In a move that was seen as surprising by many the Orioles acquired Seth Smith for Yovani Gallardo this past Friday. The deal, on the face of it, is a great one for the Orioles. They shed Gallardo, his 2017 salary, and his 2018 buyout from their roster.
Gallardo was very bad last year with diminished velocity and a bum shoulder that spooked the Orioles during his initial physical. Gallardo posted a career high 5.42 ERA, his worst ground ball rate since 2010, and posted a career high walk rate. On the other hand, Seth Smith posted a 110 wRC+ and an 11 percent walk rate in 2016. He was a semi-useful player while Gallardo was of no use. Definitely a win for the Orioles.
However, Smith does not address the underlying problems that plagued the 2016 Orioles. Even though they won 89 games they still had major flaws. Most noticeably was the team’s inability to hit left-handed pitching and the outfield’s inability to catch the damn ball. Turns out, Smith is not good at either of those things.
Smith is a left-handed hitting corner outfielder/designated hitter. In 2016, he posted a 117 wRC+ against right handed pitching and a 34 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. For some context, Smith was basically Jason Kipnis against right-handed pitching—a very good hitter. Against left handed pitching, Smith would have come in just below Adeiny Hechavarria and his 56 wRC+.
And again, as I and others at this site have reiterated, the Orioles were horrible against left-handed pitching in 2016, they posted an 83 wRC+ as a team and were ranked 26th overall. The help they have “brought in” for 2017 against left-handed pitching is currently Welington Castillo, Trey Manicni, and Joey Rickard. Otherwise known as “not enough.” Smith’s acquisition does nothing to solve this problem.
The other glaring and easily fixed hole of 2016 was the putrid outfield defense. Smith does little to help this issue either. Smith was terrible last year in both left and right field and while defensive metrics need larger sample sizes, he has not been better than average since 2013. He is 34 now and likely not going to get much better than he was in 2016. The Orioles have indicated that they plan on playing Smith in either one of the corner outfield spots.
Also, to remind you all once again, the Orioles had the absolute worst outfield defense in baseball last year. This hurts their already suspect rotation. Furthermore, the Orioles have done nothing this off season to address the issue.
Right now, the Orioles outfielders are Rickard, Hyun Soo Kim, and Smith, none of which have shown a recent ability to play even average defense at the major league level. The Orioles probably need an above average defensive outfield to make their rotation even credible in 2017. Thus far, little has been done to resolve this issue.
That being said, Smith is definitely a useful player. He is only being paid $7 million on a one year contract. He can mash right-handed pitching and actually takes a walk every now and again. As a part of a designated hitter platoon he would be a very nice player to have on your roster and he could go to the outfield in a pinch.
If Smith is asked to play the field a lot, say as much as Mark Trumbo did last year, then his value and usefulness will diminish grealty. The Orioles will have to keep searching for another corner outfielder or two to fill these team needs.
My personal off season obsession was the player the Mariners acquired after they dealt Smith, Jarrod Dyson. That leaves a few names in free agency that could help the team and maybe a few trade targets, but not much. Tyler Young wrote yesterday on these here internet pages about some good targets for the Orioles out of what is left.
If the Orioles are truly going to address their issues from last year, Dan Duquette is going to have to get creative and do so quickly. Spring Training is right around the corner.