Now that Nate McLouth has re-signed with the Orioles, agreeing to a one-year, $2 million deal with $500,000 additional available in bonuses based on plate appearances, what does it mean for the club this offseason and for the 2013 season?
(For the record, McLouth will get $50,000 each for reaching 300 and 350 plate appearances; $100,000 each for 400, 450, 500 and 500 plate appearances).
First, McLouth will get a chance to play a lot – potentially every day if he displays the same ability he did in his two months with the Orioles.
How much depends some on the health of Nolan Reimold, whose season was cut short due to a neck injury that eventually required surgery. He reportedly is steadily improving and hopes to be ready by spring.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the team is better if he has both McLouth and Reimold at his disposal.
Frankly, they could play in the same lineup plenty, with McLouth playing a lot of left field – since he is the superior defender – and Reimold getting some time at DH. But Reimold and McLouth could spell Adam Jones and Nick Markakis on occasion in the other outfield spots. And McLouth could sit against tough lefties as well, giving way to the right-handed hitting Reimold.
The other potential impact of the McLouth signing is how it affects the Orioles’ plans this winter and specifically the rest of the winter meetings, which end Thursday.
Left field now looks to be filled. The club had made an offer to left-handed hitting Nate Schierholtz, but he turned it down Wednesday.
Because they have similar skills set, it’s not a stretch to think that the Orioles’ interest in Schierholtz is minimal now. The same is probably true for trading for a left fielder such as Arizona’s Jason Kubel, though he could be an effective DH as well.
The Orioles remain interested in a power bat that can play first base or DH. To that end, Nick Swisher continues to make sense. But the question is how much would he cost?
The switch-hitter’s ability to get on base and overall consistency would be welcomed in the middle of the Orioles’ lineup, but he’s going to be expensive, especially given the recent hefty contracts signed by outfielders such as Angel Pagan and Shane Victorino.
Even though first base is a target area, the Orioles don’t seem to be interested in trading for Minnesota’s Justin Morneau and haven’t had any discussions with free agent Kevin Youkilis.
Adam LaRoche still remains on their radar, but he could end up back with the Washington Nationals, which could make Michael Morse available. The Orioles are interested in Morse as well, but it remains to be seen whether they can find a trade fit with the Nationals.
All trade talks with the Orioles center around the club’s young pitching.