With their top free-agent choice for an outfield spot, Colby Rasmus, now off the board after he signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Houston Astros, the Orioles will continue to explore other available options.
One possibility who now moves up the list is Nate Schierholtz, a 30-year-old left-handed hitter whom the Orioles have been in contact with this winter but was previously viewed as a Plan B, according to industry sources.
The club has pursued Schierholtz in the past; talking to him in the winter of 2012 before re-signing Nate McLouth and then again last summer when Schierholtz was released by the Chicago Cubs. He ultimately ended up with the Washington Nationals.
Schierholtz, a 2003 second-round pick of the San Francisco Giants, signed a two-year, $7.25 million deal with the Cubs before the 2013 season, and hit .251 with a career-best 21 home runs that year. But he struggled mightily in 2014, batting .192 in 99 games with the Cubs and .225 in 23 games with the Nationals.
Primarily a right fielder, Schierholtz is a career .253 hitter with a .302 on-base percentage in parts of eight major league seasons. He hits practically the same against right-handers (.253) and left-handers (.254) in his career.
At this point the Orioles are likely targeting outfielders on one-year deals unless they can work a trade. Veteran Ichiro Suzuki, 41, also remains a fallback option, though the Miami Marlins have recently been linked to him.
The Orioles were most interested in the 28-year-old Rasmus, who batted .225 with 18 homers for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014. Orioles manager Buck Showalter went to Alabama earlier this offseason to meet with Rasmus and felt he could be a fit for an outfield that lost starters Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz to free agency.
The Orioles offered Rasmus a one-year deal -- and potentially a one-year deal with an option -- according to a source, but were intent on not going over the $7 million he made in 2014. Rasmus received $8 million -- a $1 million raise -- from the Astros.