BALTIMORE -- After going a month without a true center fielder in the fold, the Orioles plugged that hole in their roster on Wednesday by acquiring Keon Broxton from the Mets. Baltimore sent $500,000 of international bonus pool space to New York in exchange for Broxton, who was designated for assignment last week shortly after expressing frustration over lack of playing time.
“We’re trying some different things in center field and wanted to give him a look,” Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said. “Maybe get him more extended time than he’s had.”
Broxton hit 20 home runs for the Brewers as recently as 2017, but he has played sporadically in the Majors over the past two seasons, batting .165 with a .568 OPS across 85 games for Milwaukee and New York. Broxton compiled a .143 average with no home runs and two RBIs in 34 games this season with the Mets, mostly in a reserve role.
The 29-year-old Broxton is a career .216 hitter with .710 OPS over parts of five Major League seasons. He is known for his free-swinging approach and as one of the game’s most athletic defenders, the latter likely mattering more for an Orioles club that has had to piece together its outfield alignment for some time.
“He’s going to play quite a bit,” O's manager Brandon Hyde said. "We haven’t mapped it all out entirely, but he’s going to get a chance to play.”
Who that playing time comes at the expense of won’t reveal itself immediately, with Broxton not slated to join the Orioles until Thursday at the earliest. But when he does, the club could be forced to make a decision regarding Joey Rickard, who has been passed on the Orioles' depth chart by Stevie Wilkerson in recent weeks.
Rickard is hitting .198 with a .640 OPS while Wilkerson is slugging .494 with five home runs over his first 25 games. Hyde praised how Wilkerson has handled himself defensively in place of Cedric Mullins, whose demotion forced the club to thrust Wilkerson into everyday duty in center. Wilkerson had never played the position professionally before late April.
“Stevie is going to play," Hyde said. "I’ve been impressed. We’ve all been impressed. It’s not easy to go play a position you never played before in the big leagues, never mind a middle-of-the-field position. He’s done a great job.”
Now entering the mix is Broxton, who rated as one of the Majors’ top outfielders in 2017, his only full season, in a variety of metrics. Per Statcast’s Outs Above Average calculation, Broxton ranked as the 10th-most valuable outfield defender in the Majors, ahead of Jason Heyward, Juan Lagares and other Gold Glove Award winners. Broxton also stole 44 bases from 2016-17.
"He’s a really athletic guy,” said Hyde, who is familiar with Broxton from their time as opponents in the National League Central. “I’ve seen him play quite a bit and his tools are off the charts. I’ve seen him make numerous great plays against the team I was with.”
Broxton's addition sparked a flurry of roster moves for the Orioles on Wednesday. The club also designated right-hander Yefry Ramírez for assignment, claimed righty Chandler Shepherd off waivers from the Cubs and transferred Alex Cobb to the 60-day injured list. Cobb (lumbar strain) has been sidelined since April 27. Shepherd, who has never appeared in the Majors, was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.
Ramirez can remain in the organization if he clears waivers. A legitimate rotation candidate at times this spring, Ramirez lasted just 3 1/3 innings in his only start of the season on Sunday in Cleveland. The 25-year-old went 1-10 with a 6.07 ERA across 21 appearances (13 starts) with Baltimore over the past two seasons.
When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.