Tag Archive | "jay bruce"


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Trying to find “right” choice not easy for Orioles at this point

Posted on 29 February 2016 by Luke Jones

A week ago, Dexter Fowler appeared destined to be the starting right fielder and leadoff hitter for the Orioles in 2016.

How wrong we were.

Instead, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette’s search for a corner outfielder continues as the Orioles prepare to open Grapefruit League play on Tuesday. Beyond the bizarre confusion the Fowler saga created was the frustration in knowing Baltimore couldn’t secure a player who appeared to be the perfect fit for a promising lineup.

The Orioles are now left trying to fit a square peg into a round hole with the imperfect options remaining on the market. Of course, they could always allow in-house candidates such as veteran Nolan Reimold and Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard to compete for the job, but that’s a difficult sell when you’re already counting on Korean newcomer Hyun Soo Kim to hold down the starting duties in left field.

Three names who have been linked to the Orioles at some point this offseason remain available.

The first isn’t an outfielder at all as signing Pedro Alvarez would prompt the Orioles to move projected designated hitter Mark Trumbo to right field, a position at which he’s struggled in his major league career and already owns a miscue this spring. The left-handed Alvarez — whose poor defense at both first and third base ideally makes him a full-time DH — brings the potential of 30 home runs, but the Orioles have a starting rotation dependent on strong defense and you worry how Trumbo’s regular presence in right field would harm the club’s overall prevention.

Would Alvarez’s offensive value be negated by Trumbo’s defensive limitations in the outfield?

Alvarez, a Scott Boras client, would offer impressive power to a lineup already looking to be fine in that department, but he brings little else to the table and the defensive ramifications of his potential signing make him a lukewarm fit.

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce has been the subject of trade rumors dating back to last July and was part of a trade that would have sent him to Toronto last week before it fell through due to medical concerns about the other players involved. The Orioles have been linked to Bruce in trade rumors throughout the offseason as the 28-year-old enters the final season of a six-year, $51 million contract that will pay him $12.5 million this season and includes a $13 million club option with a $1 million buyout for 2017.

The price for Bruce in a trade likely wouldn’t be more than a middling prospect or two — we know how limited the Orioles’ farm system currently is — but what are you really getting at this point? The left-handed outfielder looked to be blossoming into a star when he posted an on-base plus slugging percentage of .807 or better from 2010-2013, but his production has plummeted over the last two seasons with a combined .288 on-base percentage and .695 OPS.

You might be able to forgive his nightmare 2014 campaign in which he hit .217 with 18 homers and a .654 OPS when you remember that he underwent surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee in early May and probably came back too quickly. That theory appeared to be validated when he hit 17 homers and posted an .827 OPS through late July of last season, but he then batted .178 with nine home runs and a .575 OPS over his final 60 games.

Will the real Bruce stand up?

His .251 batting average on balls in play last season suggests that Bruce hit into plenty of bad luck, but his ability to hit the ball with authority the other way hasn’t returned since injuring his knee, making you wonder if he will ever be the hitter he was earlier in his career. It’s one thing to pay Bruce $12.5 million for 2016, but the Orioles aren’t in a position to be trading away what few minor-league commodities they have for an expensive player who might not even be very good on top of that. At the very least, Bruce has a strong throwing arm and was worth five defensive runs saved in 2015, which would be a clear improvement over Trumbo playing right field.

That brings us to Austin Jackson, who is the best remaining outfielder on the free-agent market and just turned 29 a few weeks ago. Since posting a career-high .856 OPS for Detroit in 2012, Jackson has seen his career trend downward and has been traded in each of the last two seasons.

After being dealt to Seattle as part of the David Price trade in 2014, Jackson posted an awful .527 OPS with the Mariners the rest of the way and followed that with a .696 OPS in 2015. He was dealt to the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 31 of last season and did little to help their fortunes with a .236 average in 72 at-bats.

Jackson brings speed and good defense to a club — he played right field for the first time last season after spending his entire major league career in center — but his upside with the bat appears limited at this point and his .310 OBP over the last two years doesn’t make him a good option as a top-of-the-order hitter. He also recently turned down a one-year deal believed to be between $5 million to $6 million from the Los Angeles Angels, making you wonder how much more he might be demanding.

Also a Boras client, Jackson represents an upgrade over what the Orioles currently have — at least we think — but his recent production suggests he’s bordering on no longer being a full-time starting player. At the very least, you would be paying him less than Bruce and wouldn’t need to give up anything else to add him.

There’s less downside with Jackson, but he offers a lower ceiling than the other two as well.

Of the three aforementioned names, there may not be a wrong answer in the end.

There just may not be a right one, either.

And that’s what makes the Fowler outcome that much more disappointing for the Orioles.

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Fowler would bring needed skills to Orioles lineup

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Luke Jones

As the Orioles try to close an agreement with veteran starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo, much discussion has shifted to their desire to add another hitter for the 2016 season.

Free agents Dexter Fowler and Pedro Alvarez as well as Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce have been mentioned in multiple reports, but all carry concerns — or at least a hang-up of some sort.

According to MLB Network, the Reds believe the Orioles have the necessary prospects to make a trade for the 28-year-old Bruce, but should they want to do it? Not only is the left-handed hitter owed $12.5 million in the final year of his contract that includes a club option for 2017, but he’s posted a combined .695 on-base plus slugging percentage and minus-0.3 wins above replacement over the last two seasons.

In 2015, Bruce hit .226 with 26 home runs, 87 RBIs, a .294 on-base percentage, and a .729 OPS, unappealing numbers that were a marked improvement from a nightmare 2014 season in which he posted a .654 OPS and hit a career-worst 18 homers.

