Is Alberto becoming a trade chip?

The Orioles don’t have an official order for trade chips. They don’t put out power rankings each week. The top four won’t square off to determine a winner and corporate sponsorship is nonexistent.

Trey Mancini would be the undisputed No. 1 for the Orioles if they were motivated to move him. He’s on a large table with everyone else - the untouchable bin is empty - but there’s less motivation in the front office.

Mychal Givens seems to be next in line with Andrew Cashner gone, though it always hinges on the offers. He won’t be handed over for nothing. And as I reported earlier this week, the Orioles appear to be seeking more talent for the low minors.

Cashner, Mancini and Givens were the predictable ones heading into the first full season of the rebuild. Infielder Jonathan Villar also fit with another raise coming via his arbitration eligibility.

Hanser Alberto is the shocker.

Hanser Alberto is the bracket buster.

How does a player go from king of the waiver wire to a potential trade chip?

I’d have placed better odds on him becoming a potato chip.

He has to stay in one place, stay off the bench and seize an opportunity, which Alberto has done while bouncing between second and third base.

The transactions attached to Alberto’s career statistics on baseball-reference.com are borderline humorous, at least to the people who didn’t have to live it.

Nov. 2, 2018: Selected off waivers by the Yankees from the Rangers.
Jan. 11, 2019: Selected off waivers by the Orioles from the Yankees.
Feb. 22, 2019: Selected off waivers by the Giants from the Orioles.
March 1, 2019: Selected off waivers by the Orioles from the Giants.

Alberto-Into-Stands-Black-sidebar.jpgJump on the 40-man roster and jump off. Feel wanted and unwanted. And wanted again by the Orioles, who valued his energy and clubhouse presence and needed the versatility.

Another team could feel the same way while also knowing that he’s able to contribute at the plate. Especially against left-handers.

Alberto’s 48 hits off southpaws led the majors last night, and his .397 average ranked second among qualifying batters behind the Braves’ Ozzie Albies (.400).

Nothing changed for him yesterday except the number of daughters. He’s up to two after Hanna’s arrival.

A utility player won’t bring back an elite prospect in a trade, but the Orioles could decide that the return is worth it. There’s selling high and then there’s selling through the roof. Alberto’s value may never reach this level again.

He played in 41 games with the Rangers in 2015 and slashed .222/.238/.263. Played in 35 games with the Rangers in 2016 and slashed .143/.143/.161. Played in 13 games with the Rangers last summer and slashed .185/.241/.259.

Alberto has appeared in 78 games with the Orioles. His .306 average ranked seventh in the American League last night.

“It’s been a really blessed season for me so far,” he said. “Thank God, he’s allowed me to be healthy, so play hard. It’s been a really, really great year for me.”

Alberto isn’t shy, whether it’s interacting with his teammates or attacking the first pitch thrown to him. He’s drawn only seven walks in 304 plate appearances to raise his major league total to 11.

Villar leads the club with 33 walks, followed by Mancini with 30 and Rio Ruiz with 26.

“He’s ready to hit,” manager Brandon Hyde said of Alberto. “The time he gets in the box he’s ready to hit. He might chase a little bit and he might be over-aggressive and he’s not going to walk much, but he’s on time with the fastball and he’s ready to hit. He gives himself a chance because he’s on time and he’s ready. That’s what I see is a guy who just really competes in the box, at the plate, and gives himself a chance and is swinging the bat great.

“He’s ready to hit the fastball. He’s not indecisive, he’s not feeling through his at-bat. He is on time with the fastball from the time he gets in the batter’s box. We have quite a few guys that are hesitant at time at the plate and Hanser is to the extreme the other way. He’s ready to hit and when guys throw it over the plate he gives himself a chance.”

Alberto took his utility responsibilities to the extreme this season by pitching an inning. He’s also made one start in right field and played one inning in left. But he hasn’t played shortstop this season, an unusual development for someone in his role.

He made 12 starts at short with the Rangers and played the position in the minors more than any other, with 529 starts and 601 total appearances. Teams will have to trust that he can still do it.

Hyde simply has other options at short with Villar and Rule 5 pick Richie Martin, and he’s pretty much worked a platoon at third with Alberto and Ruiz.

Unless a trade breaks it up.

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