5 Backup Plans If the Baltimore Orioles Lose Mark Reynolds
Although Mark Reynolds has the ability to lead the league in home runs every season (except for last year), the fact that he strikes out between 150 and 200 times is a major problem.
Not to mention, the Baltimore Orioles are not interested in investing $11 million in another season with the uncertainty factor looming in the back of their minds.
This past Friday, the Birds’ front office announced they would not tender Reynolds’ contract for next season, meaning that he is now considered a free agent. He has the ability to look around the league and analyze his options. Of course, he can also return to the Orioles if they come to a mutual agreement.
He says he loves the city and wants to return, but needs to look around and check out his options.
The right-handed slugging first baseman smashed 23 home runs last season and drove in 69 RBI while batting .221. Those are some of his lowest career power numbers. However, he did cut down on his strikeouts: he finished with 159, compared to over 200 per season from 2008-10 and 196 in 2011, his first year with the Birds.
Reynolds originally broke into the majors as a third baseman, but struggled mightily at the beginning of last year defensively. The Black and Orange were in need of a first baseman, and he filled that role very well; he is versatile and still definitely a power threat.
The Orioles are searching for a more consistent slugger, one who hits home runs but does not swing and miss as much as the former Diamondback. They need a bat in the middle of the order that can drive in 100 runs and deliver 30+ home runs while hitting above .250.
If the Orioles do not re-sign Reynolds, here are five backup players who might be on their radar this winter.
1. Billy Butler
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This winter, there seem to be multiple options out there for first base, all with power plus strong gloves. The Orioles' first option to replace Reynolds is young up-and-coming Kansas City star Billy Butler.
According to a report on MLB Trade Rumors, “Although a report last week suggested that Billy Butler was close to untouchable, that hasn’t stopped teams from showing interest in the Royals slugger. According to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter), the Mariners and Orioles are showing 'strong interest' in Butler.”
Chances are slim that the Royals would trade away one of their most valued young commodities, but anything is possible. If the Birds offer the right deal, who knows what could happen.
Last season, the 26-year-old Floridian broke out with 29 home runs, 107 RBI and an impressive .313 batting clip through 161 games. Not only was he able to post career highs in each major category, he played in all but one contest.
In his short six-year career, he’s compiled 103 long balls, 480 RBI and an even .300 average. And he's still young. There's undoubtedly more to come from Butler; look for more big numbers from him in the future.
He's also very strong in the field as a first baseman. Last year, he committed only three errors in the entire year. In his career, he has only 23 miscues and a .992 fielding percentage.
The powerful right-handed bat is young and would be a perfect fit with the rest of the building blocks in the Orioles' lineup. He could be a face around Baltimore for many years to come.
The Birds’ front office has made it clear that they will go out and try to get whoever is necessary to build a winning team.
As previously mentioned, it's a long shot. But let’s see if Dan Duquette can work his magic.
2. Adam LaRoche
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The Gold Glove award-winning first baseman from the National League Eastern division champion Washington Nationals is one of the top commodities this offseason.
Adam LaRoche, who posted a career-high 33 home runs and tied his career best of 100 runs knocked in, is one of the best fielding first basemen around the league.
Although it looks like the Rangers might be the top ticket to entice the left-handed bat, “The Orioles are in ‘hard’ on LaRoche, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark hears from an executive from one interested team (Twitter link),” according to MLB Trade Rumors.
The nine-year veteran, who recently turned 33, is looking for a longer-term, possibly three-year, deal. However, like the Nationals, the Orioles do not seem willing to extend a three-year offer. He could possibly expect a one-year or two-year deal from the Birds.
The former Brave has 197 career home runs, 684 RBI and a .268 average. He's smashed 25+ home runs five times in his career, and delivered 32+ twice.
The swift-fielding left-hander sports a .995 fielding percentage and is one of the most respected first basemen in the league. He won the Silver Slugger last year and finished sixth in MVP voting in the National League.
Plus, he's a left-handed batter and we all know Eutaw Street is very home run-friendly for left-handers. I think he would be a great fit at Oriole Park, not only because of the short porch in right, but because he has the ability to go opposite field as well.
LaRoche is definitely one of the strongest first basemen available, but is he the right choice for the Orioles?
As I mentioned with Butler, Baltimore is looking for a younger first baseman to grow and stay with the team for a long time. Maybe LaRoche and the Orioles can work out a multi-year deal.
