Does Efren Navarro’s arrival potentially impact Chris Davis?

The acquisition of outfielder/first baseman Efren Navarro from the Angels has raised a few questions in relation to the Orioles’ motives for making the deal.

Why a player who’s regarded as a plus defender at first base? Should we read anything into it?

I’ve heard a few theories tossed around that can be debated here this morning.

Maybe the Orioles targeted Navarro while searching for another left-handed hitting outfielder. He has an option, which could put him on the shuttle between Triple-A Norfolk and the majors. It’s mostly about depth.

Maybe the Orioles are stockpiling first basemen after re-signing Chris Davis so they can package one in a trade. They still need a starting pitcher. Christian Walker appeals to some teams and could be expendable after Trey Mancini was named the organization’s minor league Player of the Year.

Maybe the Orioles will put Davis in right field, start Navarro at first base and make Mark Trumbo the primary designated hitter.

Efren-Navarro-Angels-red-catch-sidebar.jpgI’ll tackle the last theory first. Navarro is a career .246/.303/.324 hitter with one home run in parts of four major league seasons. He’s a career .300/.365/.417 hitter in nine minor league seasons, but that’s not good enough for me to project him as the opening day first baseman.

Manager Buck Showalter values defense and he’d prefer to keep Davis at first base, with only the occasional start in right. Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette have stated that Davis was re-signed to mostly play first.

I think the Orioles wanted Navarro because he’s a left-handed hitter who can play first base and the outfield, and provides roster flexibility due to his minor league option. And, yes, he adds to their depth at first base in case they can work a trade.

Would Davis accept a move to right field?

“I think that’s something that Buck and I would obviously have to sit down and talk about,” he said last week. “I felt comfortable playing right field last year. At the time it was the best thing for the team and I think that’s something that every guy on our club is willing to do. You want to do what’s best for the team. And for me, I’ve always felt comfortable going to the outfield, even though I think it would be more beneficial for me to have an offseason under my belt where I knew I was going to be out there full time.

“I’m always open to doing whatever it takes to win. I think it’s going to be interesting over the years to kind of see how that plays out, to see the development of Trey. And I’m excited to play with Efren this season and I hope that he’s going to have as much fun as we do every day.”

Davis made 29 starts in right field last season and 28 in 2012.

“I think that’s probably the hardest thing is going back and forth,” he said. “I think as a player, as much consistency that you can get on a daily basis is appreciated, and I think just being able to have an offseason or even just a spring training where I’m able to get the reps and able to get some work in to where I don’t have to kill myself before a game during the season, I think it would help tremendously.”

If Showalter plays Davis in the outfield, it’s going to be in right. That’s where Davis is most comfortable and where Showalter is most comfortable using him.

“Yeah, there’s no doubt,” Davis said. “I played a little bit of left field and I think just the way our ballpark is kind of tailored to right field, I think it plays better to me. I think my arm plays a little bit better in right field. But it’s something that, I don’t have a lot of experience, but the experience I do have in the outfield, I’ve obviously felt more comfortable in right field.”

If I were a betting man, I’d have Davis at first base on April 4 and for most of the games that follow. But it’s clear that Showalter has other choices and Davis is at least open to listening to them.

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