The question of who will be the Orioles right fielder in the upcoming season is one that has not had an answer since before last season was even over. As the offseason has gone along, the only way it’s been answered is having possible names scratched off as they sign with other teams. The latest, Rajai Davis, reached an agreement with the Athletics on Tuesday.
Davis, 36, is among the several outfielders in whom the Orioles have been said to have interest who have ultimately signed elsewhere. This is not surprising. It’s what happens every offseason. With Davis signing for only $6 million with the Athletics, it seems like we can conclude that the Orioles were never that interested.
Or perhaps Davis was never all that interested in the Orioles. Oakland has an opening in center field, where Davis has played the most in his career. The O’s only need a right fielder, where Davis has played the least over 11 seasons.
Some of the guys who the O’s have missed out on have been a bummer to see sign elsewhere. Although Davis does some things well, he’s not without his downsides.
When Davis came up as an option just before Christmas, The Baltimore Sun mentioned him as a possible leadoff hitter. Davis has a career .314 OBP and posted a .306 OBP each of the last two seasons.
That’s not an ideal leadoff hitter, even if he did steal 43 bases in 49 attempts this past season. Even this late in the offseason, I’d like to think the O’s can do better than that kind of low-OBP leadoff hitter. Perhaps it’s better to just stick with Adam Jones rather than a guy like Davis who just batted .249/.306/.388.
The publicly available defensive metrics are mixed on Davis. Over the last three seasons with Defensive Runs Saved, he’s rated -10, +3, and -8 runs. Ultimate Zone Rating likes him a little better, with only a -8 three years ago and slight positives (4.3, 2.3) the past three years. That was playing a lot of center and left field.
Whether he might have been a good player in Baltimore or not doesn’t matter now. Davis is headed to Oakland and the Orioles will need to find someone else.
Who does that leave out there? If the Orioles are still interested in everyone who they were said to be interested in after Christmas, that’s Michael Saunders, Michael Bourn, and Angel Pagan.
None of those exactly sound like names who are going to power the Orioles back into the playoffs and farther than they made it last year. There are drawbacks to each. Saunders is an Oriole-like player already - power, strikes out a lot, possibly horrible defensively - although he’s decidedly not Oriole-like due to some injury concerns.
Bourn, well, he had a nice month as an Oriole last year, but the last time he was good at the plate was 2011. At 34, he may still have a decent season in the tank. On the other hand, he was really not good over the past four seasons, the length of a $48 million contract he signed with Cleveland in mid-February 2013.
Pagan, 35, is coming off of a season in which he batted .277/.331/.418 for the Giants. The switch-hitter only reached double digit home runs for the second time in his career. Although Pagan was a disaster in center field in 2015, he was OK as a left fielder in 2016. That leaves reason to hope he could both hit OK and field OK as an Orioles right fielder in 2017.
If it’s not one of those free agents, there is still the potential for a trade for an outfielder like Curtis Granderson or Jarrod Dyson.
I’m also not convinced that the Orioles won’t re-sign Mark Trumbo and stick him back in right field even though we and they are both well aware of how horrible of an idea that is.
Yet Trumbo returning to that role still might be a better idea than having Joey Rickard as the default right fielder, as MASN’s Roch Kubatko posited back on Sunday would happen if the season was starting today. Yikes. So maybe they will actually sign somebody.