Orioles still interested in Padres' Seth Smith and Will Venable, sources say

The hot stove likely will be set on simmer and put on the back burner after today for the holidays. The industry usually goes quiet in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.

That doesn't mean the Orioles won't continue to survey their options on adding outfielders, which remains their top priority since the departures of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis.


According to sources, dialogue continues between the Orioles and the San Diego Padres, who have a surplus of outfielders after acquiring Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton this month.

The Padres need to move some outfielders, and left-handed hitters Seth Smith and Will Venable are drawing the most interest from the Orioles.


Both Smith and Venable have pretty dramatic splits, hitting right-handers considerably better than left-handed pitching. But the Orioles appear content with starting the season with platoons in the outfield.

Keep in mind both Steve Pearce and Delmon Young opened last season as platoon players before playing more important roles with the club.

And as the batting order projects right now, the Orioles would like to add a left-handed batter to a righty-heavy lineup.

Even though the Orioles have seemed flat-footed this offseason, this is a situation in which they can probably wait it out. The remaining options in the free-agent market are unremarkable and the Padres won't keep all those outfielders.

One team source said the Padres were inquiring about Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, who have been on every team's wish list in potential trades. Obviously, that wasn't happening. But in a month, if the Padres are still looking to move outfielders, the Orioles would have bargaining power.

The Orioles added catcher Ryan Lavarnway on Tuesday, claiming him off waivers from the Chicago Cubs. This move seemed inevitable because the Orioles had made at least one previous waiver claim on Lavarnway this month. He has been on waivers three times in December.

Why is that? Well, it has been three seasons since Lavarnway, 27, was a top catching prospect in the Red Sox organization, and he hasn't lived up to expectations.

It's an interesting addition, especially since Lavarnway has defensive limitations. He has thrown out just 16 percent (10 of 63) of base runners at the major league level since 2011, well below the league average of 26 percent.


He's the fifth catcher on the Orioles' 40-man roster, which also includes Steve Clevenger, who has thrown out just 13 percent of base runners in the major leagues.

Keep in mind that the Orioles released outfielder Quintin Berry to make room for Lavarnway. While Berry was limited, he provided value to the team with his speed on the bases. Berry is a perfect 30-for-30 in stolen bases in his major league career, including the postseason.

The Orioles want to be protected at the catching position in case Matt Wieters isn't recovered completely from Tommy John surgery by Opening Day, so it's interesting that their addition behind the plate is one who hasn't shown he can keep base runners honest.

The Orioles place a lot of emphasis on controlling the running game. In spring training, there's a strong concentration in improving delivery times to the plate.

Lavarnway played 31 games at first base at Triple-A Pawtucket last season and saw his only playing time with the Red Sox in 2014 at that position. But he's not better defensively than Pearce -- the team's alternate option at first base behind Chris Davis -- so it's unlikely that he'll receive much playing time there.

But he does represent the classic Dan Duquette reclamation project. He is a former top prospect with the Red Sox with a strong minor league track record and a .375 career on-base percentage in the minors.


The Orioles obviously wanted Lavarnway. Now it will be interesting to see how they find a place for him to stick.