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Gregor Blanco may represent a cheap outfield option for the Orioles

The former San Francisco Giants standout is a free agent, and he might just fit the mold of a cheap upgrade for Dan Duquette.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

More so than in the regular season, hot takes are flying from all angles in the offseason leading up to the Winter Meetings. And for the Orioles this December, that statement couldn’t represent more of the truth.

Some argue that the team must acquire more catching depth. Others note that the outfield’s depth must be improved, and soon. No matter who you are, you have your "quick fix" for the improvement of the 2017 Orioles.

While variances exist on exactly how the Birds will get there, we all can agree on one thing — the roster must get better.

The changes may not need to be drastic, but there are changes to be made nonetheless. Of course, the issue of improving to a playoff-caliber level tightens up when we enter the conversation of the dreaded "‘M’ word" in Baltimore — money. The truth is simple: Dan Duquette doesn’t have a terrible amount of spending dollars to work with.

Because of that, any roster renovations that take place must be cheap, especially if more than one or two big-league moves are made. When examining the options, it can admittedly get slightly depressing checking out the contract ranges of potential free agents. However, diamonds in the rough always exist ... particularly true this year.

In 2016’s edition of "potentially cheap Orioles adds", see: Blanco, Gregor.

It goes without saying that the Orioles have to find another corner outfielder. Heck, even Buck Showalter admitted that the team would "need help" in that particular area. It’s obvious and an area that will be highlighted before the season’s start.

Gregor Blanco isn’t the flashiest name of the offseason — in fact, I’ve been relatively surprised by the lack of discussion overall — but he’s a player who should and most definitely will get looks as the offseason approaches. For the Orioles, he represents a classic "right player, right price" opportunity.

First, a look at his numbers for the past four seasons, all with the Giants. Four years and about 1,600 plate appearances should give us a good grasp on his abilities.

2013 511 2.7 .265 .341 .350 18.6% 10.2%
2014 444 1.9 .260 .333 .374 17.3% 9.2%
2015 372 2.2 .291 .368 .413 15.9% 10.8%
2016 274 -0.7 .224 .309 .311 18.6% 10.6%

First, let's extract a few obvious points.

  • Blanco's strikeout and walk percentages would be more than welcomed on the Orioles. Both marks represent major pluses.
  • His WAR from '13-'15 was, by Orioles recent corner outfield performances, impressive. In those same years, his straight slash lines were starting caliber in Birdland. You won't find anyone arguing that.
  • Most glaringly, 2016 was a brutal year that marked a potential negative shift in Blanco's career ... or did it?
Most would glance at 2016's numbers and immediately put up a red flag and move on to other free agent outfield options. If that was you looking at the chart above, you weren't alone - that was my first reaction, too. But when we dig deep into the dip in production, it's obvious to see what happened.

Here, a quote from Giants manager Bruce Bochy, spotlighting on the injury that apparently initially occurred in May:

Via "I think [Blanco's injury] did start gradually and has been getting worse and worse to the point where he couldn't get a good swing off."

After getting this perspective, I decided to take a look at Blanco's April 2016 numbers, pre-injury, to see how he began the year. I wasn't disappointed:

April 2016: 10-29 (.345), .406 OBP, .586 SLG, three triples, double.

Granted, a small sample size - but a healthy sample size nonetheless.

Digging a bit deeper into Blanco's game, I saw two statistical trends that spoke to the 32-year-old's success. One came in the form of Blanco's wOBA, which saw marks from '13-'15 of .307, .317 and .337 respectively. If you're a believer in the "regression to the mean post-injury" theory - which I most certainly am - this bodes well.

In the big picture, one look at Blanco's wRC+ shows that a 2017 rebound would most certainly mark an upgrade for the Orioles. His 100, 106 and 118 wRC+ marks in those three healthy years are impressive by Orioles standards.

In comparison, Joey Rickard posted a 2016 wRC+ of 86, Nolan Reimold a 78.

Consider, too, that Blanco's lowest OBP from '13-'15 was .333. That lowest number would have been near the top of the 2016 Orioles leaderboards, surpassing the likes of Mark Trumbo (.316), Adam Jones (.310), J.J. Hardy (.309) and Jonathan Schoop (.298) by a wide margin. And that was a "down" OBP campaign for Blanco in the grand scheme of his career.

Imagine a repeat of Blanco's 2015 season, in which he posted that .368 OBP.

To put his entire abilities in a nutshell without making this article a lengthy essay, here are a few other statistics to consider:

  • In 2013, Blanco's line-drive rate was 27.7%. In 2015, it was 24.2%. The league average generally hovers around 21.0%. Last year, the Orioles team high was 24.2%, a mark posted by Matt Wieters
  • Taking defensive metrics with caution (they're, statistically, still very imperfect), Blanco grades out to be nearly league-average in the field, with the stats saying he's much better in left field than right. He has experience in all three spots.
  • Against left-handed pitchers, Blanco is a career .251 hitter. The Orioles as a team, worst in the AL by a bit of a margin in 2016, hit just .234 against southpaws.
  • Finally, Blanco's leadoff numbers: 311 games, .252 average, .338 OBP. He might not be the best option in the one-hole at this point of his career, but he's still an option.
That was a lot of basic statistical analysis that should be lumped together to reach a simple conclusion: with the addition of Gregor Blanco, the Orioles immediately seem to become a better baseball team.

He might not be the best solution on the market, but he'll undoubtedly be a cheaper one. And with spending money limited and precious, he should be on the Orioles radar at this point in the offseason.

One more final note before we leave ... Blanco was a fan-favorite in San Fransisco. The Giants faithful loved him. Check out this clip below from last April:

I don't know about you, but he's got my vote.