25 March 2014

Picking Up Steve Lombardozzi Is a Smart Move for the O's

Yesterday, the Orioles acquired Steve Lombardozzi from the Tigers in exchange for Alex Gonzalez. The trade makes sense on multiple levels:

Lombardozzi's an Oriole (photo: Keith Allison)
Age. Age isn't everything, but it's something.  Lombardozzi is 25 years old. Gonzalez is 37 and has not been very good for a few seasons now. In fact, he was pretty terrible last season (.177/.203/.230 in 118 plate appearances). With J.J. Hardy healthy and playing every day, the O's do not need a shortstop. That would not have been Gonzalez's potential role on the O's, obviously, but shortstop still seems to be his best position. He played some first and third base for the Brewers last year, and it's possible he could have been the O's starting third baseman for a few games to start the season. But the O's acquired a cheaper, better option in Lombardozzi for depth at both second and third base.

Help at second. Depending on what the Orioles do with Jonathan Schoop, Lombardozzi may end up as the team's starting second baseman on opening day. Since Manny Machado will start the season on the disabled list, presumably meaning Ryan Flaherty will get the nod at third base, the second base options (besides Flaherty) are now Lombardozzi, Schoop, Jemile Weeks, Alexi Casilla, and the recently claimed David Adams. Schoop certainly has the highest upside of that group, but he may be sent to Norfolk to play every day and show that he can perform well at the Triple-A level.

Options remaining. According to Jon, Lombardozzi has three options remaining. Flaherty has two, Weeks has one, Schoop has two, and Adams has one. So that at least provides the O's with some flexibility at their weakest infield position. Lombardozzi is also under team control through 2017.


As a player, Lombardozzi is similar to Flaherty. Offensively:

Flaherty: 438 PA, .221/.279/.378
Lombardozzi: 755 PA, .264/.297/.342

And defensively:

Flaherty, 2B (267.1 inn.): 8.0 UZR, +4 DRS; Flaherty, 3B (114 inn.): -0.3 UZR, -1 DRS
Lombardozzi, 2B (774 inn.): 0.4 UZR, +2 DRS; Lombardozzi 3B (142.2 inn.): 1.4 UZR, +1 DRS

Flaherty seems to be the better fielder at second base (note the sample size), while Lombardozzi may be somewhat better at third. Both have also filled in at times at shortstop and in the outfield, but they likely won't be doing so going forward with the Orioles. Both are better options than Weeks because they are above average defenders. Weeks is not; plus, he isn't all that great with the bat, either.

Losing Gonzalez is not a big deal, and his time on the O's roster would have been limited. So in exchange for him, the O's acquired a 25-year-old switch-hitter who can play multiple positions and who can be sent back and forth between the major league club and Triple-A Norfolk as needed. Lombardozzi may not be a very good player, but he could help the O's this season and beyond, and he's still young enough that he could improve. Besides, the price for him was simply an aging player the team had signed to a minor league contract a couple months ago. It's easy to understand the logic of bringing Lombardozzi aboard.

The worst part of the trade is that we all have to get used to spelling Lombardozzi. Good luck to all the fans who still think Matt Wieters's last name is "Weiters."

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