Lost in all the hand-wringing about how slugger Mark Trumbo is the new Nelson Cruz, who cashed in on one league-leading season in Baltimore and left Camden Yards in the dust, is that they arrived here in decidedly different ways.
Cruz was an Oriole on a one-year free-agent contract, using his time here as a make-good after failing to catch on once he was done in Texas. Trumbo, however, was traded from Seattle in his final year of salary arbitration, with the Orioles taking on $9.15 million in salary.
As players build service time, the system ensures them pay bumps that some teams might find too steep. This means they can be traded, as Trumbo was, or released, as Pedro Alvarez was last year by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Either way, it provides a chance to get a player who falls into the market for a lesser annual price than some of the top free agents.
As free agency begins, some teams have begun shedding those players already. Others are getting occasion to consider it. Here’s a quick rundown of players who could end up in Baltimore because their arbitration price is simply too steep. All prices below are the MLBTradeRumors arbitration projections.
Nori Aoki ($6.8 million) – Aoki was waived by the Mariners at the end of the season and caught on with the Houston Astros, but now that they’ve signed Josh Reddick and will have catchers Brian McCann and Evan Gattis splitting designated hitter duties with George Springer and Jake Marisnick in the fold already. That means Aoki would be an expensive extra outfielder. If the Orioles want a left-handed hitting oufielder who is a career .286 hitter and is worth about a win every season, they should watch his market develop.
Chris Carter ($8.1 million) – The Milwaukee Brewers slugger was non-tendered by Houston in 2015 and hit 41 home runs, the most in the National League, in 2016. It’s a steep price for a career .218 hitter, but he’s a neutral split player and could fill a similar role to Alvarez if the Brewers don’t bring him back. The right-handed bat in a lineup that struggles with lefties would be an asset, as would the power. He’s essentially a right-handed Chris Davis at the plate, though.
Trevor Plouffe ($8.2 million) – This projected price tag was already too much for the Minnesota Twins to take, so they outrighted Plouffe off their roster. He’s now a free agent. Though the Orioles are set at his primary positions—third base and first base—Plouffe could be a valuable right-handed bat off the bench. He’s a career .268 hitter against lefties, with his OPS of .809 far better than his .697 OPS against righties. The fit defensively isn’t there, but offensively it is.
Ben Revere ($6.25 million) – Revere was seen as the missing piece in Washington last season, but ultimately got replaced by rookie Trea Turner in center field and is going to be a pricey reserve if his arbitration salary ends up where it’s projected. It was a stunning falloff, a hitter who hadn’t hit under .294 in five seasons batting .219 and watching nearly every rate stat plummet. He’s still a defensive asset, though, and while it’s been a while since he played right field, his presence would take a lot of pressure off Adam Jones defensively. Jones, Joey Rickard, and Revere would represent the best set of defenders the Orioles have put in the outfield in a long time.