Over the past couple of weeks we’ve heard a lot about the potential first base options held by the Baltimore Orioles from outside of the organization, namely Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse. One way or the other the Birds will have to find a new first baseman, as Mark Reynolds is now a member of the Cleveland Indians. My personal opinion is that this year’s first baseman isn’t on the roster or a part of the organization as it stands right now. However…what if I’m wrong? At this very moment, the Orioles appear prepared to go into this season with Chris Davis as their starting first baseman…
You’ll remember of course that Davis was traded to the Orioles from the Texas Rangers (along with Tommy Hunter) in July of 2011 in exchange for reliever Koji Uehara and cash. The Orioles thought at the time that Davis would be their first baseman of the future, and they indicated that by making him the starting first baseman going into last year. However Davis struggled in the field during spring training, and he struggled in the first part of the regular season. Davis played 38 games at first base with a fielding percentage of only .989, and he committed four errors.
The questions is whether or not those same numbers are what the Orioles could expect out of Davis if he ends up going into 2013 as the starting first baseman. In fairness, in 2008 he played 51 games at first base with a .997 fielding percentage, and 100 games in 2009 with the same statistics. In 2010 he had a fielding percentage of .993 over 41 games, and prior to being traded to the Orioles in 2011 he had a fielding percentage of 1.000 (over only 15 games). So aside from 2010 and 2012, the guy wasn’t the worst fielder in the world. But again, what could the Orioles potentially expect out of Davis?
I suppose the other question is if Davis isn’t the worst in the world, why are the Orioles looking elsewhere? Regardless of anything else, if you add Adam LaRoche to the mix that would make four gold glovers on the same team. However if the O’s can’t pull off some sort of deal either via free agency or a trade prior to the beginning of spring training, I would expect Davis to get a very long “look-see” in the Florida Grapefruit League. The other benefit for Davis would be that spring training is a bit earlier this year due to the WBC, and that makes for more off days as opposed to the normal one day off smack in the middle of league play. Davis would hopefully be able to use those days to further polish his skills at first.
The other thing worth mentioning is that the Orioles have Wilson Betemit on the roster. Obviously he’s not going to be in a position to be a full-time starter per se, however if Davis struggles early we could also see Betemit as a platoon player at first. The good news is that the O’s are set at the hot corner with Manny Machado. While Reynolds was brought in to play third, he was never as solid there as they would have liked. Ultimately as I said, I think that Dan Duquette will find a way to make a deal before the beginning of spring training to bring in a full-time first baseman. However in the interim, Davis appears to be the guy. And if all else fails, he could always pitch!