Not as key as upgrading the rotation, but a left-handed-hitting outfield bat is still a must - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Not as key as upgrading the rotation, but a left-handed-hitting outfield bat is still a must

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

We all know pitching is the primary need for the Orioles. And the secondary need. And the thirdary need, if there were such a word.

We’ve stated since free agency began in November — based on this offseason, that seems like 17 years ago – that the Orioles were also seriously considering adding a left-handed-hitting outfielder to play right field.

At December’s winter meetings, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said the club had had extended conversations with other teams about acquiring a right fielder. He said it was more likely that the Orioles would trade for one than add an outfielder via free agency.

But basically six weeks have come and gone and the free-agent outfield market – like basically all free-agent markets – has remained relatively stagnant. Therefore, the chances of the Orioles adding a veteran outfielder through free agency have increased dramatically.

We know the Orioles have interest in Jon Jay, have touched base with his camp and have discussed him internally. And, according to a recent MASNsports.com report, the Orioles have reviewed the medicals of 33-year-old speedster Jarrod Dyson, whose season was cut short last year due to sports hernia surgery.

Dyson is left-handed, can fly and plays good defense, so he was always going to be on the short list. There are others, too, that seem like a potential fit. Depending on price, here are three that have intrigued various members of the organization: Carlos Gonzalez, Melky Cabrera and Nori Aoki.

If prices have fallen on one of those guys, expect the Orioles to pounce.

First, we know Camden Yards is an attractive landing spot for hitters trying to re-establish themselves on a one-year deal.

And since not re-signing Nick Markakis in the 2014-15 offseason, acquiring a right fielder has been a bit of a hobby for Duquette. He’s added Travis Snider, Gerardo Parra, Mark Trumbo and Seth Smith. So why not keep the tradition going (but improving on it, of course)?

Unless Trumbo is back out in right starting March 29 – something the Orioles are hoping to avoid doing regularly in 2018 – the club will have its fourth Opening Day right fielder in four years; Markakis started eight straight there from 2007 until 2014.

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There will always be some interest internally in trying to bring Markakis back from Atlanta – an irony since the main reason the Orioles allowed him to fly to the Braves in December 2014 is because they were concerned he wouldn’t remain healthy for four more seasons. Markakis, now 34, has played in all but 12 games in the first three years of his four-year deal with the Braves.

To be fair, the Orioles have plenty of internal candidates to start in right field, such as Trumbo, Joey Rickard, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander. But each has his drawbacks, and only Santander, the 2017 Rule 5 pick from Cleveland who must stay with the team for 44 more days in 2018 before he can be sent to the minors, isn’t strictly a right-handed hitter. He bats from both sides, but is so raw that he can’t be counted on to be a regular starter to begin 2018.

The only lefty hitting outfielder on the 40-man roster is 26-year-old Jaycob Brugman, whom the Orioles acquired from the Oakland A’s in a minor trade in November. He’s probably ticketed for Triple-A unless he has an eye-opening spring – and if the Orioles don’t add another outfielder before the season starts.

Frankly, the internal options aren’t terrible; just not perfect fits. The most intriguing is Hays, the 22-year-old, right-handed hitter who has skyrocketed through the system after being drafted in the third round in 2016.

In a normal situation, it would make sense to give him or Rickard or Santander a chance in right and hope you have something.

But the Orioles lack of left-handed hitters on the roster is a major concern. Of the 14 hitters currently on the 40-man, only three bat exclusively from the left side: first baseman Chris Davis, catcher Chance Sisco and Brugman.

So even if the Orioles wanted to go with Hays, for instance, the imbalance of the lineup would remain disconcerting.

Therefore, despite the expansive need for starting pitching, you have to expect the Orioles are going to find a right fielder, simply to add another lefty bat (and hopefully some speed and defensive prowess), as much as anything.

The hope, of course, is that the outfield bat is added in addition to several rotation arms and not in lieu of that.

36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

    January 22, 2018 at 8:00 am

    The problem is that they’re most likely going to add a lefty who has very little impact. This lefty (insert the name of a lefty cast-off/retread/wannabe) will not really help the lineup as much as take up space in an already crowded outfield.

    It’s basically an exercise to add a left handed hitter for the sake of saying they added a left handed hitter.

    Meanwhile, no one seems real motivated to address the smoldering dumpster fire that is the rotation.

    • Dan Connolly

      January 22, 2018 at 9:33 am

      Call it an exercise if you want. Point is Davis is their only lefty regular. That’s a problem.

      • Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

        January 22, 2018 at 10:18 am

        Oh, absolutely agreed. It’s a problem. When it comes to lefties, they have one guy who’s overpaid and under-performing, and a small handful of question marks. This is a symptom of a lack of long term planning, in my opinion. To have such a glaring problem, and for it to not be one of the top 4-5 issues facing this team right now tells me a lot.

  2. mlbbirdfan

    January 22, 2018 at 8:10 am

    “tertiary” pitching need Dan.
    (Means third level)

    • Dan Connolly

      January 22, 2018 at 9:35 am

      I know — though it actually gets misused a lot. (Often used as on the fringes). I just thought thirdiary was funny.

  3. Marshall

    January 22, 2018 at 8:14 am

    I think adding Carlos Gonzalez is my functional preference.

    But man, if Austin Hays could come up and just play his equivalent version of what Mancini did last year, I’d take that in a heartbeat. Plus, it would be exciting. I’d happily take my entertainment value from the year if he excelled. WE’d be talking about a resurgence of home grown talent. It would take pressure off of the Chance. A man can dream…

    • Dpsmith22

      January 22, 2018 at 9:18 am

      Cargo would be fantastic, but I expect a AAAA or a never-was.

