clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Alvarez signing will bring Orioles homers at a big cost to their defense

New, 50 comments

With the Orioles signing Pedro Alvarez (pending physical), someone who shouldn't play the field is probably going to end up in right field. It's going to get messy.

Pedro Alvarez hasn't even taken his physical or put on an Orioles uniform yet and he's already having an impact on the O's lineup. Time will tell whether this is a good thing. While Alvarez can be reasonably expected to hit a bunch of home runs, his presence sets off a chain reaction that will likely leave the O's with a bad right field situation.

Alvarez, a poor defender, has no business ever being anything other than a designated hitter. Any time he steps onto the field during a game except for batting, the Orioles will suffer. The Orioles already had a player remarkably like that on the roster in Mark Trumbo, but he is (probably) less of a disaster defensively than Alvarez. So Trumbo is either shoved out into the field or Trumbo becomes a $9.15 million designated hitter who only starts against lefties.

Neither of these is ideal. And if Trumbo does go out into the field, it looks like his place would be right field:

Another O's beat writer, Eduardo Encina of The Baltimore Sun, described Buck's position as "Davis will still be primary 1B," which to me has a different meaning than the above tweet. One sounds like Davis will never play right field. The other sounds like it could happen from time to time - of course, Davis could also mostly play first base and be the DH when he's not at first and that would still fit the quote. You can only get so much meaning in 140 characters.

For all that Davis is athletic enough to at least have made us all ponder him in right field as a less terrible option than some others, it makes sense for the O's to use their $161 million first baseman as a first baseman rather than expose him to risk of injury playing a position that's not his natural spot and probably not ideally suited to his abilities.

MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli noted after the Alvarez news broke that it would probably be Trumbo getting pushed out to right field with Alvarez's arrival on the roster. That's bad news. Before Alvarez, you could at least pretend the Orioles would aspire to have a vaguely competent fielder out there in right, maybe even someone who actually has a little bit of speed.

While no one is going to mistake Nolan Reimold for a Gold Glove right fielder, nor for an All-Star caliber player, he would have been OK enough to throw out there with regular playing time if healthy. Reimold is also one of a handful of players on the O's who, when playing near his best, represents a passable option for a leadoff hitter.

Maybe that's a stretch. After all, he was bad enough last year that he got himself designated for assignment. But like a phoenix he rose from the ashes, returning after September callups to post a .274/.391/.466 in September and October. Small sample size, or making adjustments? It was enough to make him seem like a decent first guy to try out for regular right field and possibly leadoff playing time.

Or is Reimold going to play over Trumbo some or a lot of the time? This would be a surprising outcome, though it's not impossible. Buck Showalter is always tinkering with the lineup, although last year that seemed to be born out of desperation more than anything else.

If there's a stable regular left fielder and a stable regular right fielder, there's a lot less tinkering to do on a daily basis. Maybe they'll have a stable left fielder in Hyun Soo Kim; although he hasn't found his stroke yet, as fellow Camden Chatter Nick Cicere wrote earlier today, once he gets comfortable, he should be able to do so.

What about Trumbo in right field? Now you're hoping he hits 35 home runs to make up for it. An outfield of Adam Jones, Kim, and Trumbo will have a lot of balls fall in. Maybe the Orioles figure every time one of their pitchers allows a fly ball it's either going to be an easy out or a home run with little in between.

That was a joke just there. Even though there might be a kernel of truth to it, that's also ignoring a probable lack of range for chasing down bloopers, balls down the line, or balls in the gap. Outs may turn into singles, some singles may turn into doubles, and some doubles may turn into triples. Trumbo already had two triples in his direction in the same inning in a spring training game this month.

It's something to worry about and probably something that will be causing Orioles fans frustration throughout the season. But they've done what they've done (pending physical or Alvarez changing his mind) so there's nothing to do except hope for the best.

Here is Pedro Alvarez hitting a 460 foot home run that leaves PNC Park entirely:

Welcome to Baltimore, El Toro.