Baltimore Orioles Staring at Difficult, Possibly Unpopular Decision

Sep 7, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles center fielder Michael Bourn (1) stands on deck to bat against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 7, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles center fielder Michael Bourn (1) stands on deck to bat against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Baltimore Orioles are one of the best teams in baseball, and one of the players they think can really help the team hasn’t played a game for the team yet.

During the offseason, the Baltimore Orioles spent a lot of time working on trying to improve their outfield and their outfield defense.

They were counting on a healthy Joey Rickard. They traded for Seth Smith, they signed Craig Gentry, and they drafted Aneury Tavarez and Anthony Santander in the Rule 5 draft.

And they signed Michael Bourn on February 20. Forget about him? Well, it is time to remember.

Bourn is currently at Triple-A Norfolk, healthy and ready to play. He went 0-for-4 with a walk in Monday’s game for the Tides.

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Which leaves a glaring, giant question for the Orioles. How will they find room for him on their roster?

I don’t think the Orioles anticipated the outfield logjam they now have. There was no assumption Gentry would be able to be a major league contributor, which he certainly has been.

In fact, Gentry has played in 29 games for the Orioles, despite only having 33 at-bats. Buck clearly trusts him as a defender late in games. And, he leads the team in stolen bases with three.

There was a chance Rickard would be a fluke, he hasn’t been. He is hitting .275 in 40 plate appearances, with two stolen bases himself.

Trey Mancini has bust on to the scene and is on fire at the plate. Mancini is hitting .313 in 67 at-bats with seven home runs and 20 RBIs. He is second in both those categories to Manny Machado, despite 50 less at-bats.

Seth Smith has been the prototypical leadoff hitter the Baltimore Orioles have wanted and needed when facing right handed hitters. Smith is hitting .298 with a .394 on base percentage, easily the best on the team.

With so many players playing well, there is only so much platooning that can happen. Many are clamoring for Mancini to play everyday. Others want Rickard to do the same.

Who haven’t I mentioned? That would be Hyun Soo Kim. Kim has gained an ardent following among Orioles fans who believe he should be an everyday starter for the Orioles.

Kim is hitting .227 in 44 at-bats, with an on base percentage of .306. Not great when compared with the competition, but he has a good track record from 2016.

Does Bourn fit on this team? I personally don’t know. Last year, Bourn hit .283 with a .358 on base percentage and two stolen bases in 46 at-bats.

Bourn is left-handed, which means that he would likely play against right-hander pitching. In 2016, Bourn only had four at-bats vs. left-handers.

So, who does that put at risk? It puts Gentry at risk, because both are defense and speed first guys, although I think Gentry is better at both.

It puts Smith at risk, simply because he is also a guy who plays against right-handed pitching. However, Smith has shown himself to be a solid defender, and is what the Orioles need at the top of the order. I don’t think Bourn’s bat is top of the order material any more.

The player most at-risk with a potential Bourn return is Hyun Soo Kim. Kim cannot be sent to the minor leagues, so it comes down to what the Orioles want to do.

Will they cut ties with Kim and trade him? Does he even have a trade market?

Is Kim and his offensive ability but defensive liability more important than Bourn’s defense ability?

Kim supporters have felt that Buck Showalter’s usage of him has been frustrating at best. Meanwhile, one could argue that once Bourn was acquired last year, he became a regular starter in right field.

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A lot has changed since 2016, but one thing remains:

If Michael Bourn is going to play for the Orioles in 2017, someone is going to have to go. My guess is the decision, whether Kim or someone with options, like Rickard or Mancini, won’t be a very popular one in Baltimore.