Baltimore Orioles Offseason Blueprint: Part 2- Hitters

November 16, 2012 in Baltimore Orioles Offseason

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The Orioles are pretty set at a number of positions in the line-up. Matt Wieters, catcher; Manny Machado, third base;J.J. Hardy, shortstop; Adam Jones, centerfield; Nick Markakis, RF and Chris Davis, DH/1B. That leaves the Orioles in need of a second baseman and a 1B/DH (whatever position Chris Davis doesn't play). It also puts them in need of a left fielder in case Nolan Reimold can return and be effective from his injury. Given Reimold's injury concern the Orioles should look to make four signings for position guys to ensure a solid line-up and the depth necessary in case some key injuries occur again. Given the big money given to the pitchers, the Orioles should look for one key bat, and then find three lower cost (but effective) options.

Targets:

1B/OF Nick Swisher:

The Orioles do need to make one "splash" free agent signing among position players and that should be Nick Swisher. Swisher can play either first base or a corner outfield spot, and would give the Orioles the "pop" they are losing by letting Mark Reynolds leave. Though Swisher can't match Reynolds raw power, he's a far better overall hitter, and has averaged 26 home runs and 34 doubles in his last four seasons while with the Yankees. His on base percentage these last four years has ranged from .359-.374 (Markakis led the Orioles with a .363 mark). Swisher's slugging percentage has ranged from .449-.511 over that time, only Jones and Markakis were over the .450 mark last year. Though not a defensive star Swisher more than holds his own both at a corner outfield spot or first base. It's not a deep market for corner infielders or outfielders so Swisher will have some attention, Swisher will probably look for a contender given his history of being on playoff teams. At just 32 years of age a 3 or 3 year plus an option type of deal would make sense.

2B/UTL Jeff Keppinger:

Jeff Keppinger isn't what you'd call an ideal second base fix. He's not that good defensively and he's neither a speed or power guy. What he is though is one of the better options in a very shallow market, due mainly to his high contact rate and ability to get on base (at least relative to his position). He's not going to hit many doubles or home runs, but he's a career .288 hitter with a .337 OBP, and twice in the last three years has been over .350 OBP. The fact that he put up his best numbers with the Rays last season also looks favorably, showing that he can handle AL East pitching (though it's worth noting he didn't face the Rays tough pitching). Keppinger can hold his own versus righties, but really excels versus lefties He's a career .333 hitter with an OPS of .864 versus southpaws. Though that seems to lack some value given that it's the short side of the platoon split, it has more value to the Orioles than some other teams. Of the 20 starting pitchers on the four other AL East teams, between 8-10 of them could be lefties (Red Sox: Jon Lester, Felix Doubront, Blue Jays: Ricky Romero, Mark Buehrle, J.A. Happ {maybe}, Rays: David Price, Matt Moore, Yankees: CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte) including many of their top pitchers. Having some guys who can really unload on lefties could help even up some of these match-ups the Orioles will face this year. Keppinger is ideally suited for more of a super utility role, but the Orioles 2nd base options are limited. He should be passable this year defensively, and give them an offensive upgrade. He's likely not going to be too expensive and should be had for something in the range of 2 years $6 million (total).

OF Juan Pierre:

As mentioned earlier the Orioles can't count on Nolan Reimold to be the answer (or healthy) for left field. The Orioles probably can't afford one of the bigger name outfield options, mainly since they are almost all over valued as centerfielders (something the Orioles don't need). Others will get overpaid due to their name or a fluke season. The Orioles should instead go for someone like Juan Pierre. Pierre is no longer an every day player or a centerfielder (though he could play it in a pinch), and he lacks the power production for a corner spot. For the Orioles though that could be okay as they will have plenty of power from other positions, and need guys on base and speed. Those are two areas where Pierre can help out in. He's a very talented base stealer, and can be a solid lead-off option for a least a part time role. Over the last four years he's had an on base percentage over .340 three times, and would be a solid option to lead-off for the Orioles or perhaps bat 9th to help turnover the line-up. Now Pierre should only be considered part of the puzzle in left field, and barring injury shouldn't be expected to have more than 400 plate appearances. He's not a great defensive player, despite good range, due to his arm, but he shouldn't hurt the Orioles either. While he'll get a raise from his $800K contract last year, he'll probably max out at $2.5 million, which is a fairly good deal for the Orioles, given the boost he brings to both the speed and on base departments.

