Buck Showalter is expected to meet with Peter G. Angelos today here in Baltimore, one of the many prearranged meetings that the Orioles manager regularly has with the club's managing partner during the course of the year to discuss various team-related topics.
Showalter hopes to discuss a few ideas related to spring training with Angelos, including a desire he has had for several months to add a set of pitching mounds to the center field area of the Orioles facility’s artificial turf field in Sarasota, Fla. That way, pitchers can get their entire routines done on one field: running drills, pitcher’s fielding practice and bullpen sessions, while leaving the facility’s other three fields available for other activities.
Certainly that won’t be the only topic that comes up. The lingering subject of executive vice president Dan Duquette’s future with the club will be discussed, but only because the two are already meeting.
The Orioles don’t appear to be reeling from Tuesday’s news that free-agent outfielder Colby Rasmus agreed to terms with the Houston Astros on a one-year, $8 million deal. Like I wrote last week, the Orioles weren’t comfortable with giving Rasmus a raise coming off a year in which he hit just .225/.287/.448 and lost his starting job in the season’s final month.
The Orioles made Rasmus an offer, but they weren’t willing to go over the $7 million he made last season. They were holding firm to that.
Rasmus was the Orioles’ top free-agent target, and he wanted to come to Baltimore, partially in order to use a one-year deal as a platform to a better free-agency opportunity after 2015. Showalter made a trip to Alabama to meet with Rasmus and left cautiously optimistic that a deal would get done.
In the end, Rasmus chose to go sign a one-year deal with a Houston club that is improved, but still isn’t likely built to win this year. Rasmus reportedly had a comfort level with going to the Astros because Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow drafted him in 2005 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Rasmus told the Houston Chronicle that he was close to a deal with the Orioles.
“Both places I definitely I had interest in, and was liking both of what they had to offer,” Rasmus told the newspaper. “For a while now, I’ve kind of wanted to play in Houston. … I’ve got some friends that live around the area, and I just thought it would be a good fit for me. I need a change of pace. I’ve played on a lot of older teams with guys that were a lot older than me.”
Now, the Orioles turn to Plan B in their search for a left-handed-hitting outfielder. There’s not much out there, and what remains is mostly underwhelming.
There’s Nate Schierholtz, who the Orioles have been in contact with this offseason, but put on the back burner until their pursuit of Rasmus was resolved. The team also briefly discussed veteran Ichiro Suzuki, but they haven’t been in touch with his representatives recently.
If those are the Orioles’ top remaining options, maybe the free-agent market isn’t the best way to go. There could be other alternatives on the trade market -- but that’s depleted as well -- and the Orioles are still not moving their top young pitchers for an incremental improvement.
That leaves them looking at what they already have.
The Orioles could give an expanded role to Delmon Young, who hit .302/.337/.442 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 83 games last year. Young made 38 of his 56 starts last year at designated hitter, so he could get more starts in the outfield. He’s a veteran who can undoubtedly hit.
It also opens an opportunity for Cuban outfielder Dariel Alvarez, who emerged as one of the organization’s top position-player prospects after he hit .306/.330/.472 with 15 homers and 87 RBIs between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk last season. The club is impressed with his strides both offensively and defensively.
From the left side of the plate, the Orioles still have David Lough, who was a favorite to take the starting left field job last spring but struggled. The team still believes in Lough, who had a .351/.387/.544 batting line in 49 second-half games (albeit just 15 starts). Still, if Lough can build on that success in the spring, he will certainly have the opportunity to get more playing time as a left-handed-hitting outfielder along with Alejandro De Aza.
And an interesting wild card is Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia, who has added 10 pounds in the offseason. Urrutia’s 2014 season was sidetracked by early-season struggles and hernia surgery, but he’s healthy now and has added some much-needed bulk. He has spent nearly the entire offseason working out in Sarasota, and the organization has taken notice of his hard work.