    • Dan Connolly

      January 22, 2018 at 9:36 am

      Well, I don’t think it is a financial priority (if anything is). So I tend to agree it will be a lesser veteran.

  4. mlbbirdfan

    January 22, 2018 at 8:18 am

    Does the 40-man include 26 pitchers?

  5. Eldersburg Enigma

    January 22, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Can Raffy still play the outfield as he did about 30 years ago?

  6. Ben1

    January 22, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Doesnt matter to me unless the team thinks they will win all games 11 to 10. Me? This old timer likes the Oa of old that won with pitching and defense. OK, 3 run homers are cool but we aleady have sluggers capable of those. Without attracting quality pitching it doesnt matter.

    • Ben1

      January 22, 2018 at 9:01 am

      O’s … not Oa

    • Dan Connolly

      January 22, 2018 at 9:40 am

      That’s my point here, Ben. It does matter. Not nearly as much as the pitching. But these days you need balance in a lineup. But handed and type of hitters.

  7. Baltjim

    January 22, 2018 at 9:10 am

    To me, it doesn’t matter what we do for the lefty / righty mix unless we do something significant with the pitching. Significant does not mean a fourth tier pitcher with a lousy record being added.

    • Dan Connolly

      January 22, 2018 at 9:42 am

      Jim: see above. I understand deeply the need for pitching. But that doesn’t mean ignore another major flaw, too.

  8. Boog Robinson Robinson

    January 22, 2018 at 9:37 am

    Has Hyun Soo already left the country?

    • Dan Connolly

      January 22, 2018 at 11:32 am

      Yup. Never to slash a single at the Yards again (they need an upgrade defensively in right, too).

    • Buzz1979

      January 22, 2018 at 6:27 pm

      He Gon Now

  9. 5brooks5

    January 22, 2018 at 9:53 am

    Wouldn’t it be nice to see a lefty, that could play defense and actually get on base. Some balance to the line-up has been needed for years and not just left/right. Some on base types could provide some much needed balance to the types of hitters we have and have had for many years, work the count, be selective.

  10. OsBeforeBros

    January 22, 2018 at 10:13 am

    I think everyone realizes that the Orioles’ biggest shortcoming is starting pitching and that it should be addressed with the greatest priority. That being said, a left handed bat (ideally one that can get on base and brings good defensive skills) is certainly another hole that needs to be filled. This hole can probably be filled more easily considering all the factors that influence a SP signing (more competition, risk on length of deal, ballpark reputation for SPs, physicals, etc.)

    I believe the Orioles of old would be focusing on a short term signing of CarGo for the name power and bat. I believe this time around they realize the greater need for pitching and defense. You have to think that Dyson and Jay are preferred. While Jay provides a consistent bat and good OBP from both sides, he is not as good defensively and has a weaker arm. Dyson has more significant platoon splits, but brings greater speed, baserunning, and defensive abilities. I think the Orioles could make a case for either player.

    • Dpsmith22

      January 22, 2018 at 10:27 am

      Jay does check all the boxes. Over .350 OBP for most of his years and his splits are solid. Dyson does not get on base which is sad with his speed.

      My feeling is in 2015, they needed a legit major league outfielder, didn’t get one, paid the price. My gut says this year will be no different. They don’t learn from their mistakes. They trade them away after the fact, but the damage has already been done.

    • Dan Connolly

      January 22, 2018 at 11:37 am

      I hear ya. But let’s not forget Cruz and Trumbo were terrific pickups.

  11. Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

    January 22, 2018 at 10:41 am

    I think they will wind up with a player like Dyson. He checks a number of the boxes for the lefty bat that they need,. The problem is, the Orioles are not one Dyson-level player from contending. Heck, they aren’t even one Dyson-level player away from having a balanced lineup — they would have to add two productive (i.e, better-than-Dyson) left-handed hitters before you could reasonably argue that they have a balanced lineup. And I do not believe that this front office is capable of finding, signing, or trading for two capable left-handed hitters who can play defense, and then also clear the log jam of righties.

    • Dan Connolly

      January 22, 2018 at 11:35 am

      But to ignore it all makes less sense.

      • Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

        January 22, 2018 at 12:36 pm

        I’m not advocating that they should ignore the situation. I’m saying that their non-actions, and the expected small move they will make, is by de facto the very definition of the team ignoring a problem.

        Dyson/Jay/Brugman and the like aren’t fixes for the R/L problem of the current Oriole lineup. They are band-aids at best, and impediments to the younger players at worst.

        They *need* to address the left-handed bat issue, and I expect they will — but not in any meaningful way. Patches. Spackling. Duct tape. The new Oriole Way.

        • Buzz1979

          January 22, 2018 at 6:29 pm

          Could you pass the Bandaids, please?

  12. phildell

    January 22, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    Dan who,in your opinion, would be the best fit for the O’s as a left hand hitting right fielder?

  13. Buzz1979

    January 22, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    Egads! Aoki was RELESAED during the season, his price should be rock bottom!

  14. Tanned Tom

    January 22, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    If the NYY were to make Ellsbury available at a cost of $25 for 3 years, would the O’s be interested?

  15. Oriole Fan For Life

    January 22, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    The Orioles should look at trading for Miami Marlin players OF Yelich and C Realmuto. Realmuto is controllable until 2021 and Yelich is signed through 2022. They would fill major needs for the Orioles. I am sure Miami would have a pitcher they could add as well. The O’s would probably have to give up a prospect or two and a couple of major leagues. What do you think, Dan, possible?

  16. ClyOs

    January 22, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    I think Jon Jay would be the perfect fit. He isn’t the base stealer he once was but is a true lead off hitter which the O’s haven’t had in some time.

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