The Orioles’ immense offensive struggles at second base are no secret to anyone, including manager Buck Showalter.
Ryan Flaherty is hitting an abysmal .161 while receiving most of the playing time. Utility infielder Alexi Casilla isn’t setting the world on fire either with a .211 average and his recent ninth-inning blunder running the bases against Boston over the weekend. The argument can certainly be made that Casilla should receive some more opportunities, especially since his defense is regarded as a strength, but it’s apparent that neither is an option from which you wouldn’t try to upgrade.
Despite producing virtually nothing offensively, Orioles second basemen have committed four errors all season, with Yamaico Navarro responsible for two of them in eight games.
As many speculate about the names that might be out there in the trade market, the Orioles will look at defense long before offensive production. That would eliminate such options as Rickie Weeks who would bring an upgraded bat but would sacrifice much defensively. It’s also difficult envisioning the Orioles giving up something significant for an injury-prone player with an expiring contract like Chase Utley.
Howie Kendrick would be an interesting name to watch if the Angels are unable to climb back into contention. His defense is considered adequate and he would provide a dramatic offensive upgrade at age 29. His contract is also palatable as he’s signed through 2015 at just over $9 million in each of the next two years, but the price would likely be steep to acquire him in a trade. He is hitting .336 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs while committing eight errors this season.
And then there’s always Brian Roberts, who could begin a minor-league rehab assignment as early as next week, but having any faith that he’ll remain healthy is only setting you up for disappointment.
The truth is when you rank second in the AL in runs scored, you’ll sacrifice offense at second base in order to have a player in the lineup who will help prevent runs from scoring as Flaherty and Casilla clearly have with their excellent defense this season. An upgrade would make everyone feel better about the position, but finding someone who will provide enough offense to overcome what could potentially be lost in defense is not an easy chore.
The Orioles are currently scoring just 0.169 more runs per game than their opponent, which is the slightest margin for error. At a position where offense is at a premium, preventing runs is way more important than having a second baseman with a decent batting average but doesn’t really move the meter in terms of producing runs, which unfortunately fits the profile of most second basemen likely to be available for a reasonable price.
Enduring with Arrieta
Many are ready to cut bait on 27-year-old starting pitcher Jake Arrieta after his latest failed outing in Detroit, but the Orioles have no reason to even consider such a thought despite their frustration.
With a few more years of team control of the struggling right-hander, the Orioles should exercise every possible option in trying to figure out how the pitcher can realize his potential. It’s looking more and more like it could come in the bullpen.
It might be best for the organization to instruct Arrieta to simply work from the stretch while focusing on two or three pitches to see if he can hone his control to the point where he can become a successful reliever like Brian Matusz or Tommy Hunter. How easily we forget that two of the best relievers in the Baltimore bullpen were failed starters as early as last season.
The bullpen may not be the ultimate remedy for Arrieta and perhaps he’ll eventually need a fresh start elsewhere, but suggestions that the Orioles should simply get rid of the pitcher are based on emotion and not rationale thought.