The Orioles were looking for an outfielder with on-base potential, and decided to dip into their starting pitching reserve to find one.
The club announced Friday that they had sent right-handed starter Yovani Gallardo to the Seattle Mariners for left-handed hitting outfielder Seth Smith and cash considerations.
Gallardo, 30, was slated to make $11 million this year (with a $2 million option buyout for 2018) and Smith, $7 million. One industry source said the Orioles were expected to save about $4 million in the deal, which means the cash changing hands is not expected to be significant.
Smith, a former second-round pick of the Colorado Rockies in 2004, has hit .261 with a .344 on-base percentage in his 10-year career. Gallardo was 6-8 with a 5.42 ERA for the Orioles last year after signing a two-year deal in the offseason.
Here’s O’s executive vice president Dan Duquette on the acquisition: “Seth Smith is a veteran leader, good on-base man and proven hitter. We look forward to his contributions to the 2017 Orioles.”
Here’s Seattle’s executive vice president Jerry Dipoto on the trade: “Gallardo gives us the veteran presence that we have been searching for. He has a track record of durability and success as a starting pitcher. After examining the free agent and trade market, Yovani is the best fit for our club as we move forward this offseason.”
And here’s my take on all of this:
First, it’s a move the Orioles had to make. Yes, no club likes to think it has too much starting pitching. That always comes back to haunt a club. But the reality is the Orioles had six starters for five spots, Gallardo was making $11 million in 2017 and was penciled-in as the odd man out.
Second, Smith checks some much-needed boxes for the Orioles. He is an adequate outfielder that can play left or right – he’s probably better off in right at Camden Yards. He’s not a defensive standout, but one scout said he is definitely an upgrade over Mark Trumbo in right field. Most important, Smith works counts, has a good eye and has a career .344 on-base percentage – something the Orioles were sorely lacking. Last year, Smith hit just .250 in 138 games for the Mariners, but he had a .346 on-base percentage due to 50 walks (he struck out 89 times) in 442 plate appearances.
Smith, in my opinion, fits into what the Orioles are trying to do in that he’s another guy that manager Buck Showalter can move around the corner outfield spots and at DH. He’ll likely sit versus lefties (.202 career hitter versus left-handed pitching), which means he could platoon with someone like Joey Rickard. If his spots are picked – and Showalter is the master at that – Smith could be a solid contributor for the Orioles because he has a lifetime slash-line against right-handers of .272 (average)/.355(OBP)/.472(slugging).
Reading the tea leaves, this likely means that a potential reunion between the Orioles and DH Pedro Alvarez is history. Alvarez is more limited defensively and doesn’t hit lefties either. However, this probably does nothing to limit the club’s interest in re-signing Trumbo. It could enhance it. Trumbo is right-handed and could fit into the DH slot more often with Smith on the club. And the Orioles, theoretically, have saved a few million in this deal that could be used toward a Trumbo contract (or another signing).
Know this, though: Smith is not a leadoff hitter, doing it just 80 games in his career. He’s better off batting second, where he has hit most in his career, or further down in the lineup. So, the Orioles are still looking for a leadoff hitter, I’d imagine.
One last thing: The Orioles and Mariners have danced plenty of times in recent years, including getting Trumbo for Steve Clevenger last offseason and Wade Miley for Ariel Miranda in July. And no one around here will forget the Erik Bedard trade that helped the Orioles re-establish themselves by adding Adam Jones and Chris Tillman, among others. Most of those deals have worked out well for the Orioles – we’ll see if this one continues that trend.
Bottom line is that it appears to be a good move for the Orioles initially in that it came from a surplus, didn’t affect the bullpen, added a player with needed skills and saved some cash.