After a disappointing 2017 and pessimism abound, the offensive outlook for the 2018 Orioles may not seem like it’s going to be alright. But, it definitely appears right now to be all right. With an offensive core dominated by right-handers, Dan Duquette and company will have their work cut out for them this offseason in attracting the always coveted lefties.
The heart of the Orioles’ lineup has been led by mostly right-handed bats over the past few seasons, and with the emergence of Trey Mancini last year, it became even more unbalanced. With Seth Smith likely to head elsewhere in free agency, the Orioles’ left-handed contingent on offense is down to only Chris Davis, Chance Sisco, who may wind up in Norfolk to start the year, and the switch-hitting Anthony Santander, who will be sticking on the roster for about a month and a half.
Unless Steve Wilkerson slides into the Flaherty role out of Spring Training, that’s all three of the lefties, and two of them will be strongly pegged into back-up roles. The real meat in the lineup, Jones, Machado, Mancini, Schoop, and Beckham, all bat from right side. Fringe outfielders Hays and Rickard are righties as well. Unless the O’s are looking to deal players off of the major league roster this winter, it’s a good bet that most acquisitions will be of the left-handed variety.
The Royals’ free agent duo of Moustakas and Hosmer consists of two lefties, but both of them will certainly be asking something way above the Orioles’ price range. Once again Dan Duquette will be out looking for some relative bargains when it comes to adding the final few pieces to the lineup.
The biggest name that continues to be linked with the Orioles is Carlos Gonzalez. The 32-year-old veteran outfielder is likely to sign a one year deal which has to be music to the front office’s ears. He may no longer be the player that finished 3rd for the NL MVP in 2010, but CarGo has been an above average bat away from Coors against strictly right-handers over the past few years.
Yes, that’s an extremely specific niche, but the O’s would gladly take him as part of a platoon à la Seth Smith last season.
After Gonzalez, I could see the Orioles looking at some guys like Logan Morrison or Jay Bruce. Morrison in particular had a monster year in 2017, smacking 38 homers to go along with an OBP of .353. Unlike Gonzalez, Morrison doesn’t carry drastic platoon splits and could slot into left field on a daily basis. With Morrison likely to command a 3-4 year deal at around $12 million per year, the Orioles will hopefully be suitors.
And then there’s Jay Bruce, who I’m pretty sure at this point can’t go without being linked to the Orioles whether he or the fans like it or not. After not being signed by Baltimore last offseason, Bruce put up a solid year offensively between the Mets and Indians.
Given his profile as a sub-par defender with plus power, high strikeout rates, and low on-base capabilities, I think most Orioles fans would agree that we have enough Jay Bruces on the team as it is. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine Duquette not kicking the tires on a short deal somewhere around $13 million AAV. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth it for another low-OBP platoon bat, but he does have 69 homers over the last two seasons, which is very nice.
Some other veteran names to look out for are Jon Jay, Mitch Moreland, and Melky Cabrera. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Duquette trade for someone that nobody is mentioning as a possibility at all right now. No one last year predicted us trading for Seth Smith, let alone somehow getting rid of Gallardo in the process. The league is full of lefty platoon bats that could probably get the job done for the O’s without costing too much, and Dan Duquette will be certainly be exhaustive if nothing else.
With rumors bound to start popping up with more and more frequency, it’ll be important to look at the batter’s box any prospective free agent uses. No matter what deals may be on the table, Buck and Dan really do not have much flexibility right now if they want to build a balanced lineup. Showalter has normally started the year with around five batters capable of hitting from the left side. Expect that trend to continue. If it is going to, we should see multiple lefty additions to the lineup this offseason.