The 2016 Winter Meetings have concluded, and the Orioles, as anticipated, returned to Baltimore with just two Rule-5 draft picks. In the first round, with pick number twenty-three, the Orioles selected outfielder Aneury Tavarez, from the Red Sox. Their second round pick was outfielder Anthony Santander, from the Indians.
I won’t bore you to death with their stats, I’ll just remind you that the Orioles must keep both Tavarez, and Santander on their 25-man roster for the entire season, otherwise, place the player on waivers. If either one clears waivers, they must be offered back to their original team, eliminating the rule 5 draft pick. Neither player can be optioned to the minor leagues.
With big ticket free agent outfielders being signed so far this season, who remains a free agent, and who should the Orioles target to improve their outfield defense? Remember, the search is for corner outfielders, with Buck Showalter effectively stating he is not moving Adam Jones out of center.
Gutierrez, 33, is entering his twelfth season in the majors, so he would definitely bring a veteran presence into the clubhouse. A former Gold Glove winner in 2010 with the Mariners, Gutierrez has appeared in all three outfield positions, and has a career dWAR of 6.3 through 11 seasons. In 2016, with Seattle, he appeared in 98 games total (64 in RF, 9 in LF, and 15 as DH), slashing .246/.329/.452. The OBP would be a plus, as the Orioles continue to search for guys who can get on base. Gutierrez could be signed to play RF, however, last season in RF for the Mariners, he didn’t have a single assist, and finished the season with a -8 DRS. Gutierrez’ range factor was slightly better than any other Orioles player that assumed the position in right field, and played more than 200 innings. Gutierrez came in at a 2.07 RF/9, in 412.2 innings, compared to Joey Rickard (2.01 — 293 innings), and Mark Trumbo (1.99 — 783 innings).
Blanco, 32, is a guy who has tasted championship, and surely wants more. A two-time World Champion with the San Francisco Giants (2012, 2014), Blanco has spent eight years in the majors, and is a former Wilson Defensive Player of the Year (for outfielders in 2013). Blanco carries with him a career 7.6 WAR, and in 106 games with the Giants last season, Blanco slashed .224/.309/.311 in 274 plate appearances. His performance in right field last season would be considered an upgrade for the Orioles. In 230 innings in RF, Blanco finished the year with a -7 DRS, two runs better than Mark Trumbo (-9). Blanco could also be a base stealing threat for the O’s in 2017 also. In 11 attempts last season, Blanco came in with a 55% success rate (6-for-11), and has a career 73.1% success rate (101-for-138).
The Orioles have already been linked to Pagan, as Buck Showalter said he is “intrigued” by him. Pagan, 35, will be entering his twelfth season in the big leagues, and finished second last year in RF/9 (for a left fielder), with a 1.81 in 1,047 innings. Like Blanco, Pagan was on the 2012 World Champions Giants team, where he led the National League in range factor per game overall as an outfielder, with a 2.54. Last season, through 543 plate appearances, Pagan slashed .277/.331/.418, with 12 HR’s, and 55 RBI’s in 129 games. With a career 17 WAR, Pagan has to be the front-runner for the Orioles in terms of signing an outfielder. A -4 DRS is still an improvement over the combined players in LF for the Orioles last season (-22). Hyun Soo Kim played the most innings in LF, 665, and finished with -13 DRS. Pagan’s 1.92 RF/9 in LF last year is also better than all left fielders combined (1.81). MLBTradeRumors projects Pagan to be worth a contract of 2/$24MM, and the Orioles may be able to afford that price tag.
Last up, eleven-year major league veteran, Rajai Davis. He led the AL in 2012 in fewest errors committed for a left fielder, with seven, as well as fewest errors committed overall as an outfielder, with eight. Davis, 36, carriers a career dWAR of -2.0, however, has a career 11.3 WAR. Last season, in 134 games with the Indians, Rajai slashed .249/.306/.388 with 12 HR’s, and 48 RBI’s in 495 plate appearances. In 387.1 innings in LF with Cleveland, Davis’ RF/9 was a solid 2.02, and also higher than Nolan Reimold’s (comparable to 371 innings) 1.92. Davis finished the year with a -3 DRS, as well as nine total outfield assists. MLBTradeRumors projects Davis to pull in a 1-year deal worth about $6M, however, I could see the Orioles taking a gamble on Davis, and trying to reel him into Baltimore with a 2/$11MM type deal.
If the Orioles are going to sign anybody this offseason to fill a void in the outfield, it’s more than likely going to be one of those four players. Of course, they could opt to re-sign Michael Bourn, use him as leadoff batter, and plug him in the outfield. I’ve been saying that since October. They could also have Joey Rickard start on Opening Day for the second straight year. We’ll see what happens.
If not any one of these four players, who do you think the Orioles sign to cover a corner outfield position that seems to plague them on a yearly basis now?