Outfielder Dexter Fowler's 11th-hour turn Thursday from the Orioles to the Chicago Cubs leaves the Orioles in a difficult spot more than a week into spring training.
A week ago, they seemed well on their way to pulling off something of a coup, sacrificing a pair of first-round draft picks to sign free-agent right-hander Yovani Gallardo and outfielder Dexter Fowler. A day ago, players were taking turns putting on Buck Showalter's manager hat and plotting out lineups with Fowler in the mix.
But Fowler showed up at Cubs camp in Mesa, Ariz. today, and now the Orioles have to decide between the internal right-field options of Nolan Reimold, Joey Rickard, Dariel Alvarez, and Henry Urrutia, or yet another spring training addition.
Here's a rundown of who the Orioles could turn to if they decide to go outside the organization to add one more outfield option, or otherwise extend the lineup.
Perhaps the most unconventional of the outfield options — considering he's not an outfielder — is a possibility because he's the last remaining player on the market with a qualifying offer attached to him. The Orioles were already ready to give up the first-round pick for Fowler; if their plan was to ease the burden of losing the 14th pick by getting a second valuable piece in losing the 28th pick, then this is the only way to follow through on that.
Of course, Desmond is a shortstop and only a shortstop. He's played in the outfield twice in his major league career — once in 2010 and once in 2011. And he's coming off a career-worst .233/.290/.384 batting line in 2015. His wOBA —weighted on-base average — was .294, the lowest its been since 2011, his second full season in the majors. A lot of last year's struggles have been blamed on putting pressure on himself in a contract year. If Desmond can get back to his career averages before last year — .269/.317/.428 with 19 home runs and 78 RBIs per 162 games in five full seasons — and play a capable right field, he might be an interesting option for the Orioles to explore.
- Jay Bruce
The Cincinnati Reds were ready to trade Bruce to Toronto for a package of minor leaguers last week before a physical issue with one of the prospects coming their way scuppered the deal, but Bruce and his $12.5 million salary in 2016 is certainly available to anyone who wants it.
The two-time All-Star is now two years removed from his best seasons, when he posted an .826 OPS and averaged 30 home runs and 94 RBIs from 2010 to 2013. It's been a bit worse since then, with Bruce batting .217/.281/.373 with 18 home runs in 2014 and .226/.294/.434 with 26 home runs last season. He definitely has his power stroke back, but at what cost will the Orioles want to add another power bat with high strikeout totals and middling on-base skills to a lineup that has plenty of that already? Luckily for them, the cost may not be high.
A player long-connected to the Orioles since the Pittsburgh Pirates non-tendered him this offseason, Alvarez led the National League in home runs in 2013 with 36, but his combination of a low batting average and declining numbers since made him a bit too pricey for Pittsburgh to hang onto. He fits all the Orioles' preferences for someone like this — a buy-low, former top pick who is looking for a bounce-back year.
His signing would essentially create another corner player for the Orioles to juggle — he and Mark Trumbo would likely alternate between first base and designated hitter, and Chris Davis would be forced to right field more often than the team would like. But again, if they want another power bat who could be a good value, here's an option.
- Austin Jackson
Now, we're into the deeper reaches of free agency. At just 29, Jackson is a player whose erratic career is playing against him right now. He's been traded twice in the last few years, both times impacting good seasons and creating an unsettled situation for him to enter free agency. He's three years removed from a .300/.377/.479 year with Detroit, and there's a vein of thought out there that thinks he could become that type of player again in the right home.
He's not really the on-base option this team cries out for, but he's a good defender and can be an undervalued asset if you're willing to live with the offense.
- Alex Rios
A member of the World Series champion Royals last season, Rios' season was wrecked by a broken hand in April. He got back into a groove in the second half, hitting a respectable .267/.302/.400 in 62 starts after the All-Star break.
Rios has been a mostly solid defender throughout his career, and has plenty of experience in right field. He might not come cheap, but there's not much of a market for him at this point, and he certainly fits a need.
Victorino was mooted to be an Orioles trade target last season, and has endured two down seasons due to injury with the Boston Red Sox and Anaheim Angels. What he does add, regardless of his declining bat, is on-base ability and a good presence in a clubhouse that values it. Another buy-low, take-a-look option for the Orioles here.