Hanser Alberto as a trade chip seemed like an outrageous concept prior to the 2019 season.
Hanser Alberto as a guy who avoided the waiver wire seemed like an outrageous concept.
The Orioles are full of surprises this season.
Residency at the bottom of the division and being within reach of the first overall pick in next year’s First-Year Player Draft aren’t among them. It’s more about individual success stories.
There’s competition for the top honor, with John Means as an All-Star, Renato Núñez as runner-up to Trey Mancini for the home run lead - only one separating them - and Anthony Santander as everyday outfielder providing a five-hit day and terrific copy. But they weren’t cut loose four times in the offseason.
They didn’t change teams in spring training.
The Orioles waived Alberto and claimed him from the Giants, with manager Brandon Hyde pointing out multiple times that the infielder brought energy and a spotless reputation to the clubhouse. A good makeup guy.
No one said anything about trade chip.
I talked to a scout recently who said his club could be interested in Alberto after the season, suggesting that trade discussions might be initiated. He was paying close attention to Alberto and yes, acknowledging that it might seem absurd given how Alberto is such a well-traveled player.
The scout also spoke highly of Santander and assumed that Mancini was off the table, but Alberto is the guy that I keep going back to based on his past.
The Orioles aren’t necessarily motivated to move him. He isn’t a kid, his 27th birthday arriving in October, but he’s making only $578,000 and isn’t eligible for free agency until 2023. Raises in arbitration don’t figure to crush the payroll.
Having a guy on the roster who can play multiple infield positions and the outfield and lead the majors with a .402 average against left-handers offers the obvious benefits to Hyde as the lineup card is filled out.
Alberto also improved his overall production against right-handers with a .250/.277/.369 slash line and six of his 10 home runs before yesterday.
Yesterday’s collision between Alberto’s head and Eric Sogard’s knee forced him out of the game, but it won’t impact his season or how he’s suddenly become viewed within the industry.
The Alberto tale can’t be told without including how he produced zero major league home runs and slashed .192/.210/.231 in 192 plate appearances with the Rangers spread over parts of three seasons.
“A double-digit home run year was not what we expected from Alberto,” Hyde said. “I don’t think he had any coming into this year, right? What a great swing on that ball (Saturday) night, as well.
“It’s just, when guys get at-bats and guys get the opportunity to play, things happen sometimes and Alberto’s really taken advantage, obviously, of this opportunity and hitting some homers, as well.”
Ten of them, to be exact. Just as he wanted to do.
“I didn’t know he set that goal. Is that right?” Hyde asked. “Well, yeah, we’ll take it.”
The Orioles might want to keep him, but teams are taking notice and there will be discussions about him over the winter.