One of the many tough decisions the Orioles must make this offseason is whether they will make an effort to resign outfielder Nate McLouth, who was an instrumental part of the team's playoff push and arguably their best player in the postseason.
McLouth might have been the best comeback story in baseball. He was released by the Pirates in May after hitting just .140 in 34 games in limited playing time. After signing a minor league deal and spending two months at Triple-A Norfolk, the Orioles selected McLouth's contract when he could have exercised on out clause in early August.
Initially, McLouth's role was to provide outfield depth and a solid glove – he won a Gold Glove in 2008 – but he quickly became an everyday player and once Nick Markakis suffered a broken left thumb, McLouth took over the leadoff spot nicely. He showed a gritty ability to work a count along with speed that the Orioles didn't previously have atop the order. McLouth also dazzled with his glove.
So what to do now? Following the Orioles' season-ending ALDS Game 5 loss to the Yankees, McLouth was asked whether he'd like to return to Baltimore.
"Of course," he said.
"It was a little bit different than a lot of people predicted, that's for sure," McLouth added. "Personally, I couldn't have had a better time in the time I've spent here, the two months I've been up here. I am appreciative they gave me the opportunity and I had a great time."
McLouth also shined under the postseason spotlight, so the 30-year-old outfielder could command a lot of interest on the free-agent market. But he might take less money in order for an opportunity to be an every-day player.
Let's not forget about Nolan Reimold, who opened the season as the Orioles' starting left fielder and leadoff hitter. Reimold was just beginning to show his talent as an every-day player – he hit .313/.333/.627 with five homers and 10 RBIs in 16 games before a neck injury ended his season. But you can credit Reimold for playing a big part in the Orioles' quick start.
Reimold is expected to return in time for spring training. But he just turned 29 on Friday and he hasn't played more than 87 games at the major league level since his rookie season in 2009. Every time it seems like Reimold is on the verge of breaking out, he suffers a setback.
McLouth, who hit .268/.342/.435 with seven homers and 18 RBIs in 55 regular-season games (and hit .318 in the postseason), began to capture his success of the past, taking full advantage of the opportunity the Orioles gave him.
But before signing with the Orioles, he hadn't hit above .228 since the 2009 season. And he failed to live up to expectations after signing a three-year, $15.75 million contract after the 2008 season.
Also, you have to give executive vice president Dan Duquette credit for unearthing McLouth. Is there another McLouth looming for next season? If there is, you can bet Duquette will give him a chance.
So what do you think? Should the Orioles attempt to resign McLouth?