The Orioles under Dan Duquette have always made late in the offseason acquisitions. Some have been “big” splashes like Nelson Cruz, Ubaldo Jimenez, or Yovani Gallardo. While most of the others have been very minor pickups of veterans or former first round picks. The approach of “throw as much as possible against the wall and see what sticks.”
This past week or so the Orioles have made four more additions to their Spring Training roster and all of them could have an opportunity to impact the 2017 season for the Orioles. Let’s run through them and see what each of them brings to the table.
Craig Gentry was signed to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. The 33 year old outfielder has bounced between the majors and minors for the past couple of seasons only playing in 26 games in 2015 and 14 games in 2016 at the major league level.
Gentry has primarily played an above-average center field. At the plate he has a career line of .261/.335/.333 with a 7.2 percent walk rate and a 17.5 percent strikeout rate.
The only two very productive seasons of Gentry’s career were in 2012 and 2013 with the Texas Rangers largely fueled by running very high BABIPs. In fact, Gentry’s career BABIP is .320, a testament to both his luck and probably his foot speed. He has also graded out as a plus base runner in his career stealing 20 or more bases two times.
For the Orioles, he is a plus defender in the outfield and can play center field. They need both desperately. He also brings base running skills that most of the team lacks. At the plate he does not bring much. He has posted a career 97 wRC+ against left-handed pitching, but only a 72 wRC+ against right handed pitchers.
If Gentry makes the team he will be relegated to a platoon situation most likely in left field. If the Orioles want to give Joey Rickard more seasoning in the minors, Gentry would not be a bad option to fill Rickard’s spot.
You all remember Michael Bourn from last year. The 34 year old left-handed hitting outfielder is essentially the same player as Craig Gentry, but he bats left-handed. He has received more solid playing time in recent years, but has still struggled to be the player he once was back in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
Bourn is probably best left to a corner outfield spot these days as well. However, he is still at least an average defender and has plus base running skills.
Much like Gentry, Bourn brings skills the Orioles need. He can actually catch a ball if it is hit towards the outfield and he can actually manage to advance two bases without being thrown out. He only has a career 92 wRC+ against right handed pitching, so his platoon potential is not that great.
Bourn could still have a role to play. His minor league contract comes with an opt-out so it is likely he does not make the Opening Day roster, but an injury or two could open the door for him.
The Orioles traded right-handed pitcher Ryan Moseley for the right to call Vidal Nuno their own. Nuno is a 29 year old left-handed pitcher. He has pitched for the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Mariners in his career. Last season he was almost completed relegated to the bullpen appearing in 55 games, but starting only 1 of them. 2014 was the last season he was a starting pitcher the majority of the time and he posted a 4.56 ERA. Last season in relief he posted a 3.53 ERA in 58.2 innings of work.
Nuno is left-handed pitcher so he has a leg up on the competition. He also a minor league option which is pure gold to in the eyes of the Orioles. Funny enough Nuno will be replacing the guy he kicked off the 40 man roster, T.J. McFarland. Nuno has a career wOBA against of .282 when pitching to left-handed batters, but a .344 when going against right-handed hitters. He also cannot keep the ball on the ground with only a 38.6 percent career ground ball rate.
However, he has a decent 19.5 percent strike out rate in his career and a great 6.1 percent walk rate. He also pitches pretty fast, averaging only 18.8 seconds between pitches in his career. So Nuno can start or relieve, has options, does not walk hitters, and works fast. The perfect long man.
The Orioles traded a player to be named later to the Yankees for the 29-year-old Bleier. Bleier made his major league debut for the Yankees in 2016. He pitched in 23 games, for 23 innings, and posted a 1.96 ERA and a 2.67 FIP. He is also left-handed which should gives you pretty much the entire reason why the Orioles acquired him. And of course, he also has options left. He is the prototypical late off season Dan Duquette acquisition.
These names are not big splashes and they are unlikely to have a major impact of the 2017 season for the Orioles. However, they should not be forgotten about. One of the ways in which the Orioles of recent vintage have been successful is improving the back end of their roster. This in turns allows them to carry only players with positive contributions to the team. By avoiding the negative, the Orioles give themselves a better chance at winning.
If one of these guys catches lightning in a bottle for a month, two months, or the while season, even better. Yet, that does not really matter. All they have to do is be better than the guy they are replacing and all of these players have some skills that the Orioles can use. And that is the magic of a Dan Duquette offseason.