SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Baltimore Orioles went into the offseason looking for left-handed bats. Nearly three weeks into spring training, they got another one.
Monday night, the Orioles reached agreement with Pedro Alvarez on a one-year deal worth $5.75 million. The pact, which is pending medical review, gives an already potent offense yet one more power bat. By adding Alvarez -- the former Pirate whose 36 homers led the National League in 2013 -- to a lineup that already features Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy, Baltimore now has six players who’ve hit 30 bombs in a season.
It also gives an Orioles team that was heavily right-handed last season a little more balance among the projected regulars. Alvarez, who will likely slot in as the team’s primary designated hitter, and fellow offseason signing Hyun Soo Kim, give manager Buck Showalter two more lefty swingers to go along with slugging first baseman Davis, not to mention catcher Matt Wieters, who's a switch-hitter.
It’s worth noting that despite Baltimore’s righty-heavy lineup last season, it actually did a much better job against right-handed pitchers than lefties. As a team in 2015, Baltimore's .752 OPS against righties was second best in the American League, while its .662 OPS against southpaws was the AL’s third worst. The 90-point differential, which was the second largest in baseball behind the Rockies, isn’t likely to improve with the addition of Alvarez, whose career OPS against lefties is nearly 200 points lower than it is against righties (.601/.794).
"Let's hope he shows up."
Ryan Flaherty, Orioles infielder, on Pedro Alvarez
Defensively, although Alvarez isn’t likely to see much time in the field, his addition further complicates what was already a pretty complicated outfield situation. As recently as Monday, the thinking was that Trumbo would be the regular designated hitter. Acquired in December in a trade with Seattle, Trumbo’s best position is first base. But the Orioles already have some guy named Davis there. Trumbo also has experience playing the outfield, but he’s not nearly as effective there. For his career, he’s accounted for 12 defensive runs saved as a first baseman, and minus-12 DRS in the outfield despite playing roughly 1,000 fewer innings there.
With Alvarez in the fold, Trumbo will need to play somewhere in the field. It’s possible he could be part of a platoon in left field with Kim, who came to camp as the projected starter but has struggled at the plate, going hitless in his first 18 at-bats. As for right field, even though Davis is an excellent athlete who’s played there some in the past, it doesn’t sound like the Orioles have any plans on moving him out there so that Trumbo can play first. At least not on a regular basis.
"I think I’m probably going to be at first base most of the time," said Davis on Tuesday morning. "That’s the indication I’ve gotten."
Buck Showalter also indicated that no matter what happens with the Orioles’ roster, Davis will be his primary first baseman. That said, the manager was very tight-lipped about anything regarding Alvarez, which is hardly surprising in the wake of the Dexter Fowler debacle that took place earlier in spring training.
"We’ve been down this road a few times," said Showalter. "I'm sworn to double-secret probation, and I’m going to honor that protocol."
As of now, there’s been no sign of Alvarez in Sarasota, where the Birds are hosting a day game against the Red Sox.
Earlier Monday, Baltimore infielder Ryan Flaherty was asked what he thinks about the Orioles reportedly agreeing to terms with Alvarez, his former Vanderbilt teammate. Said Flaherty: "Let's hope he shows up."