LF/DH Jonny Gomes:

Gomes may be listed as an outfielder, but really he'd be signed as a DH, as you'd rather see Davis or Swisher in the outfield over him. Gomes is really just a part time player, and honestly should really only be used against lefties. The Oakland Athletics finally figured that out and it paid off for them in a big way. Gomes finally saw more plate appearances (196) versus lefties, than righties (137). Gomes had a .974 OPS versus lefties compared to a .715 OPS versus righties. What's even more impressive is Gomes played his home games at the Oakland Coliseum one of the least hitter friendly parks in baseball. Playing at Camden Yards he could see even greater success versus southpaws (and in general). He's a must start everytime a left-handed starter is on the mound, and a great pinch hit option if a team wants to bring in a lefty. Given his role as a part-time player and his lack of defense, Gomes likely won't have a big market, and the Orioles should be able to sign him for under $3 million.

Conclusion:

Though by in large they aren't major offensive upgrades, these four players combine to give the Orioles a major offensive boost. They all should help boost the Orioles on base percentage, an area where Baltimore struggled mightily last year. Swisher and Gomes will also give a boost to the Orioles slugging percentage making the line-up far more potent. Pierre offers some much needed speed to the line-up. There's some concern about the lack of defensive improvement , but with few options out there at 2B, and most left field options too expensive, the offensive gains outweigh not getting better defenders.

As for the question about the over saturation of bats, it really shouldn't be an issue. Injuries are bound to occur. Add in off days and playing the match-ups and there should be plenty at bats for everyone. Good teams have strong benches, and the Orioles shouldn't be an exception. Adding both Pierre and Gomes at a cost less than many starting corner outfielders. Though the Orioles offense still might not be elite, these four moves would make them pretty romidable.

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18 responses to Baltimore Orioles Offseason Blueprint: Part 2- Hitters

  1. Gomes is definitely on their list, but they want to improve their defense (even though they had three Gold Glovers) and he would not do that. So I think Davis fills the DH/1B role, assuming Reynolds doesn't come back. They're also looking for a higher OBP so Pierre would help with that. Keeping Reimold and B-Rob healthy are huge, and I think Nate McLouth would come back at a low price for help in the OF. But they REALLY need a lead-off/2B option if B-Rob is out again. Markakis could stay in the lead-off spot, but they're not going to bring in Keppinger because he's not really any better than what they have now. Again, the trade market will be more ideal for that fix.

    It should be an interesting month or so for the O's Hot Stove League.

    • It's hard to say who might be on the trade market but there don't seem to be many viable options, the Nationals may consider moving Danny Espinosa or Steven Lombardozzi but only as part of a deal for a top starter (which the Orioles don't have), or a top OF.

      Seattle has top prospect Nick Franklin to move, but they are looking for impact power bats.

      Miami will probably deal Yunel Escobar, but he costs $5 million (twice as much as Keppinger probably) and is a bit of a head case. He also has more trade value than he's worth since he can play short.

      The Padres will probably make Logan Forsythe available, but he's not a speed guy.

  2. More and more I am liking the possibility of Swisher. But I have a feeling they are going to make a real big move. Bigger than signing someone like Swisher. Each winter players end up getting moved who aren't expected. My first thought is someone like David Wright but O's already have Machado now. Maybe like a Mauer to play first? I just don't see them making smaller moves.

    • I just don't know if it makes sense for the O's to try to make big trades. Their farm system is pretty weak (outside of guys they want long term), and they have money to spend. To get a pitcher as good a top pitcher or bat, they'd either have to be willing to give up Machado or Bundy, or package every other tradeable asset together.

      If they go with a Swisher/Sanchez/Jackson approach that is a significant upgrade and financial commitment

  3. Man, I would feel crappy if the O's didn't make a real effort to keep Nate McLouth. The guy was amazing for the time he played with us, and single handedly kept us in the postseason for as long as it went. He played great defense, moved around in the lineup, and obviously has great talent.

    Maybe the stats don't say it, but I'd rather have him over Swisher any day.

    • it def. wouldn't be Swisher or McLouth, as McLouth for all his heroics is not an every day player. I just don't think you can risk going again with a dumpster diving route and hoping it works. The Orioles have a really solid foundation, but they need to build their team like a true playoff contender, and that is getting top starting pitching, and building out a well-rounded roster.

    • that doesn't mean McLouth can't return, but I think guys like Pierre and Gomes give the Orioles more for their money.

  4. If I'am manager…..
    C Wieters
    1B Davis- Struggled there defensively in 2012, but spent much of the offseason working at third/was supposed to be above-average there when we snatched him from Texas. Also hit much better when playing 1st.
    2B Roberts- No way management pays him $10mil to not even give him a chance. Will probably start there everyday at first. When/If he gets hurt, Casilla provides speed, defense, and hopefully his 2011 batting splits.
    3B Hardy- See below. Would have been ideal to trade for Chase Headley at the trade deadline..probably won't happen now after Headley's monster 2nd half.
    SS Machado- Yes, Machado played very well at third this season. But, having him play 3rd for much longer will make it very difficult for him to transition back to SS in a couple of years. If Machado plays 3rd until the end of Hardy's contract, he'll never play SS again. Therefore, we will have limited the best postional comodity to come out of our system in a very long time by minimizing his value at 3rd.
    LF Melky Cabrera- Before finding out about the Blue Jays signing him, this would have been my choice to man left. He would have signed a short deal, and we'd get a fantastic player.
    CF Jones
    RF Markakis
    DH Betemit/Reimold.

