Thursday, June 25, 2009

Corner Infielders

Yesterday, reader Legends commented in response to my post about the Michael Aubrey trade:
Definitely need to upgrade at the corners. Huff and Mora are not the answers. Is Salazar an option, what could the O's expect from Snyder? Reimold to first?
This echoes my own thoughts on the 2010 Orioles, where third base and first base are the only unsettled positions based on players currently under contract. Given that the young pitching appears poised to reach Baltimore either later this year or at the beginning of next, the Orioles are approaching competitiveness and will need to address these two holes. Let's look at their options.

Oscar Salazar - In 81 at-bats in 2008, Salazar posted a .284/.372/.506 line with 5 homers, 12 walks and 13 strikeouts. He was also 30 years old and seeing his first significant big league action. In 2009, Salazar warranted a call-up from Norfolk, where he was batting .372/.408/.618 in 199 at-bats. Unfortunately, Salazar's career minor league numbers are nowhere near this good (which is why he's 31 and never seen significant big league opportunity): .287/.343/.469. Salazar makes for a nice story, but it's extremely unlikely that he's capable of being an everyday first baseman.
Nolan Reimold/Luke Scott - With the caveat that I've never seen either play first base, neither is an exceptional outfielder. It could be that the Orioles find it easier to bring in another left fielder and shift one of these guys to first base duty, with the other manning the DH slot. Too bad Felix Pie isn't working out.
Lou Montanez - See Salazar, Oscar. A great 2008 season at Bowie sparked the interest of many, but Montanez was 26 and in Double A. He's probably not an everyday player.
Brandon Snyder - Despite the populist sentiment to move Snyder to third base (check the comments), I'm not sure you could find a single scout anywhere in the country who thinks that's a realistic option. He is, however, making a huge leap with the bat this season. After posting a .343/.421/.597 line at Bowie, he moved up to Norfolk last week, and after a bit of a slow start, he's got a double and a triple (so far) in today's game. If this break out is for real, could we see a September call-up? Though the Orioles were conservative with Reimold and Wieters, I don't think that's an unreasonable expectation if he has three successful months in Norfolk.
Michael Aubrey - Acquired just yesterday, Aubrey is a former first round draft pick that has never quite put it all together. He brings organizational depth, but much like Salazar and Montanez, we can't really put much hope in his suddenly figuring it out.
Aubrey Huff - After posting big numbers in 2008, Huff has looked much more like the 2007 version thus far this season: .280/.337/.442 in 2007, .267/.333/.443 in 2009. Unfortunately, those numbers also look suspiciously like 2005 and 2006 Huff as well (.263/.331/.446 combined). I wouldn't be opposed to a short, inexpensive contract to bring Huff back for 2010 and perhaps 2011, but he is clearly not a clean-up hitter for a team with any hopes of contending. He's a .270/.335/.450 hitter, and the Orioles should look to upgrade if possible.
Melvin Mora - Unless something drastic happens, there is roughly a .01% chance that the Orioles pick up Mora's $8mm option (choosing instead the $1mm buyout) for 2010. He's currently producing to the tune of a .668 OPS, and at age 37, his best days are far behind him.

The Orioles have some potential trade bait to use before the deadline: Aubrey Huff, Danys Baez, Luke Scott, and George Sherrill are all likely to draw at least some kicking-the-tires interest. Unfortunately, none are likely to bring back anything near an impact corner infielder. Given the presence of Snyder and the possible, if not exactly desirable, options for filling first base internally, the Orioles need to focus on picking up a third baseman. Alas, the offseason free agent class is not exactly the most intriguing, and there aren't many prospects to be had in the minors. At this point, I have no suggestions for Mr. MacPhail. Let's hope he can come up with a creative solution.

1 comment:

Legends said...

I know Chris Ray is your college buddy, but how much longer are the O's going to trot out Chris Ray 3-4times per week to take a beating?

I am not sure he can get anybody out. Package him in a deal, stay with him, back to Norfolk?

I say goodbye.