However, the Orioles aren't handcuffed to only addressing the loss of Cruz (and the potential loss of Markakis) by bringing in a corner outfielder. If the market for a corner outfielder doesn't make sense for the Orioles, they can sign a corner infielder and have Steve Pearce enter 2015 as part of the OF (Pearce is likely to get some OF playing time regardless, but more of his time will likely come at 1B/DH if the O's add to their OF). I've already written about why I think an outfield of Peace, Adam Jones, Alejandro De Aza, and David Lough would be serviceable.
So, here are three corner infielders the Orioles could pursue if the outfield market doesn't develop to their liking.
Photo by Keith Allison
Yeah, I'm serious. Reynolds spent last season in Milwaukee, where he posted an (career worst) 87 wRC+ and 1.6 fWAR in 433 plate appearances. Steamer projects Reynolds at a 103 wRC+ and 0.8 fWAR for 2015.
Dave Cameron at Fangraphs predicts Reynolds to sign a 1-year, $4 million deal, and actually predicts the Orioles as the team that will sign him. $4 million for Reynolds is the exact kind of low-risk, value deal the Orioles have targeted during the Duquette era.
Reynolds could split time between 1B and DH with Chris Davis (and likely a Delmon Young-type signing). While his defense at 3B is cringe-worthy, his experience at the hot corner gives Buck Showalter the roster flexibility he covets in case something were to happen to Manny Machado.
Reynolds is the exact opposite of the OBP-type player Orioles fans have been clamoring for. However, another reason he may be appealing to the club is that they may look to move Chris Davis if the opportunity presents itself, which would eliminate the Reynolds-Davis strikeout duo problem. I have no knowledge of Dan Duquette trying to move Davis, but rumors of them pursuing Adam Lind before he was traded makes me think they are considering it.
This might be a bit of a pipe dream, and would require some creativity, but hear me out. Headley is coming off a 2014 campaign in which he had a wRC+ of 103 and a 4.4 fWAR. His Steamer projections for 2015 are 112 wRC+ and a 3.9 fWAR.
The Orioles could bring in Headley with the intention of using him at 1B/3B/DH. He could play a lot of 1B, where he played played 54 innings for the Yankees last year. Headley could also be a more than adequate option to spell Manny Machado every so often, which might not be a bad idea given Machado's injury history. Speaking of the injuries, Headley would serve as tremendous insurance in case Machado were to have any more unfortunate luck with injuries.
Dave Cameron projects Headley at 4 years for $60 million. He will be 31 in May, so a potential gradual shift to full-time 1B over the course of a 4-year deal isn't a terrible idea. I've heard nothing about the Orioles pursuing Headley and would be shocked if they did, but he's a great option if the team and the player are willing to think a bit outside the box.
Okay, so Morse is technically more of a corner OF, but the Orioles would probably be better served pushing Pearce to the OF and using Morse as 1B/DH were they to bring him aboard.
Morse had a tremendous bounce back campaign in 2014, posting a 133 wRC+. Morse's fWAR was just 1.0, thanks to him being 18 runs below average defensively. In 2015, Morse is projected to have a wRC+ of 112 and a fWAR of 0.5. If the Orioles are to bring Morse aboard, it should probably be with the intention of playing him in the field far less then Nelson Cruz did in 2014. Morse has a career UZR/150 of -19.2 as an OF. I'd much prefer Morse to spend much of his time at DH, with some time at 1B, where he has a career UZR/150 of -2.0.
Cameron projects Morse to land a 2-year deal for $20 million.
Headley is definitely the least likely of the three to sign with the Orioles. Reynolds is the least desirable, but also the cheapest. Morse is probably the most realistic, and would be a perfectly adequate replacement for Cruz. However, all three of these players are affordable and all give the Orioles options as they seek to replace the loss of Nelson Cruz.
All stats from Fangraphs