Finding a place for Pearce

Steve Pearce’s list of transactions on Baseball-Reference.com includes the following oddity at the bottom:

April 27, 2014: Released by the Baltimore Orioles.
April 29, 2014: Signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles.

Two days of free agency and he’s back with the same team.

It turned out to be one of the most important moves made by the Orioles this season.

They never wanted to lose Pearce, but they needed to clear space for left-hander T.J. McFarland and temporarily go with a 13-man pitching staff. McFarland joined the Orioles in Toronto and Pearce was sent packing.

Also temporarily.

The Blue Jays put in a waiver claim, but Pearce was able to refuse it. He trusted that the Orioles would bring him back, which they did.

Pearce had been buried on the bench, receiving only seven at-bats in the first 18 games. He didn’t seem to fit on a roster that included right-handed hitting outfielders Nelson Cruz and Delmon Young.

You know the rest of the story. Chris Davis went on the disabled list, the Orioles brought back Pearce after keeping the spot open and he became a huge contributor at first base and the outfield.

Pearce batted .293/.373/.556 in 102 games and set career-highs with 26 doubles, 21 home runs and 49 RBIs. He contributed a huge RBI single in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, but went 1-for-17 in the Championship Series.

pearce-intense-black-sidebar.jpgPearce is arbitration-eligible again and in line for a significant raise after making $700,000 this season. Manager Buck Showalter is happy for him. He’s earned it.

The question I raised yesterday on “Wall to Wall Baseball” on MASN is how Pearce will be impacted if the Orioles tender Davis a contract. He won’t be the regular first baseman, but he could get his at-bats in a variety of spots, including left and right field and at designated hitter.

The Orioles are unsettled in the outfield corners with Cruz a free agent and Nick Markakis set to become one after the Orioles decline his $17.5 million option for 2015. If Markakis signs a multi-year deal, he figures to be used as the DH on occasion to provide rest. In that scenario, Pearce could be inserted in right field.

Pearce also could be part of a platoon in left if the Orioles tender a contract to Alejandro De Aza and don’t re-sign Cruz.

In other words, Pearce will find his way onto the field and the Orioles will consider him worth whatever it costs.

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