The Orioles on Wednesday acquired outfielder Keon Broxton from the New York Mets for international bonus pool slots, adding a player who for the past two seasons hasn’t had the consistent playing time they believe can help unlock his considerable tools.
Broxton, who was designated for assignment by the Mets on Friday, could immediately add another center-field option for the Orioles with utility man Stevie Wilkerson playing the bulk of the time there as Joey Rickard has been recently marginalized.
“I know that he's excited to come here, and he's going to get an opportunity to play,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I think that it's going to be great. [Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias] has said all along about adding talent in the system, talent in the organization. We just got a really talented guy, and I'm looking forward to watching him play and giving him an opportunity. I've seen him play quite a bit, and I've seen the raw power and I've seen the speed and seen the defense in center field. It's going to be exciting to have him.”
The 29-year-old Broxton played a bit role on the Mets in 2019, batting .143 with a .371 OPS in his first season with the club. He was an everyday player and hit 20 home runs with 21 steals and a .220/.299/.420 batting line in 2017 with the Milwaukee Brewers, but was pushed out of their outfield mix the following season when they added Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich.
“We had our eye on him,” Elias said. “Speed, excellent center-field ability, he’s got some raw power. Hasn’t gotten a lot of consistent playing time, certainly not this year and even in the past year. But two years ago, [he] put together a pretty good campaign for Milwaukee, so we’re trying some different things in center field, and we wanted to give him a look and hopefully give him maybe a little bit more extended time than he’s had, and we’ll just see how it plays out.”
Hyde said he expected Broxton to report in the next day or two, and when he does, the Orioles will have another option in center field. Jonathan Villar, Broxton’s former teammate in Milwaukee, said he’d bring energy to the Orioles while noting that they have an infielder playing center field every day. Wilkerson only started playing center field last month to fill a need after the Orioles sent Opening Day center fielder Cedric Mullins to Triple-A Norfolk. Hyde again praised Wilkerson on Wednesday and said he’ll continue to play after Broxton arrives.
Broxton, however, will give Hyde a more seasoned player at his disposal in center field.
“He's a really athletic guy,” Hyde said. “I've seen him play quite a bit. His tools are off the charts. He can really go get it in center field. I've seen him make numerous great plays against the team I was with, and last year in a playoff race, they were using him with defense late because his defense was so good.
“He's also hit 20 homers in the big leagues, so he's got some serious raw power. He can really, really run. He's got a lot of tools. I'm excited to have him in the organization.”
In a separate move, the Orioles claimed right-hander Chandler Shepherd, a longtime Red Sox farmhand, off waivers from the Chicago Cubs and assigned him to Norfolk. Shepherd spent the last three seasons at Triple-A Pawtucket, mostly in the starting rotation. He was designated for assignment last week and claimed by the Cubs, who tried to pass him through waivers but didn't get him past the Orioles.
While he made 25 starts with a 3.89 ERA last year in his first season as a starter, Shepherd allowed 11 home runs in eight appearances this year to balloon his ERA to 10.01.
To clear the space on the 40-man roster, the Orioles transferred starter Alex Cobb (back) to the 60-day injured list and designated right-hander Yefry Ramirez for assignment. Hyde said Cobb wouldn’t be able to return inside the 60-day window from his lower-back strain, meaning he now can’t return until late-June. He’s currently just playing catch, an early step in his rehabilitation.
“Obviously, I'd love to have Alex Cobb here,” Hyde said. “So, we'll see when he gets here. I have no idea.”