The Orioles utiltyman Ryan Flaherty has been bad in 2015. I mean, overall he just hasn't been a very good player in the majors ever, but it is possible that this season, in which he turned 29 years old, an age where baseball players tend to be hitting the peak of their careers, Flash has sunk to what could be his lowest point yet. It begs the question, should the Orioles even put him on the 25-man roster in 2016?
Given the fact that he has been the only Orioles offense in the past four days, I realize this may seem a bit harsh. But try to see the big picture behind this proposal, people.
Maybe we are getting a little ahead of ourselves. Spring Training is still four-and-a-half months away. There is an entire off-season to happen where the Orioles are going to be signing players (HA!) and losing players (*sniffles*). A lot of stuff can happen. But manager Buck Showalter sure seems like he is looking for Flaherty to give him a reason to stay in Baltimore beyond this year.
To the outfield
The second base job, which was never really Flaherty's but we kind of thought it was for a minute a few years ago, is firmly in the grasp of Jonathan Schoop at this point.
Shortstop? Yeah, J.J. Hardy has that locked down until Manny Machado is ready to take over.
And let's be honest, the Vanderbilt alum is never going to hit enough to be a corner infielder on the regular. The pop comes and goes.
So, Showalter has reverted to sending good, old Ryan to the outfield. Left field. Right field. It doesn't really matter. Just somewhere out there. No one else is really doing anything to claim it for themselves. Give it a go, Ry-Ry.
The sample sizes are too small to really judge, but over 165.1 innings in the outfield for his career, Flaherty has an Ultimate Zone Rating of -2.9. No, that is not absolutely awful, but given the fact that his career batting line is .219/.286/.368, it leaves a lot to be desired.
However, it looks like Flaherty hits a tad better when he plays the outfield. Going into last night's games, Flash slashed .261/.292/.391 as a left fielder and .235/.297/.324 as a right fielder. His best hitting position overall is shortstop where he has a line of .262/.314/.468 with five home runs over 46 career games.
But no matter where you look this season, Flaherty is worth nothing, or close to nothing. Fangraphs gives him a WAR of 0.1 and Baseball Reference gives him a WAR of 0.0. BR breaks theirs down a bit farther with an offensive WAR of 0.3 and a defensive WAR of -0.1
Yes, even his defense, excluding the outfield business, has been sub-par. His UZR at first base is -0.7. At second base it is -1.2. At third (where he has spent the least time on the infield) it is an above average 1.1. And at short he has a -0.8 UZR. That is supposed to be his calling card and the reason why the O's keep him around. That hasn't been the case in 2015.
Nothing to lose
Now, Flaherty is still a cheap guy to keep around the team. He is making $1.075 million this year. He is arbitration eligible again this winter and will likely see a bit of a raise, but is still going to be more affordable than most other veterans his age.
Coming into this season, Mr. Versatile still had an option remaining. While he was sent down to Triple-A Norfolk at one point, I don't believe he was down long enough to have actually burned the option and he has yet to play five full years in the Bigs so that should still be on the table.
Is there an heir apparent to Flaherty's throne as reigning utilityman? Not really. The organization has brought in countless guys to try but none of them have survived or have some fault that Flaherty inevitable can improve upon. Ah, if Jimmy Paredes could just catch a baseball every once in a while.
Apart from Ben Zobrist, who in my opinion would be the perfect signing for the Orioles, there isn't much on the free agent market that would be a marked improvement on what they have. Some of the names: Sean Rodriguez, Mike Aviles, Juan Uribe, Gordon Beckham. Ugh.
That is not to say the Showalter and Dan Duquette should not and will not try. There will always be veterans willing to take minor league deals for another shot. That is practically Duquette's lifeblood.
Where we stand
I really wanted to use this article to talk myself into the idea that Flaherty has to go, but the more I looked into it, the more I realize he is probably going to stay right where he is.
Think about it. He is cheap and relatively young for a guy that seems like he has been around forever. While not always effective, he can play six positions on the field with some sort of confidence. There is power in his swing. And last, but not least, Showalter loves the guy. Anytime he does much of anything, the manager gushes about him in the post-game press conference. That right there could be enough to keep him an Oriole until he retires.
But seriously, Flaherty will be an Oriole at some point in 2016. He may spend more time in Norfolk than this past season, but at some point we are going to see the dude grounding out to second base at Camden Yards. Oh, it is enough to get me excited for Opening Day already.
Thanks for reading! What should the Orioles do with their utility spot on the bench? Stick with Flaherty or go in a different direction? Let me know on Twitter (@_TyYoung) or in the comments down below.