05 December 2012

Orioles Bring Back Nate McLouth On a One-Year Deal

It was pretty widely acknowledged by the team that they wanted to bring Nate McLouth back for the 2013 season, and today they've accomplished that goal; McLouth will get $2 M, with the potential for another $500 K in incentives.

We've discussed the Orioles signing McLouth quite a bit since the season ended; my opinion was that a $2-3 M contract could be an OK value (apparently the O's agreed), but that it wouldn't do much to actually improve the team for next year. And so it is.

It seems like the team is done looking for outfield help and will go with Nate McLouth and (if healthy, presumably) Nolan Reimold in left-field for 2013. A McLouth/Reimold combo is certainly capable of providing league average (or even a little above) production out there but I wouldn't necessarily consider that the most probable outcome, and so it leaves the O's (who got about 1 win from left in 2012) in a marginally better position than they were. Really, just losing Endy Chavez's -0.8 fWAR is a pretty sizable upgrade all by itself, but the opportunity was potentially there to make it a real jump.

I've had a hard time figuring out this off-season if the Orioles viewed themselves like a 93 win team (and so they were already mostly set to compete in the AL East again) or a 73 win team (and so far away that they're just look to add complementary pieces and wait for the younger guys in improve). The club could have stood to add wins in left-field, second-base, first-base, and third-base. So far it looks like they have Nate McLouth and Alexi Casilla penciled in for the first two spots (and potentially Manny Machado at third). Those are the types of guys who can certainly hold down jobs for second division teams, but unless their record in one-run games was close to 0% luck last season, they're not likely to do a huge amount to help propel the Orioles to the play-offs again.

I would have liked to have seen the O's go after Melky Cabrera on the kind of deal he ended up getting from the Blue Jays (2/$16 M), or looked at Nick Swisher if his contract demands are more in line with some rumors (more like 4 years than 7). If the Orioles started the off-season out as more of an 80-85 win team, then those types of players are ones who can add W's. Going for the cheaper value players can be a fine strategy - one I've recommended often in the past - but if they want to be competitive then that probably isn't going to be quite enough with the pieces they currently have. That doesn't mean that the Nate McLouth signing was bad - the question is just if it will be enough.

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