The Orioles should strongly consider trading this player in the offseason

After a breakout season, the Orioles should move on from this player

Sep 26, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Baltimore Orioles first baseman Ryan O'Hearn (32) run to
Sep 26, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Orioles first baseman Ryan O'Hearn (32) run to / Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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The Baltimore Orioles had a very exciting 2023. Mike Elias and company have successfully rebuilt the franchise from the ground up through incredible drafting and player development. He has also acquired veteran players who have played key roles in the team's recent success.

While he has yet to sign a free agent to a multi year contract, several of the players the O's have traded for had multiple years of control and they should look to turn one of those players into an even bigger profit.

In early January the Orioles traded cash to the Kansas City Royals for Ryan O'Hearn. O'Hearn was a big left handed bat for the Royals that never really lived up to his potential, and with Vinnie Pasquantino ready to take over the starting job in Kansas City and Salvador Perez playing more first base to prolong his great career, O'Hearn became expendable.

After being acquired by the Orioles, O'Hearn entered into a competition to be the backup first baseman to Ryan Mountcastle. O'Hearn performed well in spring training but was beaten out by Terrin Vavra for a spot on the opening day roster.

It only took two weeks for the Birds to call O'Hearn up from Triple-A the first time and he was in Baltimore to stay by early May. O'Hearn went on to have a career year in Birdland either tying or setting career highs in games (112), at-bats (346), runs (48), hits (100), doubles (22), home runs (14), RBI's (60) stolen bases (5) and batting average (.289).

He did all of this while striking out a career-low 22.3% of the time. These numbers are great for a backup player, and O'Hearn added extra value to himself by being able to play both corner outfield positions as well, but there are several reasons the Orioles should look to move on from him.

The Orioles should consider trading Ryan O'Hearn this offseason

The first reason is concern over O'Hearn's ability to replicate his 2023 performance. He didn't just set career highs in most offensive categories, he blew away his previous highs, making him a regression candidate. O'Hearn is only 30 years old and could have several good years in front of him, but the odds of him continuing at this level seem to be far less than the odds of him reverting back to something closer to the player he was for five years in Kansas City. I hope he proves me wrong, but I'd hate to see the Orioles with another Mark Trumbo, who was great for one season and mediocre for the rest.

The next consideration is finding playing time for the baby birds who are expected to be better than O'Hearn. AL Manager of the Year Brandon Hyde utilized O'Hearn primarily as a platoonmate with Mountcastle. Meanwhile, there is a logjam of players in the Orioles farm system who are learning to play first base to get them an opportunity with the big club.

First in line is Heston Kjerstad. Kjerstad broke through this season and showed some of the offensive potential that has made him one of the O's top prospects, but Hyde seemed hesitant to play him defensively in the outfield. With Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander locked in place and fellow prospect Colton Cowser in the mix, Kjerstad could be forced to first base.

Another high ranking prospect to consider is Coby Mayo. Mayo is expected to make his debut in Baltimore in 2024 and will add to that first base log jam. He has power similar to Kjerstad, but Mayo is a right handed hitter. A third baseman by trade, the Orioles have given Mayo plenty of playing time at first base as well.

With Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg both set to play third next season, it will be difficult to find playing time for Mayo without trading someone. Since Mayo is a righty, his arrival may signal the end of Mountcastle's time in Baltimore more than O'Hearn's, but that time isn't here yet.

Finally there's Samuel Basallo. After having a dominant season across three levels in 2023, Basallo shot up the prospect boards and could be a late season call-up candidate in 2024. He is primarily a catcher, but the Orioles look to be set there for quite a while with Adley Rutschman. Basallo will turn 20 years old next season and is only getting better. He will be too good to leave as a backup behind Rutschman and he has also gotten plenty of time at first base in the minors.

A left handed hitter that can flat-out rake, Basallo has the potential to be yet another number one overall prospect for the Birds. While he may not be ready at the moment, there is plenty of talent to play at first base and the Orioles should try to move O'Hearn now while he has his maximum value.

O'Hearn was a good player for the Birds this season and had a number of very memorable moments, but he was a backup first baseman. He won't be the centerpiece of a trade but he would be a very nice add-on should the Orioles decide to trade for an ace pitcher or top tier hitter. I hope he continues to succeed wherever he plays next season.

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