In the Orioles' first home series of the young 2023 season, the New York Yankees came to town and took two out of three from the birds. Adding salt to the wound was the big weekend for Yankees' slugger Franchy Cordero, who weeks ago was mashing in Spring Training for the Baltimore Orioles. While some envisioned Cordero's powerful, lefty swing helping the Orioles this season, Cordero instead slugged two home runs as a visiting player in Camden Yards, helping the Yankees win the series.
Now don't get it wrong. Franchy Cordero is not, and has never been, an All-Star caliber player. He strikes out a lot, does not play any defensive position particularly well, and had bounced between San Diego, Kansas City, and Boston before landing in Sarasota with the Orioles. Fansided's Robert Murray aptly described Cordero when news of the signing was reported:
""Cordero, 28, is an intriguing upside pickup for the Orioles. Cordero has struggled with injuries throughout his career and was outrighted during the 2021 postseason by the Boston Red Sox. When he has stayed healthy, he has flashed at the plate — most notably a walk-off grand slam against the Seattle Mariners in May — but has struggled to sustain that success throughout an entire season. "- Robert Murray, Fansided
As Murray reported, the Orioles signed Cordero to a split contract which would pay him $1.35M if he reached the majors and $450,000 if he played in the minors. It also contained an opt-out. Cordero reported to Spring Training in Sarasota with an outside chance of cracking the opening day bench, competing with the likes of Terrin Vavra, Ryan O'Hearn, and Lewin Diaz for seemingly one spot. Vavra won the spot, and was joined by Ryan McKenna, Anthony Bemboom, and Kyle Stowers on the Orioles' bench. Cordero, meanwhile, signed a one-year contract with the Yankees, where he has, and will, provide lefty power off the bench.
At the risk of playing Monday-Morning Quarterback, the Orioles should have kept Cordero to start the season. Yes, it was a small sample size, and yes, it was just Spring Training, but Cordero did everything he could to make the Orioles this spring. He had 19 hits in 46 at bats, two home runs, and an OPS of 1.100 with the Orioles before his release. In addition, it is no secret that Camden Yards is engineered toward left-handed power hitters, as evidenced just these past few games when blasts to left field off the bats of Ryan Mountcastle, Adley Rutschman and Austin Hays - blasts that would have been home runs anywhere else - were fly outs.
To be honest, my issue with the Orioles is not so much their decision to keep Vavra over Cordero, but the other roster decisions for the bench. While he has been a decent backup outfielder the last few seasons, Ryan McKenna proved his defense his not elite by dropping a game-ending pop up off the bat of Masataka Yoshida last weekend. Moreover, the Orioles chose to keep Stowers
(who I actually picked as a breakout candidate this year), only to option him to Norfolk after only one start. If the Orioles wanted Stowers to get everyday at bats in Norfolk, which Brandon Hyde claims is the case, then perhaps he should not have made the roster at all. And that spot could have gone to Cordero, who instead exercised his opt out clause and left the organization. Again, if they did not plan on keeping Stowers long (which I disagree with), they could have started him in Norfolk and kept Cordero in the organization. But they did not, and that is puzzling.
With Stowers back in Norfolk, the Orioles could really use a lefty power bat off the bench now. Someone like Franchy Cordero would have been perfect. Oh well. Oriole fans will just have to admire Cordero's swing from afar.