ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Orioles purchased the contract of outfielder Nate McLouth on Saturday afternoon and have designated veteran outfielder Endy Chavez for assignment.
The 30-year-old McLouth was told he would be added to the Orioles 25-man roster Friday afternoon before his game at Triple-A Norfolk, just hours before a clause in his contract went into effect at midnight which would have allowed him to opt out and become a free agent.
The left-handed hitting McLouth arrived in St. Petersburg, Fla., late Friday night and was in Saturday’s starting lineup, starting in left field and hitting seventh against Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson.
“It’s a great opportunity,” McLouth said before Saturday’s game. “I don’t know what my role is going to be and frankly I’m just looking forward to it whatever it’s going to be. I’m thankful for the opportunity and excited to get it started.”
McLouth drew interest on the trade market and the Orioles believed he would quickly land on a major league roster if they allowed him to opt out of his contract.
"Nate McLouth was going to be in the big leagues today or tomorrow with somebody," Showalter said. "We had been asked about him."
McLouth gives the Orioles a solid defensive player — he owns a .991 career fielding percentage — who can play all three outfield positions and flourished the past month offensively in Triple-A. He hit .292 (31-for-106) with eight homers and 24 RBIs over his last 27 games.
On the season, he was hitting .244 (44-for-180) with five doubles, two triples, 10 homers, 29 runs scored and 33 RBIs in 47 games for Norfolk.
“[With] Nate, I think everyone was in agreement that we wanted to take a look at him up here to see if he could bring some things,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s obviously an experienced guy, somewhat younger. At the very least, we thing he can bring some of the things Endy brought for us.
“He's a good baserunner, [he] can do a lot of things that we're in need of. We'll see if he can bring it at this level. It's not like he's a guy who's never been here. He's played at a high level, and like all guys, had his struggles. But they think they've clicked on something that has put him in a position where we want to take a look at him and see if it plays up here.”
“I have felt comfortable with my approach, especially in the last month,” McLouth said. “Sometimes those things are going to fall, sometimes they’re not. I got to the point that I detached my feelings from the result of the at-bat and just really focused on the process of the at-bat, and I think that's the best way to go. I'm comfortable with where I'm at.”
A career .246/.335/.420 hitter in eight major league seasons with the Pirates and Braves, McLouth led the National League with 46 doubles in 2008 and was also named to the NL All-Star team.
Meanwhile, the Orioles part ways with the 34-year-old Chavez, who was signed this offseason to be a fourth outfielder but struggled at the plate all season. The left-handed hitting Chavez owns a career-low .190/.222/.281 line with two homers and eight RBIs in 47 games with the Orioles. Chavez missed 49 days with two lengthy stints on the disabled list, once with an oblique injury and another with a hamstring sprain.
“Endy was a class act,” Showalter said. “It was tough conversation [Saturday], but he understands how the game works. It’s a tough one. He was a good teammate and a good player. He just could never get going consistently. He was hurt a lot. Endy’s got some good baseball ahead of him. We think Nate does too.”
The Orioles have 10 days trade Chavez, which is a possibility. Chavez signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal in December.
“There are still some things that could happen for Endy that could benefit both of us,” he said. “We’ll see.”