O’s infield is still out of order

Written by on November 23, 2011 in Orioles - No comments

The Baltimore Orioles seem to be set in the outfield, but their infield could use a little tweaking. OK, a lot of tweaking.

Unfortunately for them, there aren’t too many options available in free agency, so maybe a trade would be in order.

Shortstop JJ Hardy has made himself handy at bat and in the field. Photo by Todd Olszewski/Baltimore Orioles

Besides catcher, the one infield spot where Baltimore is set is at shortstop with J.J. Hardy. The Orioles traded minor league relievers Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey for Hardy and utilityman Brendan Harris last December, and then signed him at midseason to a three year deal paying him 21 million. Hardy earned that deal this season, as he hit .269 with a career high 30 home runs and 80 runs batted in. Not only can he hit, Hardy plays a solid shortstop which is a huge help to their young pitchers. So far it looks like the Orioles for once got the better end of a trade.

The outlook at second base is a bit foggy—it depends on what happens with Brian Roberts’ head. Roberts has missed most of the last two seasons with concussions, and even though he has two more seasons left on his contract, he might be done, since he will need to put his health first. If he does come back, second base is his. If he doesn’t, Robert Andino filled in this year nicely and is a pretty good bet for the starting spot.

Andino hit .263 for the O’s last season and scored 63 runs in the 139 games he played. If Roberts is done, I say let’s give Andino the gig at second base for 2012, as 2011 was the first time he played over 80 games. I think he earned it. Just ask Jonathan Papelbon, who was on the mound when Andino twice beat the Red Sox with clutch hits late in the season. Andino’s second decider came in the last game of the season, a ninth-inning, tie-game, dying-quail liner that sent the Sawx home to watch the playoffs on TV.

The next question is a big one. Depending on where they put Mark Reynolds, they will need either a third or first baseman. Reynolds had a productive year offensively, hitting .221 with 37 home runs and 86 RBI. He also scored 84 runs and for the first time in the last four seasons he did not strike out at least 200 times (he finished the season with 196 K’s).

But defensively, he was a mess. He made 26 errors at third base which gave him a fielding percentage of .897. While playing first, he made only five errors for a fielding percentage of .987. So—I say he ‘s better at first, which raises the next question:

Who’s on third? Josh Bell spent some time at third, but he only hit .164 in 65 at bats this year. They could use Chris Davis at first and put Reynolds at third, but I do believe I mentioned Reynolds made 26 errors at the hot corner, and Davis strikes out about the same as Reynolds. The market for available third basemen via free agency is very shallow, so perhaps a trade might be in order. The best player available in free agency is Aramis Ramirez, but he is 33 years old and would not be worth it. Kevin Kouzmanoff is available, but he’s the anti-Reynolds, as he has a great glove, but is a mediocre-at-best hitter.

Whichever route Dan Duquette takes, hopefully he will fill that void without having to spend too much so they can save that loot for the starting rotation. But that’s another story for another day.

by Andy Mindzak
birds@baltimoreguide.com

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