    • @Matt so essentially no improvements from last year, just Melky and praying that Reimold and Markakis being healthy is enough?

      • Well considering….
        1. Markakis will be healthy- he's missed what..50 games in his career to injury? Not exactly praying he will stay healthy..?
        2. Melky is substantially better than anything we had in 2012 left field(not substantially better than Reimold, but still better).
        3. Reimold isn't being counted on to play in the field much or bat much- he's insurance.
        4. Hardy most likely won't have the piece of crap year he had this year.
        5. Machado is expected to get better.
        6. Roberts or Casilla is still better than Andino.
        I think we've gotten better.

        • 1. Yes Markakis will be healthy, but which Markakis do you get? He's had a number of down seasons you need depth

          2. Melky is no longer an option, so I'm not sure the point. I would have def. signed him, though I rather see that money spent on Swisher

          3. That's great that Reimold is insurance, who's being counted on in LF and DH (if Davis is 1B)

          4. I love Hardy, but most of his career resembles what we saw, big power and elite glove. He's never been an OBP guy, sure it might improve, but he's not going to suddenly become some top hitting SS.

          5. Machado is expected to get better and at one point he will be an elite star, but that will probably take a couple of years until he reaches his peak. Also we've seen plenty of great young players have a sophomore slump (Jason Heyward), so his numbers might be roughly the same as well.

          6. Casilla is barely better than Andino and is not an everyday option. If Roberts isn't healthy or productive it will be a major hole again. Sign Keppinger, if Roberts is back then you have the best utility player in baseball.

          The Orioles need a playoff caliber line-up, bench and rotation. They obviously have the bullpen, and they are kinda close on the line-up, but now is not the time to go cheap on this team and go back to the losing ways.

  5. 1. Markakis is a solid #2 hitter who would have benefitted the lineup even if he reverted back to his 2011 batting splits
    2. Melky would have been well more worth the money than Swisher.
    3. Reimold won't be counted on to play everyday- part time DH and 4th outfielder- we'll sign a left fielder.
    4. So…Hardy still improves haha?
    5. Machado could or couln't break out..wise to have depth.
    6. So…Casilla/Roberts ares till better than Andino haha?
    I'am not against signing Keppinger. This seems like enough improvements to an already above average lineup.

    • Swisher is the big bat, both slugging and OBP that the O's need. He should be the top target among position players. You assume all these guys improve, but ignore the factors like injuries or regression from some guys as well. What if Davis slumps, or Jones numbers fall slightly. The O's need the depth and talent so the loss of one guy or two doesn't kill their playoff hopes.

      • And Melky wouldn't have been that big bat? Additions of Cabreara and Keppinger would be the depth and talent so the loss of one guy or two doesn't kill their playoff hopes.

        • I'm not arguing against Melky, who is now a moot point. I would have been fine with a Melky signing, though I'm not not sure who the corresponding 1b/DH move would have been. To me with a shortage of 1B types, and a glut of LF's I'd invest more heavily in the 1B, and piece together the LF. To me the O's could get by re-signing a McLouth (since Pierre is off the market) if they sign someone like Gomes as well for a nice platoon split. Reimold and Davis can of course play there some as well. McLouth for his career has decent numbers for RHP's (not great esp for a corner OF), and is playable (not an automatic start) in those situations. Gomes kills lefties but can't hit righties.

          • Betemit and Reimold can DH, and that is a better combo than anything we can find on the market. Davis can play 1st base. Melky would play everyday in LF. It's a moot point now, but you were argueing against my original lineup. Signing Keppinger can DH vs lefties if Reimold is in the field.

          • The problem with Betemit is his defense is so awful and it's at a higher impact position (3B), a guy like Gomes could at least play LF if there were injuries. I'd rather see Chris Davis at 3B than Betemit. Betemit is best used as 1B despite the fact that he doesn't have power, or DH and only against RHP. He's a bench guy without a position. Gomes has legit power who would do quite well in OPACY (this is moot though as the Sox are about to sign him). The O's can very much do better than Betemit, and should continue to look for upgrades.

            A line-up of:

            C- Weiters
            1B- Davis
            2B- (Keppinger or Roberts)
            SS Hardy
            3B Machado
            LF- Reimold
            CF Jones
            RF- Markakis
            DH- Betemit

            Is not that special, and one that compares favorably to most top teams. Baltimore needs to add bats in a big way.

          • Betemit has a .302/.357/.502/.859 batting line against RHP. Now find speedy, cheap, right-handed platoon partner…Reimold…Check.