Tuesday, February 3, 2009

O's ink Wigginton to 2-year deal...

Andy MacPhail didn’t rest for a minute after completing yesterday’s Rich Hill trade, signing Ty Wigginton to a 2-year deal this morning.

Wigginton has played 7 seasons with the Mets, Pirates, Rays and Astros. He’s a versatile player, having logged most of his time as a 3B, but also has experience at 2B and 1B. He’s got some good pop in his bat, having hit more than 20 home runs in each of the last 3 seasons. He also hits LHP very well. Overall, he’s nothing to write home about (he strikes out too much and doesn’t walk enough) but he’s not a bad option to have for the next 2 years. He’ll be 31 this season.

Unless the O’s pick up Melvin Mora’s option for 2010, the O’s are without a 3B after this season, so this buys 3B prospect Brandon Snyder the entire 2010 season to get ready for the job.

Also, the Wigginton signing could be an indicator that more moves are yet to come, and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of Brian Roberts, Luke Scott, Aubrey Huff or Ryan Freel were on their way out of Baltimore.

The trade rumors surrounding Brian Roberts date back to last offseason. And with Roberts asking for a 4-year extension of at least 10 million per year, it's unlikely that the two sides will come to an agreement before opening day. Second base is Wigginton's second-most-played position, so one doesn't have to be a genius to figure that signing Wigginton could mean that the "Brian Roberts Trade Saga" is nearing completion.

Luke Scott was penciled in as the full-time DH once Felix Pie was acquired, and Scott has said he’s not comfortable in a full-time DH role. Scott is a good guy and a team player and there is little doubt that he’d accept any role he’s given, but you’d like to keep him as happy as possible. But, after signing Wigginton, it gives the O’s the ability to use a Huff/Wigginton platoon at 1B, meaning whoever is not playing 1B can DH. More bad news for Scott -- Wigginton can also play 3B, 2B and the OF -- since Scott is pretty much stuck in LF.

It’s less likely that Huff will be the one sent packing, since there was zippy interest in him at the deadline last year, and that has trickled over to this offseason as well. And Huff, like Wigginton is pretty versatile, having played 3B well enough throughout his career, so if there was a guy to be sent packing between Huff and Scott, my money is on the less-versatile Scott.

Ryan Freel was acquired in the Ramon Hernandez to the Reds trade, and like the other guys mentioned, can play pretty much anywhere except at catcher and SS, so it’s safe to presume that he’s not going anywhere. But, Wigginton makes Freel somewhat expendable, since they can play the same positions, and since Chris Gomez is the only other player on the roster who can play SS, it’s likely that Gomez stays on the roster and Freel is added to the “potential outgoing players” list.

Gomez, despite being 38, appears to be the O’s defensive replacement at SS when Caesar Izturis is removed late in the game for a pinch-hitter. And you can bet your money that the O’s are not going to play the 8th and 9th inning of a close game with a defensive liability at SS. So it’s safe to presume that Gomez is staying until the O’s acquire a younger and better SS alternative.

But the kicker is this. If the O’s go with a 12-man pitching staff, which is something they haven’t done since 2006, they could keep everyone and have a decent bench for once and some great flexibility.

Take a look at this versatility:

Roberts, 2B
Markakis, RF
Mora, 3B, SS, OF
Huff, 1B, 3B, DH
Wigginton, 1B, 3B, OF, DH
Scott, LF, DH
Wieters, C, DH
Jones, LF, CF
Pie LF, CF
Izturis, SS
Freel, IF/OF
Gomez, IF
Zaun, C

One thing is sure, the O’s have plenty of options in 2009. A lot of guys can play here or there, and over a long 162-game season, that makes a difference, as you can rest several players while not suffering through a huge drop-off in on-field talent.

The Orioles were winless on Sundays for most of the 2008 season because they rested their starters and had AAA-fodder playing in their place.

Thankfully, that won’t happen as much in 2009, and Wigginton is just more proof of that.

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