By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
6:00 AM EST, January 24, 2012
Orioles fans received a free-agent acquisition -- albeit not the one they were likely waiting for -- on Monday evening.
The Orioles agreed to terms with 30-year-old utility man Wilson Betemit on a two-year deal (with an option for a third year), pending a physical, The Sun first reported Monday.
While the acquisition of Betemit isn’t the flashiest, and it’s obviously not Prince Fielder, it fills several key needs for the Orioles.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Betemit, a native of the Dominican Republic, is a generally underrated player, even though he’s never been an everyday guy and hasn’t played in more than 97 games since 2007.
But he gives Orioles manager Buck Showalter immediate positional flexibility. He can play all four infield positions and has dabbled in the outfied. Granted, Betemit isn’t really known for his defensive prowess, so he figures to be primarily fill the DH hole, but he still adds another option to the Mark Reynolds-Chris Davis scenario between third, first and DH.
Showalter said he wants to start Reynolds at third, where he made 26 errors in 114 games, and have Davis play first. If those scenarios don’t work out, Betemit is a nice safeguard. Third base is Betemit’s primary position, and in parts of two seasons with the Yankees in 2007 and 2008, he played a solid first base.
But let’s face it. The Orioles didn’t get Betemit for his defense. They signed him for his bat. He’s a switch-hitter with some power from the left side who can provide Baltimore’s lineup with extra help against right-handed pitching. Last season, the Orioles hit six points lower (.255) against righties than lefties (.261) as a team.
Betemit is a career .277/.348/.469 hitter against right-handed pitching, and in 2011 with the Tigers, he put up even better numbers against righties (.303/.365./.500). Six of his eight homers and 20 of his 22 doubles (in 323 at bats) came against right-handers, while he hit just .236/.281/.326 versus lefties last year.
For those of you thinking about it, the acquisition of Betemit won’t affect the Orioles’ stance on Fielder. They are still monitoring the situation with Fielder and likely still won’t bite on the Scott Boras client unless his market value drops considerably.
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