We'll have to wait and see what happens.
3. Nick Swisher
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Another possible addition to the Baltimore lineup would be one of those players that opposing fans always seem to dislike.
He is unpredictable and has that certain attitude. When he's on your team, you love him. But when he’s your opponent, you want nothing to do with him.
Unfortunately, it's unlikely that the Orioles will sign Swisher. “Morosi tweets that the Orioles aren’t likely to make a real push for Swisher with McLouth back in the fold. Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and SiriusXM identifies Swisher’s strongest suitors as the Phillies, Indians and Mariners (Twitter link),” according to MLB Trade Rumors.
However, nothing is impossible. The Orioles need a first baseman. If there's no one else that they're willing or able to connect with, Swisher is an option.
I think he would fit in nicely with the Birds. He's a switch hitter and , like LaRoche, could take advantage of the short porch in right . Plus, he sports the upper cut swing and would have no trouble launching balls out of Oriole Park.
Last season, he delivered 24 home runs and 93 RBI for the Bombers to go along with a cool .272 batting average. In his eight full seasons in the majors, he’s never hit less than 21 home runs. On three occasions, he's launched 29 or more. His career high is 35 back in 2006 with the A’s.
Most think of Swisher as an outfielder, and mainly a right fielder. However, over his nine seasons in the majors, the 32-year-old has played 307 games at first base, compared to 937 in the outfield.
In fact, first base has been his best and most consistent position, percentage-wise. He’s committed just 14 miscues and sports a .994 fielding percentage. Overall, he has a career .990 fielding percentage.
Swisher has a proven track record and could be a nice fit with the Orioles. He is only 32 years old and still has at least five strong years left at the major league level.
I think the Birds will consider him if they need options in the long haul.
4. Carlos Lee
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Since a short stint with the Rangers to round out the 2006 season (when he posted a career-high 37 home runs), his power numbers have declined steadily.
Maybe a change of scenery back to the American League is what he needs.
The 36-year-old spent a bit more than half of last season with the Miami Marlins after the Astros let him go due to their struggles. He finished the season with nine home runs, 77 RBI and a .264 batting average.
Over his career, the right-hander has launched 358 home runs, driven in 1,363 RBI and compiled a .285 average. He’s posted strong numbers, including 12 straight seasons with at least 24 home runs. Five times he has smashed 31 or more home runs in a single season.
There is no doubt that Lee has put together a very strong career. But after 14 years in the league, does he have what it takes for a few more seasons?
Like Swisher and LaRoche, the three-time All-Star will not be around the league for that much longer. He's not the guy that an organization can build a strong future around. But he can be an answer if the Birds are not able to find the right fit.
Currently, there's not that much talk about Lee and no word yet on whether the Marlins are looking to retain the slugger.
I think the Birds should keep their eye on Lee just in case they can't find anyone else suitable for the position. He can split time with designated hitter Chris Davis, which would let him rest half of the time.
He is definitely not the optimal answer, but he's a possibility.
5. Chris Davis
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Now, this last option is just if the Birds fail to find anyone else for whatever reason.
Davis has spent the majority of his time in the major leagues at first base. However, last season, he was mainly used as a designated hitter.
He led the Birds with 33 home runs last year and 85 RBI, finishing with a .270 batting clip. In his short five-year career, he’s launched 77 home runs, driven in 222 RBI and put together a .258 average.
The 26-year-old played in 139 games last season, which was also a career high. His previous high was 113 games back in 2009 with the Rangers.
The left-hander struggled for consistency most of the season and really turned things around in the second half. Davis sat with 14 home runs heading into the All-Star break and finished the year with 33.
Over the last month of the season, he played in 28 games and delivered 10 bombs. If not for that last month, he wouldn’t have finished the season with the same type of numbers.
There's ability there, but consistency is a problem. That's one of the reasons why I think the front office wants to find a proven, power hitter instead of going with Davis at first.
There's no doubt Davis can be used as the Birds' first baseman, but the front office wants him to be the designated hitter full-time. Of course, if the Orioles are not able to find someone for first, Davis will be a fine replacement.
Obviously, Baltimore is in search of a power-hitting first baseman and there are many options out there. There’s no telling what will happen since it is so early in the winter meetings, but it’s going to be very exciting.
For the first time in a very long time, the Orioles are very active this winter and it’s fun to bleed Black and Orange.
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