DH remains position of concern for Orioles
As Spring Training nears, club still looking to improve area with few options
BALTIMORE -- When the Orioles' offseason began, one of the areas they needed to address was designated hitter.
But with a little more than a month until Spring Training begins, Baltimore is no closer to filling its DH void. The organization maintains interest in free agent Kendrys Morales, although giving up a Draft pick is -- and likely will always be -- an issue for a small-market team trying to build through the farm system. The O's, who have prioritized adding a pitcher at this point in the offseason, are kicking around a few other available names, but none have even close to the impact that Morales would add to the lineup.
Morales, who rejected a qualifying offer from Seattle earlier this winter, is defensively limited but would add a significant boost to Baltimore's offense. He posted a .277/.336/.449 line in 156 games for the Mariners last season, hitting 23 home runs, 34 doubles and driving in 80 runs.
It's no secret that the Orioles struggled in the DH spot last year, mustering up two hits through the first 11 games and ranking last in the American League for a good portion of the season. O's designated hitters (including times when a pinch-hitter stepped in for the DH spot) totaled a .234/.289/.415 line, a respectable middle-of-the-pack figure that's a little deceiving, since a lot of that success was from everyday players getting a breather and the now-departed Danny Valencia.
Valencia contributed eight homers and 21 RBIs, serving as the team's most frequent DH, with appearances in 42 games. Of the six players with more than 40 plate appearances at DH for the Orioles, only Valencia post a slugging percentage above .400. And O's DHs, who combined for 21 homers and 69 RBIs, made just 602 plate appearances -- the lowest in the league by 32, because of how much lower in the order they hit than opposing DHs.
If the Orioles don't acquire an outside DH, they will platoon Nolan Reimold and Henry Urrutia on most days, with manager Buck Showalter able to maneuver the DH spot to spell some of the regular players as well.
Urrutia is coming off a solid Arizona Fall League campaign while Reimold is rehabbing back from a neck procedure that marked his second consecutive season-ending surgery. On the heels of his first pro season, the left-handed-hitting Urrutia batted .377 in 18 games, with three homers, three doubles and 15 RBIs for Surprise.
Reimold, 30, has shown flashes of power and promise when healthy, and he would be a pleasant surprise for the O's if he can stay on the field. He hit .195 with five homers in 40 games for Baltimore last season before it was discovered that he needed another fusion surgery. Reimold is a career .252/.327./439 hitter in 286 Major League games.