Trying to strengthen their depth for the final two months, the Orioles brought back an old friend at the trade deadline.
Minutes before the 4 p.m. non-waiver deadline, executive vice president baseball of operations acquired first baseman and outfielder Steve Pearce from Tampa Bay in exchange for minor-league catcher Jonah Heim. Pearce had spent the last four seasons with Baltimore before signing a one-year, $4.75 million deal with the Rays last winter.
Much like he was with the Orioles in 2014 when he hit .293 with 21 home runs and a .930 on-base plus slugging percentage, Pearce has been a standout performer this season, hitting .309 with 10 homers, 29 RBIs, and a .908 OPS in 232 plate appearances. The 33-year-old also brings plenty of versatility as he played first, second, and third base for Tampa Bay this season and has played extensively at the corner outfield spots in the past.
The Orioles had been in the market for another outfielder since the thumb injury suffered by rookie outfielder Joey Rickard last month. In 2016, Pearce has hit .377 with a 1.212 OPS against left-handed pitching while Baltimore has hit .236 with a .699 OPS against southpaws.
It will be interesting to see how manager Buck Showalter uses Pearce as he would appear to be a logical platoon partner with left fielder Hyun Soo Kim. However, Pearce would also provide a defensive upgrade to Mark Trumbo in right field and would allow the latter to serve as the designated hitter more often.
Heim, 21, is a good defensive catcher, but questions remained about how his offense would translate to higher levels of professional baseball. The 2013 fourth-round pick was batting .216 with 14 doubles, one triple, seven homers, and 30 RBIs over 88 games with Single-A Frederick this season.
The Orioles could still stand to add another bullpen arm — preferably a left-hander — but that would appear to be a realistic goal before the waiver deadline at the end of August.