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For the Orioles in right field, many home runs, no defense

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Right field was a position of strength at the plate for the Orioles. Was it enough to make up for being among the worst in the league, defensively?

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

After a debacle with their corner outfield spots in the 2015 season, the Orioles entered last offseason desperately looking for a solid everyday player to plug into right field.

They traded for Mark Trumbo before they had re-signed Chris Davis, an insurance move for first base. However, after Chris Davis signed his mega-contract, and especially after the Orioles signed Pedro Alvarez late in the offseason, the Orioles had nowhere else but right field to put Trumbo.

Trumbo logged 783 innings in right field in 2016. He logged more innings out there than the other eight O’s to play right field combined. The others include players like Joey Rickard and Nolan Reimold all the way down to the ten innings played there by Dariel Alvarez.

Trumbo was a great surprise for the Orioles in 2016, and one of the steals of the off season, leading all of baseball with 47 home runs. He anchored a lineup that was potent from time to time. Trumbo also posted his best offensive season since 2012, hitting .256/.316/.533. That’s good for a 123 wRC+, a good hitter and a welcome addition to the Orioles lineup.

However, Trumbo only posted a Fangraphs WAR of 2.2. If you look on Baseball Reference, it was even worse, at 1.6. Overall the Orioles right field position ranked 20th in all of baseball in WAR with a total of 1.4. This low ranking was caused almost exclusively because of this collection of players could not get to many balls, or field them well when they did get to them.

Defensively, the Orioles right fielders were collectively among the worst in baseball. Among right fielders with at least 650 plate appearances, Mark Trumbo ranked next to last, with only the surgically repaired Matt Kemp behind him.

The Orioles may have been better served by tacking a hat on to a bucket and strategically placing it in right field between hitters to catch fly balls. This utter lack of a quality glove at the position cost the Orioles runs and games.

The question going into this offseason will be similar to the one going into the last offseason. Can the Orioles find any player capable of playing a corner outfield spot, or, failing that, can they find one who can hit? With Trumbo, things will probably play out similarly to what happened with Nelson Cruz. The Orioles will extend a qualifying offer and allow Trumbo to take the first big deal he gets from some other team.

Trumbo does have a few items in his favor. He is only 30 now and will be 31 by the time next season rolls around. He is coming off of a great year in which he showed that with some stability and playing time that he could succeed. He also had a career worst year against left-handed pitching. That’s something that one would figure would turn around and give him opportunity for an even better offensive season if he was able to revert to career norms.

However, Trumbo is relegated to first base or designated hitter. The Orioles played him in right field out of necessity, not necessarily of desire. As soon as Bourn was acquired, Buck Showalter shelved Trumbo’s glove.

Trumbo was often replaced late in games even before Bourn arrived. Trumbo has more value to a team that does not have a first baseman under contract for the next six years. The Orioles most likely will and probably should let Trumbo walk.

In the event that Trumbo does not re-sign with the Orioles, the team could look in house. As far as players on the current roster go, the choices are Rickard and Reimold, and Reimold’s a pending free agent. In the upper minors the only name that sticks out is probably Mike Yastremski, who just posted a .680 OPS for Norfolk.

Rickard earned praise from Buck all season long as the Rule 5 draft pick broke camp with the team and was only sidelined by a thumb injury. Rickard displayed an ability to hit left-handed pitching. However, he struggled to hit for power, he had a hard time making contact, and he showed a poor ability to play defense.

From my eyes, Rickard got better in the field as the season went on and Buck made some excuses for him saying that going from the minor league stadiums to major league stadiums can make reading the ball off the bat tough. I can buy that argument. But, it’s not one the Orioles can bank on going into 2016.

Right now, Rickard is a light hitting platoon bat with a deficient glove. Not the ideal replacement to the home run king. Look for the Orioles to go outside of the organization to fill Trumbo’s shoes.