Former Orioles outfielder/first baseman Steve Pearce is nearing a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, according to an industry source.
The Tampa Bay Times first reported the Rays were close with Pearce, saying that the sides have agreed to terms and the deal is pending a physical.
Pearce was a favorite of Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who helped revitalize Pearce's career as a quasi-utility man, playing him at first base, both corner-outfield spots and even second base for the first time in his career last season.
He enjoyed a breakout season in 2014, hitting .293/.373/.556 with 21 homers and 49 RBIs over 102 games. Pearce's 5.9 wins above replacement was the highest on the team that season as the Orioles won their first division title in 17 years.
Pearce struggled to duplicate that success this past season, hitting just .218/.289/.422 with 15 homers and 40 RBIs, though he did hit .321 in a 19-game stretch before going on the disabled list with an oblique strain right after the All-Star break.
The 32-year-old Pearce also became a fan favorite with his blue-collar mentality and his desire to play for the Orioles.
He was designated for assignment in an early season roster crunch in 2014, but declined an unconditional-release waiver claim by the Toronto Blue Jays to become a free agent and re-sign with the Orioles when Chris Davis went on the DL with an oblique injury. Pearce then went on to have the best season of his career.
The Orioles still need corner-outfield help, but they never made a serious play to retain Pearce. There was a possibility of a reunion if he remained a free agent closer to spring training, but instead he will play for a division rival.
Pearce has had great success at Tropicana Field, hitting .288/.395/.644 with seven homers and 14 RBIs in 23 career games there, and hails from nearby Lakeland, Fla., which is about an hour away from the Rays' home in St. Petersburg.
With Pearce signing elsewhere, the Orioles retained three of their six free agents this offseason. They re-signed first baseman Chris Davis to a seven-year, $161 million deal, reliever Darren O'Day to a four-year, $31 million deal and catcher Matt Wieters to a one-year $15.8 million qualifying offer.
Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen signed a five-year, $80 million deal with the Miami Marlins and outfielder Gerardo Parra received a three-year, $27.5 million deal from the Colorado Rockies.