Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette found his left-handed bat for right field earlier today and there’s more work to be done. Another item is crossed off a list that hasn’t reached bottom.
Duquette acquired Seth Smith from the Mariners for starter Yovani Gallardo and cash. Multiple needs were addressed in the process, but others remain.
The approximately $4 million saved could be put toward future transactions.
“I think the important thing is that we added a good veteran hitter to our lineup to help us in a couple of areas,” Duquette said during a conference call with the media. “Help us in the field, help us getting on base and setting up the rest of the order. Working the pitchers and also driving in runs. I think that’s what Seth can do for us.
“We’re going to continue building the club. We’re looking to add depth. We may sign another outfielder and we’ll also look at the pitching depth.”
Duquette didn’t specify a right-handed hitting outfielder, but it would make sense given the presence of Smith in right field and Hyun Soo Kim in left.
Smith is a career .272/.355/.472 hitter against right-handers and a .202/.282/.312 hitter against lefties, and he figures to be part of a platoon that could include former Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard.
“At some level, I’m in control of how well I play against left-handed pitchers,” Smith said, adding that his opportunities ultimately aren’t his call.
“It’s something I don’t try to control other than I work hard to hit right-handers and I work hard to hit left-handers the best as I can. I just try to have good at-bats and be the best player that I can be in whatever role I am asked to produce in, whether it’s playing the outfield, DHing, or hitting against right-handers or left-handers. I work at whatever satiation presents itself and try to be successful.”
Duquette wouldn’t confirm whether Smith could bat leadoff, which he’s done in 80 starts in the majors.
“I don’t know if we have that in mind,” Duquette said. “He’s a good on-base man and he’s also a good RBI man, with a good record of hitting with men on base. He knows his way around the batter’s box and he knows his way around the American League, so I think he’s a good addition to our ballclub.”
Said Smith: “It seems like I do it for a small stretch each season when the team’s trying to figure out what direction they want to go. For me, it’s never really been an issue other than you have to be prepared to play, prepared to hit a little sooner otherwise. But after the first at-bat, it’s business as usual and you approach the at-bat the same way you would regardless of where you’re hitting.”
He welcomes the chance to hit at Camden Yards, just like anyone else. It’s a big club.
“You kind of make of it what you want. Nobody complains about hitting at Camden Yards. I can assure you of that,” he said.
“There are pros and cons of every ballpark, but as far as hitting at Camden Yards, you can’t help but be excited about it.”
Smith said he’s received encouraging text messages today from current and former Orioles.
“It’s been, ‘Excited, you’ll love it here, look forward to having you.’ I appreciate that,” Smith said.
“You hear just through the grapevine playing and being around a while about organizations and Baltimore is one that I’ve never heard a bad thing about. People speak positively of it and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
The Orioles sought to upgrade their outfield defense and viewed Smith as an improvement over Mark Trumbo, who was bumped into a DH role late last season after they acquired Michael Bourn to play right. Smith has played all three positions, but has much more experience in the corners.
“I came up as a right fielder and then moved to left field when I first got to the big leagues, and I’ve kind of gone back and forth,” he said. “It’s a thing where the corner is a little bit different as far as the way the ball comes off the bat, but ultimately you just prepare yourself to play, whether it’s your legs or getting reads off the bat. You try to get some good ideas of what the hitters are trying to do and the pitchers on the mound and how they pitch and where the ball might wind up and try to position yourself accordingly and then just read the ball off the bat and go catch it and get it to the infielders as quick as possible.
“That’s my goal. Get to the ball wherever it is and get it away from me as quickly as possible and to one of the infielder’s hands.”
The Orioles had too many starters for their rotation and were able to subtract Gallardo while obtaining a player they’ve coveted in the past. Gallardo could benefit from a move to the American League West and a full season with a healthy shoulder.
“We dealt from an area of surplus,” Duquette said. “We had six starters to fill an area of need and that was left-handed hitting, on-base capability and an outfielder. So we liked the trade from that perspective. We reallocated some of our resources and in the process we strengthened our team.
“Seth is a veteran leader. He’s also a good on-base man and a very good hitter against right-handed pitching. And over the course of his career he’s been a very good clutch hitter. We’re looking forward to his contributions to our ballclub in 2017.
“He’s always played pretty well against the Orioles and we’ve admired his work, and now we have an opportunity to have him on our ballclub.”