As was reported yesterday, the Orioles traded cash to the Boston Red Sox for first baseman Danny Valencia. I can almost hear Baltimore Orioles fans saying, “…so this is it? This is the big move we’re making?!” Relax folks, it’s early! However the question is whether or not Valencia is a guy that could be an everyday player for the Orioles. The fact is that with Mark Reynolds potentially not returning the Orioles will need to address first base right away. So…have they just addressed it? Is Valencia “the guy?”
Most fans will look at his .188 average and three homers as pretty slim pickings from 2012. However it’s worth mentioning that he was traded in August from Minnesota to Boston, and overall he only appeared in 44 games. So if anything, the 28-year old Valencia might be more of a “project” than anything else. That, or he could simply be depth. Once again I can already see Orioles fans shaking their heads…might I remind people that Duquette’s brought in a lot of “depth” to the organization since he’s arrived, and in general most of those moves seemed to work out. Granted he doesn’t have a shiny Executive of the Year trophy on his desk, and for the record he couldn’t even muster a vote in the contest. However he does have a playoff appearance under his belt, which should mean something to a franchise that hasn’t even come close to that kind of thing in 15 years.
My personal opinion is that Valencia is just that: depth. However I also believe that he’s part of a backup plan in Duquette’s mind. The same is true of Chris Davis, who was originally brought here to play first base, as well perhaps as Joe Mahoney (who’s in the Orioles’ minor league system). Somehow I believe that they’ll make a concentrated effort to obtain a first baseman either through a trade or perhaps through free agency. One name with which they’ve already been linked a few times is Gold Glove award winner Adam LaRoche (previously of the Washington Nationals). The Orioles like his glove at first and his power, although he has been snake-bitten in the past with injuries. LaRoche is far from a done deal or anything along those lines, just someone in whom the Birds have reportedly had interest.
If the O’s can get a bona fide big league first baseman (LaRoche, Reynolds, or anyone else), I would expect that person to be the starting first baseman right out of the gate. However if not, look for Valencia to potentially compete with the likes of Mahoney and perhaps even Davis for that job. The other issue is that Buck Showalter wanted to move away from having an everyday DH, and potentially rotate that job around. However Davis (and of course Jim Thome) found himself in that spot more often than not in 2012 due in large part to the fact that he struggled at first base early in the season. In effect, this would look similar to last year when Duquette brought 30 pitchers to camp to compete for five starting slots. Ultimately I think that Valencia helps the organization in terms of depth and insurance so to speak, however I’m not sure he was brought to Baltimore to be anointed as the starting first baseman – at least not now.