xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

The Orioles' interest in Ichiro Suzuki, Colby Rasmus and the one-year platform deal

OF Ichiro Suzuki
(Elsa, Getty Images)

Another Orioles outfield target came off the board Tuesday when outfielder Seth Smith was traded by the San Diego Padres to the Seattle Mariners for right-handed reliever Brandon Maurer.

The Orioles were interested in Smith as well as outfielder Will Venable, and had preliminary discussions with the Padres, who were looking to unload outfielders after acquiring Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers this month. But nothing materialized.

Advertisement

As the calendar crosses over into 2015, spring training is less than seven weeks away and the Orioles are still searching for outfield help after the losses of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis.

The Orioles have had multiple discussions with the representatives of free-agent outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, according to an industry source.

Advertisement
Advertisement

There are those in the organization who aren't sold on Suzuki. He is 41 years old, and his offensive numbers have declined over the past two seasons as his role with the New York Yankees decreased, though that might be more of a statement of how great he was previously.

Suzuki's 143 games played and 385 plate appearances in 2014 were both major league career lows, but he still hits left-handed pitching well. A career .330 hitter against lefties, he was 21-for-63 against left-handers in 2014, compiling a .333/.394/.413 split line. There's no argument that Suzuki's best years are behind him, but he could be a value option.

The Orioles are still in search of a leadoff hitter, and while Suzuki made just two starts in the leadoff spot in 2014, he is a career .324/.367/.420 hitter there.

At this point, there's nothing more than mutual interest. The sides have talked multiple times, but there's been no offer and other teams are also interested.

Advertisement

The Orioles reaped huge benefits from their one-year, $8 million deal with Cruz last February. The club received the benefit of a career year from Cruz -- who led the major leagues with 40 home runs -- and Cruz was able to use it as a platform to a long-term payday when he inked a four-year deal with the Seattle Mariners.

Now the Orioles are searching for this offseason's version of Cruz, and maybe it's free-agent outfielder Colby Rasmus.

Rasmus won't put up the same numbers that Cruz did in 2014, but he is a player who could benefit from a one-year deal hitting in a packed Orioles batting order while playing in hitter-friendly Camden Yards.

Rasmus, 28, isn't a perfect option, though. He's coming off a season .225/.287/.448 in 2014 with the Toronto Blue Jays, and he lost his starting center field job in September when the organization began looking at younger players.

Rasmus doesn't have a sparkling reputation in the clubhouse, and he is known as a player who doesn't get the most out of his immense talent. Still, he has to capability to hit 25 to 30 home runs and, over the past two seasons, Rasmus has hit .351 (13-for-37) with six extra-base hits (two home runs, four doubles) at Camden Yards.

The Orioles need help, and Rasmus is enticing. They know his flaws, but their free-agent interest is now focused on Rasmus, according to an industry source.

But before the Orioles pursue Rasmus any further -- he likely could be signed for a one-year deal in the range of $6 million to $8 million and wouldn't cost a draft pick like Cruz did -- the question of his clubhouse presence must first be answered.

Chemistry is such a big part of Orioles manager Buck Showalter's clubhouse. But Showalter has also been known to inject some players with questionable histories into his harmonious clubhouse with success.

When the Orioles signed Cruz, he was coming off a 50-game suspension for his part in the Biogenesis scandal, but he meshed well with a clubhouse with its share of players who had been vocal against performance-enhancing drugs.

Before the Orioles signed designated hitter-outfielder Delmon Young to a minor league deal in January, Showalter had a sit-down conversation with Young and had to convince himself that Young would fit in the Orioles clubhouse.

And both Cruz and Young used the Orioles' good faith in them to payoffs.

Cruz will make $57 million over the next four years, and Young re-signed with the Orioles this month for one year and will make $2.25 million in 2015.

There are still many steps for the same script to occur with Rasmus, but no available player fits that profile more than he does.

eencina@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement