It is unlikely that the 2017 Opening Day right fielder for the Baltimore Orioles is on their current roster. One name that was floated out yesterday was Colby Rasmus. The Birds have been connected to the shaggy-haired hitter for a couple of years now. Is it finally time for them to get together?
Rekindle the fire
MASN’s Roch Kubatko reported yesterday that Rasmus’ representatives gave the O’s a call. But that can mean a lot of things. Right now, there are no serious talks happening. Kubatko notes that Rasmus is asking for too much, but would be in play as the offseason goes on, teams fill holes with other players, and his demands drop (hopefully).
Prior to the 2015 season, it sounded like Rasmus was headed to Baltimore. In fact manager Buck Showalter even had dinner with him. Very formal. Where did they eat? What did they have? Did they pair it with a nice wine? Who were they wearing? So many questions. All of which will go unanswered. Oh, and then Rasmus signed with the Astros for one year and $8 million shortly thereafter. So, I guess the dinner didn’t go all that well. Now, it feels like Rasmus may be in a similar situation as to what happened that offseason, minus the Outback Steakhouse filet.
What he’s done
The 2016 season was not great to him. He played in only 107 games and slashed .206/.286/.355 with 10 doubles, 15 home runs and 54 RBI; the worst offensive display of his career.
However, he redeemed himself with the leather. Fangraphs gave him a UZR of 14.9, an ARM rating of 9.3, and ErrR of 0.8. All three were career highs and his 4.8 RngR was the second-best of his life. His defensive ability carried him to a WAR of somewhere between 1.4 (Fangraphs) and 2.2 (Baseball Reference).
The case for him
The defense alone makes Rasmus a valuable commodity. Over his eight-year MLB career, the left-handed hitter has played over 1000 baseball games across all three outfield positions. He is the jack of all trades and would give the Orioles both a starting right fielder and a backup centerfielder.
But it’s not as if he is a featherweight at the plate. Rasmus’ 6-foot-2, 196-pound frame can wallop a baseball. He has never hit fewer than 14 round-trippers in a season and just notched his career high of 25 in 2015. Plus, he is a lefty. The O’s have a right-handed heavy lineup, especially with the addition of Welington Castillo last week.
Plus, Rasmus should come relatively cheap. After such a poor year, he won’t be looking for anything long term and no team will be willing to give it to him. The O’s should be able to get by with a one-year deal for no more than $8 million, perhaps even less. In the way that Mark Trumbo outplayed his lowly contract a year ago, Rasmus could do sothis time around.
The case against
Life after 30 can be tough for professional athletes, especially those that make their money with the durability of their bodies. Rasmus will turn 31 during the 2017 season and is, at this point, a defense-first player. Should he suffer a slight ankle or shoulder problem, his value could plummet.
Speaking of which, Rasmus missed most of August 2016 after a cyst was removed from his ear because he was experiencing vertigo. After returning from injury, he hit just .167 over his final 17 games of the year. And then had surgery on his hip and hernia this offseason. Those are a lot of medical question marks.
And while Rasmus has shown some talent with the leather, most of his time has been spent everywhere expect right field, where he fits best with the O’s. Of the 1023 big league games he has played, he stood in right for only 60 of them, including just 11 last year. Who knows if he is even comfortable out there.
To sign him or not to sign him?
Rasmus is a good player that can fill a hole that the Orioles have. He is a clear bounce back candidate. The Orioles have emerged as a club that can reenergize frustrated hitters for a year to help them inflate their value. It was done with Nelson Cruz in 2014 and again with Trumbo in 2016. That means 2017 could be perfect timing for the summer of Rasmus in the Charm City.
There is no such thing as a bad one-year deal. Rasmus has the goods to earn a high-paying, multi-year deal if he puts everything together. If the O’s can get him on a single-season, reasonable salary contract, they should jump at the chance. The options of right fielders who can help on both sides of the ball are dwindling.