One of the surprising stories of the 2012 Orioles will be back for another chapter in 2013.
The big story for the Orioles, or what passed for it, at the Winter Meetings yesterday was that they had been in contact with the representatives of Nick Swisher. Whether you liked the idea or not, this was surely a bit of news that got you worked up about something. Swisher patrolling left field or first base or designated hitter or whatever for the Orioles might have been interesting.
Today, the big news (so far) is that the Orioles have re-signed Nate McLouth to a one-year deal. The agreement was first reported to be imminent by Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Within minutes, the official leak had passed around the beat writing corps, though of course, the official-official announcement will be pending the standard physical.
McLouth began the 2012 season with Pittsburgh and was released after a disappointing .140/.210/.175 slash line through 34 games. He found his way to the Norfolk Tides, made the most of the opportunity, and became a key piece of the Orioles' return to the playoffs. You know all this already. Now, thanks to Ken Rosenthal, we also know that McLouth will be back in 2013 for $2 million with a potential $500,000 in bonuses. The price is right.
So, McLouth is back in the fold. He could be the everyday left fielder, or, if Nolan Reimold is healthy, he could be part of a platoon. He could return as the leadoff hitter. He could duplicate or better the .777 OPS he batted in 55 games with the O's, or at the age of 31 he may find himself slipping back into whatever got him released from the Pirates. I don't know, neither do you, neither does Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette. What we do know is we haven't seen Duquette as one to be swayed by sentiment much, so he must like his chances to get the right value out of this re-signing.
After all, left field was one of the biggest holes on the team last year, at least until McLouth arrived in August. Without knowing whether he would be back, the position looked like one of the biggest holes for 2013 as well. Now, at least on paper, it looks to be filled.
As for yesterday's tidbit about Swisher, does this signing preclude it? Probably not. Signs are that maybe Swisher should stick to 1B/DH by this point in his career, so filling in left field doesn't mean there is no room for him on the team, if the Orioles really want him to be on the team at about the price he will command on the market. With retention of Mark Reynolds looking unlikely, there's still a hole to be filled there as well. Roch Kubatko adds this from Duquette:
Asked if he's still looking for 1B, Duquette mentioned again that Chris Davis can play there. As for DH, he mentioned Betemit and Valencia— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) December 5, 2012
So, when you're talking about Davis as your first baseman or Wilson Betemit or Danny Valencia as your designated hitter, yes, there is room on the team for Swisher. But that's another story for another day.
For today, we can (probably) celebrate the return of the Mr. Incredible-looking, shaving cream pie-troll face-wearing, uses-80s-music-for-his-walkup surprise story of the 2012 season. Works for me.
What do you think?