Over the weekend, the Baltimore Orioles made a couple of interesting trades. One makes a little more sense than the other. The first one happened while the Orioles were playing but did not include any major league players. The second one happened about 15 minutes after the game ended.
In the first trade, the Orioles acquired Alejandro De Aza from the White Sox for two minor league pitchers. The second trade involved Kelly Johnson. Johnson, who has played for every AL East team, was acquired with Michael Almanzar when the Orioles traded Jemile Weeks and Ivan De Jesus Jr to Boston.
Johnson will be useful as a backup infielder who has a power bat. The Orioles will now need that more than ever with Manny Machado being done for the season. He can also play three infield positions which can be useful come playoff time.
More importantly, however, he can play second base. All year the Orioles’ second basemen have struggled offensively, with flashes of power, but have showed they can play really well defensively. Johnson can do both which will possibly give the Orioles a player who can be the everyday second baseman who is not overmatched with major league pitching.
The Johnson acquisition makes more sense than the De Aza acquisition. The Orioles have fewer players who are capable of playing more than one infield position. They have plenty of players who can play the outfield but are not that good at defense.
De Aza is a left handed hitter who can play all outfield positions, something all teams fighting for a playoff spot could use. This season the Orioles have struggled to find a left handed bat off the bench that could produce when called upon. De Aza fits the role the Orioles are looking for, something David Lough failed to do at the beginning of the year.
This season De Aza is hitting .243, has an on-base percentage of .309 and has 15 stolen bases, something the Orioles are lacking. De Aza is a viable upgrade to Lough. Lough is hitting just .226, though he had a good game Sunday when he went 3-for-5 and scored two runs, but only has seven stolen bases. Lough’s on base percentage is also lower than De Aza’s at .294.
It is great to have a guy like De Aza come off the bench when you need a pinch hitter, if someone gets hurt or if you need a defensive replacement, but will he get any playing time? This season the Orioles have platooned the likes of Delmon Young, Steve Pearce, Nelson Cruz and David Lough as left fielders. Since Manny Machado’s injury, Pearce has primarily been playing first base while Chris Davis fills in at third.
If the Orioles wanted to, they could continue to use either Young or Cruz in left field and the other as the DH and then use Lough as a defensive replacement late in the game. Young and Cruz have been two of the best Orioles hitters this season. So where does that leave De Aza?
Lough, as mentioned, has not been one of the greatest of hitters this season but the Orioles seem to have the most depth for outfield positions than anything, not just in the minor leagues. Guys that have been on the major league roster all season are struggling to get playing time, the acquisition of De Aza seems like it will make things harder for them to get it.
Though, De Aza is able to give Nick Markakis and Adam Jones some breaks in the late part of games if the Orioles are winning comfortably or if they just need days off. Because Young and Pearce are not as good as defensively as Lough and De Aza are, the Orioles were not able to use them like the might use De Aza now.
Do not get me wrong, I like the move. Every team needs help defensively off the bench and that is what De Aza can do. It is just a plus he can help offensively too.
I’m just curious to see how the Orioles will use him. Last season he hit .264 with the White Sox. All three of the Orioles outfielders have played more games than any other Oriole. Should De Aza play for Cruz or Jones or Markakis to have them rested for October? The answer is most likely yes but when should the Orioles rest them, now or at the end of the month?