With a crowded collection of ho-hum options for the back of the rotation and a need for a corner outfielder, the Orioles addressed both issues on Friday.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette traded veteran starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo and cash considerations to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for outfielder Seth Smith. The swap will reportedly save the Orioles around $4 million for the 2017 season while upgrading the roster, making it a good trade on paper.
Smith, 34, immediately becomes the favorite to start in right field and batted .249 with 16 home runs, 63 RBIs, and a .342 on-base percentage in 2016. He holds a career .344 OBP, a skill the Orioles clearly have been lacking in recent seasons.
He also wore out Baltimore pitching in 2016, going 10-for-28 with four home runs and 12 RBIs. He is signed through the 2017 season and will make $7 million. He spent the last two seasons with the Mariners after previous stops in San Diego, Oakland, and Colorado.
“Seth Smith brings veteran leadership, experience, and an accomplished bat to the Orioles,” Duquette said in a statement. “We look forward to him contributing to the 2017 club.”
The left-handed hitter does not come without flaws, however, as he owns a career .594 on-base plus slugging percentage against lefty pitchers, making it clear that he needs to be matched with a platoon right-handed bat. Smith was worth minus-seven defensive runs saved in the Mariners outfield this past season, but he fared much better in right field than in left.
His addition would not prohibit the Orioles from still re-signing 2016 home run champion Mark Trumbo to serve as the full-time designated hitter.
The trade closes the book on Gallardo, who will go down as one of the worst signings of the Duquette era. After concerns rose about his right shoulder last February, Gallardo signed a two-year, $22 million contract that also required the Orioles to forfeit their 2016 first-round pick. The deal included a club option for the 2018 season worth $13 million with a $2 million buyout.
The 30-year-old right-hander spent two months on the disabled list and posted a 6-8 record with a 5.42 ERA. He walked a career-high 4.7 batters per nine innings and finished with a career-worst 1.59 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) in 118 innings, his lowest total since 2008.
His departure leaves a projected 2017 Opening Day rotation of Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Wade Miley, and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Of course, this wouldn’t the first time the Orioles have felt good about a trade with the Mariners in recent years. They acquired Trumbo in exchange for backup catcher Steve Clevenger last winter and famously plucked Tillman and future All-Star center fielder Adam Jones from Seattle as the biggest pieces in the famous Erik Bedard trade nine years ago.