While the left side of the infield is set for 2013, the right side is open for business.
Second base is especially unsettled, with Robert Andino and Omar Quintanilla non-tender candidates and Ryan Flaherty a possibility to start the season at Triple-A Norfolk, now that he’s no longer a Rule 5 player.
Nobody knows what to expect from Brian Roberts, who’s recovering from hip surgery. He was doing some light exercises toward the end of the season. I saw him swinging what looked like a large broom stick outside the visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field during the final series of the regular season, and not with full force. Just testing the flexibility in his hip.
Will he be full-go by spring training? That’s the plan, of course, but his health remains a riddle.
Roberts played in 156 games in 2007, 155 in 2008 and 159 in 2009. but he’s been limited to 115 over the past three seasons. He’s got one year and $10 million remaining on his contract - along with a full no-trade clause - and the Orioles expected him to at least attempt to fulfill it.
“Yes,” executive vice president Dan Duquette said last weekend. “He’s working on his rehab and he’s doing well on his rehab. He’s moving around and he’s starting to run and he wants to come back and play ball.”
Asked if he’s comfortable with the in-house alternatives, Duquette replied, “We’re working on placing Ryan Flaherty in winter ball so he gets some more at-bats, but I thought he did a great job and has shown that he’s a really capable major league infielder. And Robert Andino is a pro.”
Jonathan Schoop is one of the Orioles’ top position prospects and he played 88 games at second base this year at Double-A Bowie, but I wouldn’t expect him to make the jump to the majors coming out of spring training.
Here’s the list of potential free-agent second basemen, courtesy of MLBTradeRumors:
Jeff Baker (32)
Robinson Cano (30)
Mike Fontenot (33)
Orlando Hudson (35)
Maicer Izturis (32)
Kelly Johnson (31)
Adam Kennedy (37)
Jeff Keppinger (33)
Jose Lopez (29)
Freddy Sanchez (34)
Ryan Theriot (33)
The Yankees hold a $15 million option on Cano’s contract, with a $2 million buyout. He’s not going anywhere.
Should the Orioles explore a trade? Should they stick with the Andino/Flaherty platoon and consider it a bonus if Roberts is ready for opening day? Is there a Japanese or Taiwanese second baseman that Duquette is exploring on the international market?
Flaherty actually hit .213/.258/.355 in 141 at-bats against right-handers, and .250/.250/.417 in 12 at-bats against left-handers - small sample size - though all six of his home runs came against right-handers. Manager Buck Showalter used Andino as a defensive replacement late in games, a clear indication that he wasn’t completely comfortable with Flaherty’s glove.
Second base was a revolving door for the Orioles. Andino held the job before Roberts returned and after Roberts went back on the disabled list. Flaherty got a chunk of playing time before Quintanilla arrived and became the regular. Then it was Andino and Flaherty, with Quintanilla dropping off the face of the earth.
I’d think the only certainty is we’ve seen the last of Quintanilla. Otherwise, the Orioles could go in a lot of different directions at second base - just as they did in 2012.