So, Buck Showalter wants the Orioles to sign another outfielder, and it just so happens he wants that to be in the form of a left-handed bat. Buck sees the amount of left-handed starters that are now within the American League East, and he wants to “stay on top of that”.
Well, who can blame him?
Last season, the Orioles hit .234/.301/.392 against left handed pitching, and the season before, they hit .240/.292/.372.
In an offseason where the Orioles have been tabbed with improving their corner outfield needs, as well as their on-base percentage, the Orioles could turn to one player in particular to assist in those categories.
Scouring the market, there are names still available, such as Bourn, Moss (who the Orioles have interest in), Blanco, and Jay. There’s also former Toronto Blue Jays All-Star, Michael Saunders.
The Orioles were interested in Saunders back around the Winter Meetings, but they had backed off a bit due to injury concerns, and after he had failed a pre-agreement physical, however he could still be a good fit for the club.
And why not? Saunders is a guy who can get on base against left-handed pitching. In 2014, Saunders hit .262/.352/.328 with an OPS of .680 in 73 plate appearances against lefties. He spent the 2015 recovering from a torn meniscus in his left knee, and only saw 36 total plate appearances, however, he followed that up by hitting ,275/.358/.569 with an OPS of .927 in 123 plate appearances versus left handers in 2016.
Saunders would provide some extra assistance in left field, as he enters the 2017 season with a career .987 fielding percentage.
A platoon between Hyun-Soo Kim, and Michael Saunders in left, Seth Smith in right field, and Adam Jones in center could bring credibility back to an Orioles outfield that has seen players rotate in-and-out over the past two seasons more than a basketball game. With Joey Rickard being carried as the fourth outfielder, he would provide speed from the bench, in a late-inning pinch running scenario. They also could retain Rule-5 pick Aneury Tavarez, and utilize him as another bench player.
Ryan Flaherty has shown he can play any infield position, and can even be called upon to pitch, so why not carry an extra outfielder on the bench?
So who would need to be removed from the 40-man roster to make room for Saunders, in the event the Orioles decided to roll the dice?
Rule-5 draft pick, Anthony Santander could be the one.
Santander is coming off surgery on his throwing shoulder, and he isn’t a stranger to injuries prior to this one. He’s missed significant time due to injury in his career, and also dealt with an elbow injury while in the minors as well.
The Orioles could think about returning him to Cleveland, in the event they can offer Saunders a contract that he would accept.
Spotrac puts Saunders at receiving a three-year deal, worth $48MM, but I honestly don’t see that happening, not with the Orioles anyway. I would imagine they’d be willing to offer a one-year deal, maybe $9MM-ish. With the knee concerns, I just don’t think the O’s would be willing to gamble too hard there, especially for a guy who could be expected to share time in left field, and would be guaranteed to not play everyday.
With Michael Saunders in the mix versus lefties, the lineup is already improved, and he could easily slide into the leadoff spot to solve another problem the Orioles are looking to alleviate this offseason.
In 79 plate appearances last season out of the leadoff spot, Saunders hit .265/.367/.471, with an OPS of .838. I’d take that at the top of a lineup any day.
A potential vs. LHP lineup could resemble this, if Saunders is added to the mix: