The Baltimore Orioles and Executive VP/GM Dan Duquette have been the recipients of a lot of criticism from fans and the media, including myself, this offseason due to their inability to add the big bat in the middle of the order that Baltimore desperately needs. With the calendar turning over to 2013, and pitchers and catchers reporting in just over a month, it is safe to assume this move is not going to happen, but I am here to attempt to ease Orioles' fans angst a little bit.
When Baltimore decided to let Mark Reynolds walk this offseason, I went in a rant, I could not believe that they let a high on base percentage guy, with obvious home run power and a good glove at first base leave, when he was the cheapest option for first base, but I believe I have figured out their thinking behind that move. First, and most obvious, Chris Davis will be the first baseman and he is not a downgrade defensively and if he can duplicate his season last year, he bodes well offensively too. Davis has a career .995 fielding percentage in 261 career games at first base with just ten errors, as opposed to Reynolds who has a career .990 fielding percentage in 186 career games at first base with 16 errors. I know Reynolds seemed to make a highlight scoop every other night, but it is possible he was simply making those plays look harder than they actually were.
With Davis playing first, that leaves the DH spot open for a good 130-140 games, so what are the Orioles going to do? Perhaps, one of the more under the radar moves for this offseason will turn out to be the acquisition of Danny Valencia, and I will tell you why. First he has an outstanding track record against left handed pitching as he is a career .316 hitter with eight homers, 50 RBI and a .359 OBP vs lefties in 326 plate appearances. Second, with this move Duquette is essentially re-creating an improved Reynolds for the DH spot as Valencia will be the DH against left handed pitching and Wilson Betemit will be the DH against right handed pitching. Betemit has a career .281 batting average with 61 homers, 223 RBI and a .349 OBP against right handers in 1,757 plate appearances. I will admit, when I first heard the news of the Valencia acquisition, I thought oh here we go again, the Orioles front office is trying to catch lightning in a bottle again, but if you really pay attention to the numbers, this could be a great move. They may have created a hybrid DH that will hit close to .300, have an OBP of .350-.375 and hit 20-25 homers and still leaves the option to let Betemit play some games at first base and allow Davis to DH or have a rest day because Wilson is a switch hitter.
Baltimore fans may be surprised just how this turns out for the O's, but the one major flaw in this plan, if it is their plan, is if one of these guys gets hurt. We saw Betemit go on the DL last season, so we know it is not unthinkable that an injury can happen, but if both guys remain healthy, I believe the Orioles could get some good production out of the DH spot in 2013.
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