a trade between the two teams seems unlikely since both are trying to compete for the top spot in the American League East.
It’s not impossible since the two teams worked together to send reliever Andrew Miller, who signed with the New York Yankees this offseason, to the Orioles last season. However, the situation was different with the Red Sox pretty much already out of postseason contention at that point.
Recent rumors have the Orioles tied to Padres’ outfielders Seth Smith and Will Venable. One or both of whom would be serious upgrades to players like Pearce and De Aza, however, the Padres price might be a little too high, at least right now.
Smith, 32, who hit .266/.367/.440 with 12 home runs and 48 RBI in 136 games with the Padres last season, brings with him a 3.9 WAR but his defense leaves something to be desired and isn’t that much better than Pearce’s.
Venable, also 32, is better on defense than Smith and Pearce but hit just .224/.288/.325 with eight home runs and 33 RBI in 146 games in 2014.
Smith and Veneable are both left-handed bats that the Orioles could use in their predominantly right-handed lineup. Both however have very dramatic splits, hitting righties much more than left-handed pitchers. The Orioles would at least have the option of using platoons to get by.
The current state of the Orioles outfield is bleak but if they wait a little while and are patient the Padres prices for Smith and Venable will likely come down, as it’s pretty certain that the Padres can’t possibly keep all their outfielders.
The Orioles were patient last offseason, waiting until spring training to sign free-agents Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Still having not made a move to replenish their depleted outfield could leave the Orioles at a loss when the season begins.