Could the Orioles bring back Hoes? (plus other notes)

I wrote last month that the Orioles would have interest in bringing back outfielder L.J. Hoes if the Astros made him available.

Well, the Astros designated Hoes for assignment on Friday to clear a spot on their 40-man roster.

To update my earlier post, the Orioles still have interest in Hoes and I still relish the headline possibilities.

The Orioles traded Hoes, minor league left-hander Josh Hader and a competitive balance pick to the Astros on July 31, 2013 for starter Bud Norris, who won 15 games for them the following season. Norris was released on Aug. 8, signed with the Padres three days later and currently is a free agent. Hader was traded to the Brewers on July 30 and reminded everyone in the Arizona Fall League why he’s a highly regarded prospect.

Hoes appeared in only eight games with the Astros this season, going 4-for-15 with an RBI. He’s a career .237/.289/.328 hitter in 112 games over parts of four seasons.

Now let’s check the Triple-A numbers from this season. Hoes batted .295/.383/.400 with 24 doubles, three triples, three home runs, 53 RBIs and 26 stolen bases in 99 games with Fresno. He owns a career .369 on-base percentage in eight minor league seasons.

Camden Yards daytime.jpgThe Orioles drafted Hoes as a second baseman in the third round of the 2008 draft out of St. John’s High School in D.C. He has plenty of supporters in the organization, including some ex-teammates who want him back. He lacks power to be a starting corner outfielder, but could back up at each position and move to the infield in emergencies.

The ideal scenario would be a minor league deal with the chance for Hoes, 25, to earn a promotion. Every organization needs outfield depth. How much of it depends on whether the Orioles add two outfielders to the major league roster this winter. Whether the starters in left and right are coming from outside the organization. Whether they intend to hold onto Nolan Reimold, who’s out of options.

I also could add whether Jimmy Paredes develops into at least a competent outfielder, but I’m not certain that he stays on the 40-man roster after slumping so badly at the plate in the second half. He won’t be the first to go when space is needed - I can find at least three players who should rank ahead of him - but he’s vulnerable.

* The Orioles reportedly have talked to the Reds again about outfielder Jay Bruce. This isn’t the first time.

Bruce hasn’t been able to get back to 2013 form, when he batted .262/.329/.478 with 43 doubles, 30 home runs and 109 RBIs and finished 10th in Most Valuable Player voting in the National League. Though he had a slash line of .226/.294/.434 this season, he also contributed 35 doubles, four triples, 26 home runs and 87 RBIs. Check out what the collection of Orioles right fielders produced in 2015.

Bruce, who turns 29 in April, will make $12.5 million next season and his contract includes a $13 million option for 2017. He provides power from the left side, averaging 30 home runs over his eight seasons. The Orioles could use them all, especially if they don’t re-sign Chris Davis.

I’m told that they’ve had concerns in the past about Bruce’s left knee. He underwent surgery in 2014 to repair a torn meniscus. He’s a low-OBP guy, which goes against one of their stated goals. They’re also challenged to complete trades with teams that are searching for young controllable pitchers. And isn’t every team looking for the same thing?

The Orioles are thinner in that department after parting with Hader, Eduardo Rodriguez, Zach Davies, Steven Brault and Stephen Tarpley, among others. And after Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey came down with injuries.

Anyway, Bruce continues to intrigue the Orioles.

* The Orioles signed a first baseman over the weekend, but it wasn’t Davis.

According to South Korean media outlet Ilgan Sports, the Orioles inked switch-hitter Ji-Man Choi to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Choi, 24, reportedly will earn $650,000 if he makes the club, and his contract includes a possible $350,000 in incentives.

Choi is a career .302/.404/.481 hitter with 35 homers over 1,378 plate appearances in five seasons in the Mariners’ system. He missed most of the 2015 season after breaking his right fibula in March, and he also served a 50-game suspension in 2014 for testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug methandienone.

Choi batted .298/.403/.421 this season with one home run and 16 RBIs in 18 games with Triple-A Tacoma. Baseball America ranked him as the Mariners’ 25th-best prospect last year.

* The Orioles signed catcher Joel Polanco to a minor league contract a few days ago, according to Major League Baseball’s transactions page. A team official confirmed it.

Baseball-Reference.com lists two catchers with the same name. One spent four seasons in the Twins organization, never rising above rookie league and getting released in April 2015. The other spent parts of six seasons in the Orioles organization, most recently appearing in two games at Double-A Bowie in 2011.

I did a Google search and found a Baseball America transaction from 2013 stating that the Orioles re-signed catcher Joel Polanco.

So in conclusion, I’ll just repeat that the Orioles signed catcher Joel Polanco to a minor league contract a few days ago that does not include a spring training invite. Enjoy the rest of your morning.

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