Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette thought he filled one of the Orioles’ primary holes on Aug. 1 when he dealt High-A catcher Jonah Heim to the Tampa Bay Rays for infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce.
I talked to some people who believe the Orioles paid a lot more for Pearce than they did for veteran lefty Wade Miley, who was acquired July 31 from the Seattle Mariners for lefty Ariel Miranda.
Miranda has already made his Mariners’ debut, and Heim is probably three seasons away. But Heim is already considered an above-average defender. He hasn’t hit, but he is a big guy (6-foot-3, 190), and the belief is that he’ll begin driving the ball as he matures. So, there is still upside there for the 21-year-old.
The reason the Orioles were willing to give up Heim for a part-time, two-month rental is twofold: One, the Orioles were extremely familiar with Pearce, who played in Baltimore from 2012 to 2015. They know his ability, work ethic and personality.
Secondly, with the exception of not being able to play center field, Pearce was the perfect fit for what the Orioles needed: A right-handed hitter with pop who mashes left-handed pitching and can play multiple defensive positions adequately.
One of the unfortunate things the Orioles know about Pearce, however, is that he has been beset by injuries for much of his career, partially because he works so hard to prepare for games. In the past, Orioles manager Buck Showalter has practically banned Pearce from the batting cage because he wasn’t allowing his sore wrists to heal.
It was reported Sunday that Pearce has undergone a cortisone shot in his right elbow because he is dealing with flexor mass discomfort. Anytime that phrase is mentioned, baseball people wince. So many times a flexor mass issue has turned into elbow ligament surgery.
At this point, the Orioles and Pearce don’t think the situation is serious. He told reporters he could be back in a couple days. But, if he isn’t, the Orioles need to figure out a solution to fill the void that Pearce just filled.
That’s where Tap Room patrons come in. I want to hear what you would do if you were Duquette, and Pearce has to be shelved. In a little more than three weeks, rosters expand and several outfielders can be called up. Joey Rickard (thumb) could be off the DL by then.
But, in a heated pennant race, can the Orioles afford to do nothing to bridge that gap?
One possibility is, as manager Buck Showalter would say, take the governors off outfielder Hyun Soo Kim and see if the Korean lefty can solve left-handers the way he has handled right-handers. Play Kim full-time and see what you really have.
Another possibility is handing the left field keys versus left-handers to Nolan Reimold. Make it unquestionably his job, play him some against righties to keep him sharp, and let this be the final exam.
The 32-year-old has been with the Orioles for parts of seven seasons. We’ve seen him good, not-so good and hurt. He has struggled this year in limited action (.230, five homers in 180 plate appearances) and has been particularly rough against southpaws (.197 in 76 at-bats).
Maybe you ratchet up Reimold’s playing time this month and watch him sink or swim.
There are plenty of outfield options in the minors, but none particularly inspiring. That’s why the Orioles acquired Pearce. But for a stop-gap, they could recall Julio Borbon or Dariel Alvarez or promote someone else and give them a chance such as Mike Yastrzemski, Christian Walker, Xavier Avery or L.J. Hoes. None in that foursome has torn it up at Triple-A though (Walker has the best average of the group at .257).
The other alternative is for Duquette to go back to the trade route. He can still make deals in August, but any big leaguers switching clubs must first clear trade waivers. Anyone the Orioles would target at this point as a fourth outfielder should get through without being claimed. But, the flip side of that, is you’re only going to get a gap-filler and may have to give up another Heim-type to do it.
Maybe I’m getting too far ahead of things right now. It’s possible Pearce is barely out and the Orioles quickly weather another storm. But we like to plan here at Connolly’s. And I guarantee you Showalter has done that, too. He’s probably got Plans B through J already figured out.
So put on your GM/manager’s hat (it’s made of bar napkins). If Pearce is lost for 15 days, how do you bridge the gap to September call-ups? Do you make a trade, do you promote someone from the minors and give them lots of playing time or do you rely on a current player to pick up the slack?
Tap-In Question: If Pearce goes to the DL, how would you fill his vacancy?