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Os should target another former Mariner outfielder

By: Bobby Lubaszewski

Franklin Gutiérrez would perfectly fit in with the Orioles as corner outfielder who excels at hitting left-handed pitchers.

Looking to add another outfielder this offseason, the Baltimore Orioles should be targeting former Seattle Mariners player Franklin Gutiérrez.

The Orioles have a history of turning Seattle outcasts into major contributors. Most notably, the Orioles traded left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard to the Mariners for All-Star cornerstones Adam Jones and Chris Tillman just before the 2008 season. Then last season, Baltimore traded backup catcher Steve Clevenger for slugger Mark Trumbo, who then led the majors with 47 home runs. And most recently, the O’s acquired outfielder Seth Smith from Seattle in exchange for veteran right-handed pitcher Yovani Gallardo and $2 million, equalizing the 2017 salaries of the two players.

Gutiérrez could be the next Mariners convert to join Birdland.

The 33-year-old right-handed hitting outfielder would fit right in with the Orioles current platoon of outfielders. Baltimore is in need of another corner outfielder who can hit lefties and provide solid defense. These just happen to be Gutiérrez’s specialties. Last season with the Mariners, the outfielder put up a .280/.373/.511 line against left-handed pitching with 12 home runs and 32 RBIs in 186 AB. Currently, Joey Rickard (.367 OBP vs. lefties last season) is the only other right-handed hitting corner outfielder on the Orioles roster, not including Mark Trumbo, whose primary role will be DH, or Dariel Alvarez, who saw just three at-bats last season.

While health problems have hampered Gutiérrez in recent seasons, he could help fill a position of need for the Orioles at a price point that makes sense. This would allow Buck Showalter to be very strategic with his daily lineups against both righties and lefties, with the only surefire everyday outfielder being Adam Jones. Gutiérrez and Rickard would do most of their work against southpaws, while Hyun Soo Kim and Smith would primarily start against right-handed pitching. Last season, Kim posted a .393 OBP against righties, and Smith came in at .355. Just think of the damage the Orioles could do in 2017 if some of those one- and two-run home runs from a year ago become two- and three-run dingers.

In 2016, Baltimore hit 253 home runs as a team. That was the most in all of Major League Baseball, 28 homers more than the number two team, St. Louis, and 5th best all time. The Orioles also became the 19th team in MLB history with six 20-plus home run guys. However, while the Orioles hit a lot of home runs in 2016, they still struggled to manufacture runs. Last season, Baltimore ranked seventh in the league with 744 runs. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox won the American League East Division scoring 878 runs, which ranked first in the league. The Toronto Blue Jays (fifth) also ranked ahead of the Orioles with 759 runs, while the New York Yankees ranked 12th (680) and the Tampa Bay Rays ranked 14th (672).

If the Orioles hope to keep up with Boston and Toronto and contend for the AL East crown in 2017, they will need to find a way to score more. And the easiest way to do that is to get runners on base in front of all that home run hitting power. Gutiérrez could help in that department, especially against left-handed pitching.

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Bobby Lubaszewski

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