The signings of Nelson Cruz and Delmon Young grabbed the headlines for the offseason, and both are expected to make the team if you read what the beat writers are saying, but there’s one guy on the bubble for an OF/DH spot that has been underappreciated on the roster for the past two years now: Steve Pearce.
When you look at his career stats, Pearce’s numbers don’t really stand out. His career line is .238/.318./377/.694.
The guy has also bounced around from the Pirates to the Orioles, Yankees, Astros and then the Orioles again. However, Pearce has carved a nice little niche for himself in his second go around with the Orioles as he has been extremely valuable and potent vs. LHP.
If you look at his stats vs. LHP over the past two seasons he has a line of the following: .275/.365/.486/.851
The only two players that had a line better than that were Matt Wieters and Danny Valencia who was traded to Kansas City. Pearce was also first in BB% and second in P/PA vs. LHP, two categories the Orioles need to improve, not weaken.
Defensively, Pearce can play both corner OF spots and 1B, as he did last season. He doesn’t have a great reputation defensively in the OF, but he does own a career 5.2 UZR/150 rating at 1B. Last season he also had a 17.2 UZR/150 rating in limited time in the OF.
The 1B ability is important, because Pearce is the only true backup 1B man the Orioles have on their roster right now. Flaherty can play there but he’s going for a full-time 2B role and Almanzar, their Rule 5 pick is supposed to play there, but Pearce is a much better option.
As far as costs go, Pearce is relatively cheap at $850K and has one more year of arbitration left before he hits free agency after the 2015 season. Value wise he’s a bargain as he was worth 0.8 fWAR for only $700K last season. That’s a pretty good investment for a bench player.
With the news that Nelson Cruz will be playing LF vs. LHP, a RH DH spot is up for grabs, and Steve Pearce is the perfect candidate for it in his bench role. Hopefully he’s the guy they bring back to Baltimore because his versatility and plate approach will be key assets facing the strong LHP of the Orioles’ division rivals.
Instead of making him fight for a roster spot against players who don’t offer the same skillset, it’s time the Orioles truly appreciate what they have in Pearce. If they don’t, he’s going to be a casualty of Spring Training roster cuts that could haunt the team for the rest of the season.