In the last two days, the Orioles have reached agreement with closer Grant Balfour and traded for outfielder David Lough.
What will today bring?
Still waiting for another batch of confirmed minor league signings. And yes, the Orioles still want to add a starting pitcher and perhaps another left-handed bat.
I’ve been wrong about second base all winter, so take this next observation with a grain of salt. It seems more likely that the Orioles will stay in-house and let Ryan Flaherty and Jemile Weeks battle it out for the starting job.
I asked manager Buck Showalter at the Winter Meetings to name his fastest player. He didn’t come up with an immediate answer, but someone else at the table nominated Weeks.
Who’s going to lead this team in stolen bases, and with how many?
Lough was 5-for-7 in steal attempts this season. The guy he’s replacing, Nate McLouth, was 30-for-37.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette spoke at the Winter Meetings of the challenge in finding a new leadoff hitter. Does yesterday’s trade push Nick Markakis closer to the top?
It’s not as though the Orioles acquired a left fielder who’s a natural leadoff guy. Lough batted first in 19 games this year, posting a .271/.297/.329 slash line with one stolen base. He batted sixth in 19 games, posting a .348/.366/.507 line. Most of his appearances came in the seventh spot in the order, where he hit .270/.311/.380 with one homer and 10 RBIs in 35 games.
Lough is a left-handed hitter who posted better numbers against southpaws, batting .292/.314/.431. He hit .284/.310/.408 against right-handers.
You’ll notice that he wasn’t a big on-base percentage guy with the Royals, but he’s a career .297/.349/.459 hitter in seven minor league seasons.
Lough batted .263/.292/.344 with one homer and 16 RBIs in Kansas City this season, and .310/.331/.484 with four homers and 17 RBIs on the road. He hit .294/.310/.447 in 48 games in the first half, and .276/.312/.372 in 48 games in the second half.
Lough batted .395/.458/.558 with 20 RBIs with RISP and two outs.
I’m fine with the trade. Other than the drop in stolen bases, I think Lough is a good replacement for McLouth. He certainly hits for a higher average against lefties.
Shin-Soo Choo was never a realistic possibility, and Nelson Cruz never made sense.
This trade serves as another reminder that the Orioles place heavy emphasis on defense. That’s why I don’t believe that Henry Urrutia is a candidate to play regularly in left field. He may be improving with the glove, but there’s more work to be done.
I don’t consider Rule 5 pick Michael Almanzar to be Valencia’s equal at this stage of his career. I questioned how they could coexist on the 25-man roster because they’re both right-handed hitting corner infielders on a team that starts Manny Machado at third base and Chris Davis at first.
Valencia is better with the glove at third and is a career .329/.367/.513 hitter against left-handers. Almanzar isn’t a carbon copy, but the Orioles really like his potential and want to give him a shot.
So what’s the most important move still remaining for the Orioles - starting pitcher, designated hitter or second base?
I’m going with pitcher, but I’m also more comfortable with their in-house options. What’s the DH platoon without Valencia? Urrutia and Nolan Reimold? What if Reimold is starting in left field on opening day against Boston’s Jon Lester? Does Steve Pearce handle that role?
Wouldn’t Kendrys Morales make life so much simpler and really fortify the lineup and the bench?
Am I asking too many questions?
Here’s one more: Am I the only person who heard last night that former Oriole Luke Scott has signed with SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization and immediately thought that MASN should follow him around with a camera and produce the greatest reality show in television history?