Those struggles coupled with a switch from the NL to the AL shouldn’t make the Orioles eager for his services, even if Bruce posted an OPS of .800 or better from 2010-2013. If you’re going to surrender what few valued commodities you have in a depleted minor-league system, Bruce isn’t one to target as he doesn’t bring defensive value, either, and is expensive.

A free agent whom the club could sign without forfeiting a draft pick, Alvarez would make sense if the Orioles didn’t already have Mark Trumbo penciled in as their primary designated hitter. The 29-year-old Alvarez hit 27 home runs and posted a .787 OPS in 2015, but he is a poor defensive player at either first base or third base and should only be considered as a DH.

Hypothetically, the Orioles could sign Alvarez and move Trumbo to right field, but the latter is not a good defensive outfielder and most of his offensive value would be wiped away from his shortcomings in the field. On top of that, Alvarez holds a .309 career OBP and would be just another one-dimensional power bat to add to a lineup already sporting plenty of those.

Again, not a good fit if you value defense, which the Orioles certainly have over the last few years.

That brings us to Fowler, who rejected a $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Chicago Cubs and would require the Orioles to give up a draft choice to sign him. It’s a hefty price in addition to whatever you’d have to pay in the contract, but his .363 career OBP would be a godsend for the top of the order and allow Manny Machado to shift into more of a run-producing spot hitting second or third.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has annually expressed a desire to improve the club’s ability to get on base — the Orioles have finished 10th or worse in the AL in OBP over the last four seasons — and Fowler would provide that skill ahead of the likes of Machado, Adam Jones, and Chris Davis. Even his career-low .346 OBP in 2015 would have ranked third behind only Machado and Davis on last year’s Orioles.

Turning 30 next month, Fowler has also reached double-digit stolen bases in seven straight seasons. It’s no secret that the Orioles have lacked speed on the bases for several years.

Despite being a below-average defensive player in his career, Fowler has played exclusively in center field and could presumably make the transition to right field at no worse than an satisfactory level. He’s not a superstar, but Fowler brings unique skills to a lineup needing someone at the top to set the table.

Of course, it makes sense for the Orioles to have multiple options for negotiating purposes, but Fowler is the clear choice among these three to give the offense what it sorely needs. Truthfully, he’s the only one who makes sense.

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Orioles with little to offer at upcoming trade deadline

Posted on 20 July 2015 by Luke Jones

The trade deadline is in sight and the names reportedly being linked to the Orioles are enticing.

San Diego outfielder Justin Upton.

Milwaukee outfielder Carlos Gomez.

Jay Bruce and Johnny Cueto of Cincinnati.

Even the mighty Cole Hamels in Philadelphia.

Despite being just 46-45 less than two weeks away from the trade deadline, the Orioles remain in the thick of the American League East race and trail the first-place New York Yankees by just four games entering a three-game set in the Bronx on Tuesday. Any of the aforementioned names would certainly help a club lacking corner outfield talent and needing better starting pitching than it received over the first four months of the season.

But the sound of snapping fingers should bring the Orioles back to reality.

After an offseason in which veterans Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis departed via free agency and the Orioles completely whiffed in their plan to replace them, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette now faces the task of trying to improve a corner outfield situation that’s largely been a wasteland in 2015. But he’ll keep coming back to the same problem while engaging in discussions with other clubs about potential trade targets between now and July 31.

What exactly do the Orioles have to offer in return?

Opposing clubs will immediately bring up Kevin Gausman’s name, but are the Orioles in a position to trade the 24-year-old away when there are already questions about the starting rotation now and for the long haul with Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris set to become free agents?

Second baseman Jonathan Schoop has often been targeted by opposing clubs, but the 23-year-old is too valuable as part of a core group that will be expected to lead the way with the likes of Matt Wieters and Chris Davis possibly — if not likely — departing as free agents following the season.

What about Dylan Bundy?

The 22-year-old right-hander remains shut down with a right shoulder issue and is unlikely to pitch again this year. On top of that, he’s out of minor-league options next year and would need to remain on any club’s 25-man roster despite having thrown all of 167 innings in the minor leagues. His value has never been lower, but he’s still young enough that it wouldn’t make sense to move him unless another club is willing to buy high despite these concerns.

Hunter Harvey drew plenty of interest at the deadline last year, but the 20-year-old pitcher is in the midst of a throwing progression and is an injury risk with a right flexor mass strain — an injury that sometimes leads to Tommy John surgery — until he proves otherwise. Again, not exactly a situation that screams for other teams to buy high on him.

There’s a substantial drop-off in upside after these currently-injured names.

That’s not to say the likes of outfielder Dariel Alvarez, catcher Chance Sisco, and pitchers Zach Davies, Mike Wright, and Tyler Wilson wouldn’t offer some appeal to other clubs, but it’s difficult envisioning any of them headlining a trade for an impact outfielder or pitcher. And with so many pending free agents this winter, the Orioles need to be careful selling off the few pieces they currently have in their farm system for rental players or veterans with limited ceilings, the only commodities they’re likely to be able to afford at the deadline.

It’s certainly nice to hear the Orioles are interested in a high-impact outfielder — and pending free agent — like Upton or a legitimate top-of-the-rotation starter like Johnny Cueto, but those options just don’t seem realistic unless the Orioles are willing to trade Gausman or Schoop — or both.

Perhaps Duquette will find a poor man’s Andrew Miller — hopefully for a price far less than an Eduardo Rodriguez this time around — or a spark plug reminiscent of Nate McLouth in 2012, but the reported interest in high-profile names feels hollow if the Orioles are going to be honest with themselves.

Duquette and the organization are trying to make up for what they failed to do last winter.

And they have very little to offer in order to do it, making it far more likely that the Orioles will need to count on what they already have rather than any hope of finding a real difference-maker.

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