Baltimore Orioles: Adding a Final Outfield Piece

The Baltimore Orioles will head into spring training with the league’s reigning home run leader back in the mix. Now that the roster is nearing completion, there remains one more final outfield spot.

While the list for a final outfielder may be extremely slim at this point in the offseason, it’s evident that the Baltimore Orioles are still shopping options.

In an interview with press earlier in the week, Dan Duquette said the team’s offseason business wasn’t finished:

“We’re still looking to fill out our team,” Duquette said. “We have some work to do between now and spring training, so we’ll continue to add.”

Amongst adding additional pitching depth, Duquette and the Orioles have expressed their need for a left-handed-hitting outfielder with a plus glove.

What Duquette failed to mention though, was the desperate need for an outfielder who can post respectable numbers against left-handed pitchers.

Looking at the Numbers

Baltimore has notoriously been known for struggling mightily against LHP. All-Star Adam Jones has been a direct representation of that struggle. He posted a .218 average vs. LHP in 2016 as compared to .280 vs. RHP. He’s shown similar numbers during each of his seasons as an Oriole.

Hyun Soo Kim in 17 plate appearances vs. LHP in 2016, was unable to record a single hit.

Newly acquired outfielder Seth Smith hit nearly 100 points lower in 2016 against LHP, posting a .167 average — compared to .256 vs. RHP.

Even home run king Mark Trumbo struggled immensely vs. LHP last season, posting a .173 average vs. southpaws. His numbers against RHP were much more respectable as indicated by his home run total.

The only outfield bat who stands to be an asset against pitchers from the left side, is youngster Joey Rickard. In 90 plate appearances vs. LHP in 2016, Rickard posted a .313 average. While he will undoubtedly platoon much of the season with Kim and whomever else Baltimore may sign, he looks to be the go-to option against left-handed starters.

Who’s Still Available?

I know by now you’re probably wondering who’s even still available to fill this void. First, there’s Michael Bourn, who came over to the Orioles as they pushed their way into last year’s postseason.

With three different teams in 2016, Bourn posted outstanding numbers against LHP:

BA – .242 vs. LHP/.218 vs. RHP
OBP – .347 vs. LHP/.295 vs. RHP
SLG – .339 vs. LHP/.302 vs. RHP
OPS – .686 vs. LHP/.597 vs. RHP

Even though Bourn is aging — now 34 — the 5’11 outfielder displays speed on the base paths and in the outfield, and should be able to come relatively cheap. Not to mention he hits from the left side.

A younger and cheaper alternative to Bourn, could be Gregor Blanco who finished last season with the San Francisco Giants. He garnered $3.9 million in 2016 — much less than Bourn received from both the Braves and Diamondbacks last season.

How does Blanco stack up against south paws?

BA – .242 vs. LHP/.218 vs. RHP
OBP – .347 vs. LHP/.295 vs. RHP
SLG – .339 vs. LHP/.302 vs. RHP
OPS – .686 vs. LHP/.597 vs. RHP

Just a year younger than Bourn, Blanco also bats from the left side and commands a .990 career fielding percentage — similar to Bourn. At this point in the offseason, both options would yield either just a one or two-year deal and wouldn’t warrant anything the Orioles aren’t capable of meeting.

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For Duquette and the Orioles, time is running out. There’s a void that needs to be filled — make it happen.

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