Addition of Iglesias, Urena should improve Orioles' infield defense; Catcher Bryan Holaday signed - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Addition of Iglesias, Urena should improve Orioles’ infield defense; Catcher Bryan Holaday signed

Jose Iglesias
Photo credit: Charles LeClaire - USA Today Sports

Amid the announcement that the Orioles agreed on 2020 contracts with Hanser Alberto, Mychal Givens and Trey Mancini on Friday came the news that the team had acquired a utility infielder, Richard Urena, on waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays.

Coincidentally, it was not only the second straight year that executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias had settled with his arbitration-eligible players without going to a hearing, but the second time the Orioles claimed a utility infielder on waivers on deadline day.

On January 11, 2019, the Orioles claimed Alberto, who had a .192 career average with a puny .440 OPS, on waivers from the New York Yankees. The Orioles lost him on waivers on February 22 and reclaimed him a week later.

Alberto hit .309 and .398 against left-handers. The Orioles are hoping for a similar breakthrough from Urena.

Before his acquisition, Alberto had played just 89 major league games in parts of three seasons. Urena has appeared in 91 with much better numbers. He’s hit .253 with a .636 OPS in parts of the previous three seasons.

Urena is a 23-year-old switch-hitter, and that’s important. Most of their candidates to play second base, shortstop and third base — Alberto, Dilson Herrera, José Iglesias, Richie Martin, Jose Rondon, and Pat Valaika (if he clears waivers) — are right-handed.

Only Rio Ruiz and Stevie Wilkerson, who’s a switch-hitter, aren’t right-handed. Wilkerson, who played mostly outfield last year, is a candidate to make the club as a utility player, but even with a 26-man roster, that might be difficult.

Urena is primarily a shortstop, although he’s started 19 games at second base. If manager Brandon Hyde is going to use Alberto in a second base/third base swingman role as he did in 2019, the Orioles need a competent left-handed hitter at second. Urena and Wilkerson would seem to be the two choices.

At last month’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, Elias mentioned that he could possibly sign another outfielder to a minor league contract, but there appear to be enough candidates for an interesting competition during spring training.

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If the Orioles carry Mancini, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander as primary outfielders, there could be just one pure backup.

With two catchers, Chris Davis, Renato Nunez, Alberto, Iglesias, Ruiz and Urena, who’s out of options, that leaves two spots unaccounted for.

It seems as if the Orioles are going to send shortstop Richie Martin to Triple-A Norfolk to begin the season. He could focus on beefing up offense and perhaps learn some second or third base to increase his value.

Cedric Mullins, Dwight Smith Jr., and Mason Williams will compete for a backup outfield spot along with Wilkerson, who could also serve as a backup infielder.

Yusniel Diaz, who doesn’t yet have to be placed on the 40-man roster, and Ryan McKenna, who is on it for the first time, haven’t yet played in Triple-A and need time there.

DJ Stewart, who would have expected to compete for a backup outfield position, is still recovering from ankle surgery and won’t start the season with the Orioles.

Valaika, whom the Orioles claimed on waivers from Colorado in October, was designated for assignment to make room for Urena on the 40-rman roster. If he clears, he could come to spring training as a non-roster player along with Herrera and Rondon.

Wilkerson’s value was probably higher in 2019 because with a 25-man roster and 13 pitchers for much of the season, the team had only 12 position players and his versatility was vital.

His ability to play multiple infield positions as well as the outfield will be an advantage. The switch-hitting is a bonus.

The signing of shortstop Iglesias and the acquisition of Urena should make the Orioles’ infield defense stronger, and that’s a positive step for the 2020 season.

Catcher Bryan Holaday signed: The Orioles signed catcher Bryan Holaday to a minor league contract on Monday. The 32-year-old Holaday has a .241 average in parts of eight seasons with Detroit, Boston, Texas and Miami.

Last season, Holaday hit .278 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 41 games with the Marlins. In his career, Holaday has thrown out 30 percent of runners attempting to steal.

He’ll compete with Pedro Severino, Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns for a position on the major league roster.

NOTE: Later this week, I’ll be answering your questions. If you have some, please leave them in the comments section below or send them to [email protected] com.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Bman

    January 13, 2020 at 9:56 am

    What are the chances they part ways with Davis at some point this year?

    • Birdman

      January 13, 2020 at 5:50 pm

      And will ownership finally give Elias authority to make the call on Davis?

  2. CalsPals

    January 13, 2020 at 9:58 am

    That’s the $160 million dollar question…lmao…go O’s…

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    January 13, 2020 at 10:43 am

    Iglesias … Urena … Holaday ……

    Let’s get Mikey to try them ….

  4. cedar

    January 13, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    I can be accused as an eternal optimist but i feel that this year’s acquisitions as far as in the field are a step above last year.

    With the outfield and middle infield shored up where do you think Elias focuses his efforts next?

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      January 13, 2020 at 12:28 pm

      Shored up … Really?

    • cedar

      January 13, 2020 at 9:12 pm

      Compared to last year? Yes.

  5. CalsPals

    January 13, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    Maybe make wholesale trades with Astros right now, maybe they’re vulnerable to it…lol…go O’s…

    • Bancells Moustache

      January 13, 2020 at 3:59 pm

      I’d make sure Elias can’t receive any inbound calls from a Houston area code for a few days.

  6. CalsPals

    January 13, 2020 at 4:27 pm

    Wonder how much Elias really knew about what was going on…go O’s…

    • Camden Brooks

      January 13, 2020 at 6:06 pm

      Legit question.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      January 13, 2020 at 6:39 pm

      Giving new meaning to the term “analytics”.

    • TxBirdFan

      January 13, 2020 at 7:16 pm

      Of course he knew. Just not sure of his level of involvement.

      If the O’s can turn Urenas into a .300 hitter like Alberto then we might have a chance not to win 60 games, but only if Stevie and Crush can pitch.

    • Camden Brooks

      January 13, 2020 at 7:42 pm

      With their preferred method of relaying signs to the hitters, wouldn’t it be called “canalytics?”

  7. Bhoffman1

    January 14, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Can the O’s sign AJ Hinch as their manager for 2021, what a upgrade that would be

    • CalsPals

      January 14, 2020 at 2:32 pm

      Was thinking the same thing…lol…go O’s…

    • 33d St

      January 16, 2020 at 10:27 pm

      If not, he’d still have a decent shot to make the roster as a catcher.

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