Rasmus, Aoki and Ethier still among Orioles’ outfield options

While the Orioles apparently still rate Colby Rasmus as their likeliest choice among available left-handed hitting outfielders, they haven’t eliminated two others from the discussion.

They maintain a lower level of interest in free agent Nori Aoki and have engaged in trade talks with the Dodgers regarding Andre Ethier, according to an industry source.

Earlier this winter, the Orioles checked on Matt Kemp but decided against pursuing him due to his contract and health issues, and the Dodgers’ insistence on getting Kevin Gausman or Dylan Bundy.

Kemp never would have passed the Orioles’ physical. The Padres traded for him, but reportedly had concerns about his arthritic hips.

Aoki is viewed by some in the organization as the cheapest alternative of the three candidates mentioned above, but also the biggest risk. He turns 33 on Monday and doesn’t run particularly well or play defense that’s satisfactory to some officials.

colbyrasmusjays.jpgRasmus, by contrast, will play most of the 2015 season at age 28. He’s younger, more athletic and a better runner and defender. He’s viewed as having the biggest upside of the group.

The knock on Rasmus has been his inconsistency, high strikeout totals and attitude. The Orioles continue to do their homework and have received positive feedback from some players and coaches with ties to him.

Manager Buck Showalter met with Rasmus yesterday, according to a source, and returned home last night. As I’ve written, he wanted to form his own opinion in the same way that he did with Delmon Young, Nelson Cruz and Alfredo Aceves.

Rasmus is willing to accept a one-year deal - my guess is he could get $7 million from the Orioles - and re-enter the free agent market next winter. He’s gambling on himself. It worked for Cruz and others this winter.

The Orioles could give Rasmus 500 at-bats despite his poor numbers against left-handed pitching. They envision him playing the outfield corners and rotating into the designated hitter spot as a left-handed complement to Young, who will take his physical on Wednesday before signing his one-year, $2.25 million contract.

The strikes against Ethier, who turns 33 in April, include a contract that contains three more years at $53.5 million and a $17.5 vesting option for 2018 with a $2.5 million buyout. The better the player that the Orioles would surrender, the more money the Dodgers might be willing to absorb.

That also would be a tough contract for the Orioles to move. I just don’t see it happening.

Ethier is coming off the worst season of his nine-year career in just about every offensive category, which eventually forced him to the bench. He batted .249/.322/.370 with 17 doubles, six triples, four home runs and 42 RBIs in 130 games. He didn’t homer after June 29.

Even with the Kemp trade, the Dodgers apparently would consider moving Ethier.

Free agent Ichiro Suzuki, 41, also has been linked to the Orioles. I don’t see that one happening, either. He’s a tough sell for some folks in the organization.

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