3 outfielders for Orioles to pursue at trade deadline as Cedric Mullins struggles

May 21, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN;  Chicago White Sox center fielder Tommy Pham (28) hits a single against the Toronto Blue Jays in the seventh inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
May 21, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Chicago White Sox center fielder Tommy Pham (28) hits a single against the Toronto Blue Jays in the seventh inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports / Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles are riding high, having just taken a series from the Philadelphia Phillies and sitting 1.5 games back from first place in the AL East at 47-24. The team's depth is also continuing to be tested, with another pitcher hitting the IL during the Phillies series.

There is no question the team should be looking for upgrades to the pitching staff, especially in the rotation with John Means and Tyler Wells down for the season. However, they might not be done there.

According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Orioles are looking for a center fielder as Cedric Mullins' struggles continue into June. He has only managed a .189/.240/.323 slash line with a 63 OPS+ through 65 games, leading to Colton Cowser getting a bigger workload in center field.

If the Orioles do decide to go after outfield help at the trade deadline, they should take a look at these options in particular.

Which outfielders should the Orioles target at the trade deadline?

Tommy Pham

When the White Sox signed Tommy Pham, it was pretty clear he was going to be a piece to target at the trade deadline. He's a corner outfielder, so he wouldn't be a solution in center, but if the Orioles decide to make Cowser the everyday center fielder, Pham can slot into a corner outfield spot.

Since joining the White Sox after the season started, Pham has played well. He has a .287/.346/.406 slash line with eight doubles and three homers in 36 games. With a prorated $3 million salary, Pham wouldn't break the bank, and as a rental it won't cost a ton of capital to acquire him.

The advanced metrics are largely in Pham's favor this season as well. His batting run value is in the 81st percentile and his expected batting average in the 90th percentile. He doesn't chase pitches, as evidenced by a 92nd percentile ranking for chase percentage, and an 81st percentile ranking in average exit velocity shows he hits the ball hard.

Pham makes perfect sense for the Orioles as a short-term stopgap option for the season. He's a solid presence at the plate and comes up with hits. He fills a corner outfield spot nicely and would likely patrol right field at Camden Yards, giving Cowser the bulk of the center field reps. If the Orioles don't want to break the bank on an upgrade at the plate, Pham is the one to target.

Luis Robert Jr.

Far and away the best option among all outfielders, not just in center field, is Luis Robert Jr., Pham's teammate in Chicago. With the White Sox listening to trade offers for Robert, the Orioles could make their outfield even better in one fell swoop.

The Orioles easily have the most to offer the White Sox in a trade package, and Nightengale reports the team could be willing to part with top catching prospect Samuel Basallo in the right trade, as he's blocked by Adley Rutschman, who isn't going anywhere. Could that trade be the right one for Robert Jr.?

One thing they have to take into consideration is his health. Robert Jr. has not been a durable player in his career, and he's only played 19 games this season as he's battled injuries again. He has also proven to be a game changer when he's on the field. It's not a coincidence he made his first All-Star team last year when he played in 145 games.

He's also made an impact in the 19 games he's played in 2024. He's got seven homers and a pair of doubles, driving in 10 runs with a .514 slugging percentage to his name. He ranks exceptionally well in expected slugging, average exit velocity, bat speed, barrel percentage, and hard-hit percentage.

Robert Jr. is also under contract for the long haul. He's making $12.5 million this season and $15 million in 2025, with whoever he plays for holding team options for 2026 and 2027 that would pay him $20 million annually. The contract he's under has been a great value deal for the White Sox, and if he keeps delivering, would be the same for the Orioles if they can pull a trade off.

The Orioles absolutely need to seriously pursue Robert Jr. at the trade deadline. He'd make an already deadly lineup even deadlier, and the O's have the chips the White Sox would want for a player of his caliber in both prospects and current major leaguers (Austin Hays, Heston Kjerstad, maybe Kyle Stowers?). Get it done, Mike.

Jo Adell

Another corner outfield option the Orioles could take a look at is Jo Adell. Pham would be an option for just this season, but Adell would be a longer-term investment, as he isn't scheduled to hit free agency until after 2027.

To this point, Adell's time in the majors has been nothing short of disappointing, and the Angels have used up all of his minor league options, so he'd have to be DFA'd to be removed from the roster. However, Adell has rediscovered his power stroke this season, hitting 12 home runs and five doubles, posting a .417 slugging percentage in 63 games.

While the advanced numbers back up the stats of Adell's lack of ability to get on base consistently, they also back up his increased power numbers. His bat speed is in the 99th percentile, his barrel percentage is in the 89th percentile, and his hard-hit percentage sits in the 78th percentile. He can also run well, having nine stolen bases and a 91st percentile ranking in sprint speed.

It's entirely possible the Orioles want nothing to do with Adell given his struggles and the number of years left of control for a player who has largely been dead weight in the majors. They could also see the power numbers and want to turn him into a better hitter, which would only make the Orioles better. This would be a risky move, but they could reap the rewards if it turns out right.