3.) What to do about the outfield?
Travis Snider and Alejandro De Aza were somehow supposed to replace the production of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. It was somewhat easier to replace Cruz than Markakis, if that’s possible to believe. Chris Davis regained his monster 2013 form, and Manny Machado found his power stroke. Between the pair, Cruz’s power production was more than covered, although it certainly would have been nice to have the boomstick in the heart of the order this year. Only time will tell if Seattle gets the same bang for their buck in years three and four with Cruz. What the Orioles really missed all year was the consistent, heady presence of Markakis. This was a team that struggled mightily to get on base at times. Snider and De Aza were massive flops, and both ended the season playing elsewhere after being designated for assignment. Only one player, Nolan Reimold, really stood out, but Showalter did not commit to the former prospect who has dealt with injuries, until it was much too late. The Orioles tried to catch lightning in a bottle by trading for Gerardo Parra, but after a few home runs early on, the former Milwaukee Brewer’s hot bat fizzled out.
The Orioles can go two ways with the outfield. They can be active on the free-agent market. There are plenty of names that could intrigue the Orioles. Top of the list should be Denard Span, who does not have a qualifying offer. Span missed most of this year with abdominal and hip injuries, but when healthy, is good for at least a .280 batting average with good on-base skills, some power, and speed. All of these things were needed in abundance in 2015 for the Orioles. Span would be a huge upgrade, and could play rightfield to take some of the load off his body. The Orioles could also attempt to re-sign Parra, but Span is an upgrade, and the price could be similar given Span’s injuries.
The other direction the Orioles could go in, is staying the course with internal options. Reimold is still under team control. He did more than enough in September to justify a spot on the 2016 roster, and it would be highly unlikely he is not with the team come Opening Day. Duquette tried to sell everyone on Snider as Nick Markakis-lite. He was not. Reimold actually is. The 32-year-old veteran is a professional hitter who will bring power and on-base abilities. He would be a sneaky candidate to bat leadoff, something the Orioles tried in 2012 before Reimold lost that season to injury. There are other internal options worth considering, namely Henry Urrutia and Dariel Alvarez. Both Cuban signings saw time with the Orioles towards the end of the year, and acquitted themselves well. If the Orioles do not sign a rightfielder this winter, it may be time to give Alvarez, who has a cannon for an arm, a shot to play everyday. Urrutia could be used in a platoon with Reimold in left.