Breaking Down Steve Pearce’s Return to the Orioles

It feels like destiny. Steve Pearce will make his glorious return to the Baltimore Orioles. Just before the 4:00 deadline, the Orioles managed to pry one of the biggest heroes on the 2014 ALCS squad away from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for a Single-A catcher, Jonah Heim.

This trade marks the fourth time the Orioles have acquired the utility player. He was first purchased from the New York Yankees in June 2012, waived, passed between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, claimed again by the Orioles at the end of the 2012 season, released in April 2014 very briefly before being re-signed only two day later, and now this.


Pearce became a bit of a cult hero for the Orioles in 2014, slugging 21 home runs in only 102 games. As Chris Davis struggled mightily that year, and Manny Machado and Matt Wieters recuperated from season-ending injuries, Pearce helped keep the offense afloat.

Pearce is a well-travelled (five teams in 10 MLB seasons), professional hitter who is capable of playing first base, second base, and both corner outfield positions. So far this year, he is enjoying a bounce-back year after being plagued by injuries for most of the 2015 season. With the Rays, Pearce slashed .309/.388/.520 in 60 games with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. He is more attractive to the Orioles for his ability to crush left-handed pitching. For his career, Pearce is a .273/.356/.504 hitter against southpaws. He has been especially dialed in against lefties this year, raking them to the tune of .377/.476/.736.

With the Orioles, Pearce should slot into a platoon with Hyun Soo Kim in left field, while also starting in right field when Mark Trumbo moves to DH. He will also replace Trumbo in most late-inning situations. The Orioles had been using Nolan Reimold in a platoon with Kim in recent weeks, but he has struggled against left-handed pitching all year.

Getting Pearce back could also provide the Orioles a boost in that he fits in very well with the current clubhouse and is loved by manager Buck Showalter. He is gritty and well-respected by the current team, and clubhouse chemistry is an intangible that is impossible to quantify down the stretch. The Orioles may have pushed Pearce last year by expecting him to be an everyday player, when in reality he is more suited to playing in matchups that are beneficial to him. While it took him some time to fully crack the major leagues, Pearce may have found his niche hitting left-handed pitching with power. As the Orioles’ offense struggles to get untracked in the second half, the addition of Pearce, who is a patient hitter, could help jumpstart things once more.

In terms of what the Orioles gave up to get Pearce, Heim was a top-10 prospect in the organization, but that is not saying much for one of the bottom-five systems in the league. He was lauded for his defense, but had not hit very much in four minor league seasons. Heim had produced only a .216/.281/.320 line in over 200 games, and was also blocked by Chance Sisco, the team’s best position-player prospect. Losing Heim is a far lesser blow to the team’s farm system than trading Zack Davies to rent Gerardo Parra for a few months last year. Overall, bringing Pearce back to Baltimore was a no-brainer, especially considering the cost to make the move. While this is hardly an impact move on the level of the deals made by the Texas Rangers and the Cleveland Indians, this trade could have big playoff implications for the Orioles.

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