One of the more well documented talking points from me specifically this offseason has been the Baltimore Orioles hunt for a backup first baseman. I've made cases for Anthony Santander and James McCann to be options behind Ryan Mountcastle, who is the clear cut starter.
Clearly not reading my articles (I'm no insider), Mike Elias and company were instead seemingly looking for an actual first baseman with more than a handful of games experience over there to fill the backup job, which is a smart endeavor. They've seemingly found that guy, acquiring first baseman Ryan O'Hearn from the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday in exchange for cash considerations. Pitcher Chris Vallimont was DFA'd to make room on the 40 man roster.
There's the backup first baseman that is needed. O'Hearn is a lefty bat, needed to compliment the right handed hitting Mountcastle. He's by far the best option out there, as Santander and McCann only have a handful of games at first in their pro careers, and Franchy Cordero isn't on the 40 man roster, having trouble playing defense quite notably in Boston last season.
On top of that, O'Hearn is positionally versatile, able to play the outfield whenever needed. I don't expect to see that a lot thanks to the plethora of outfielders available to Brandon Hyde, but flexibility is flexibility. He also has one year of minor league options remaining, so they can send him to Norfolk if there's a better upgrade to be found.
The Orioles are also upping their payroll ever so slightly, with this move. O'Hearn agreed to a $1.4 million contract for 2023 with the Royals prior to being DFA'd. That's not a lot of money, but he becomes the 11th player on the 40 man roster earning $1 million or more, which is an interesting wrinkle that shows that, yes, the Orioles are spending more money.
With the bat, O'Hearn hasn't offered a whole lot aside from a 12 homer season in 2018 and 14 in 2019 that shows a bit of power. He appeared in 67 games last season for the Royals, mustering a .239 average and .290 on base percentage, adding one home run and 16 RBI's while only drawing 8 walks.
Defensively, there's nothing that jumps off the page, although sometimes that's not a bad thing. He logged 66 innings at first base last season, going error-free with five assists and seven double plays. He spent 77 innings in right field, recording 14 putouts and committing no errors
Yeah, like most of the additions this offseason, Ryan O'Hearn is not going to turn the Orioles into division favorites or playoff locks overnight. He does, however, provide value to the 2023 Orioles. He's the left handed compliment to Mountcastle that can play steady defense that was needed, and he has played more than a small sample of games at first, having logged 185 games at the major league level at first.
He also offers a bit of power, as evidenced by a 68th percentile ranking in max exit velocity last season, along with 16 home runs in his first two seasons. This is a good add for the Orioles, and it doesn't prevent them from continuing to explore the first base market. Progress, it's the name of the game.