There’s no doubt the trade for Glenn Davis gives the Baltimore Orioles the power hitter they’ve been looking for, but it also raises a few questions.
The most logical is: “Where do they go from here?” The present makeup of the roster indicates an overload at some positions and dictates a decidedly unbalanced lineup.
Anybody planning to run down home runs during the last year of Memorial Stadium’s big-league existence should plan on spending a lot of time in the leftfield area. The Orioles’ lineup is filled with righthanded hitters, leading to speculation that there is more trade activity to come.
Is a deal in the works?
What will Manager Frank Robinson do with three first basemen?
Will Davis, Randy Milligan or possibly even David Segui be asked to play the outfield?
How does the acquisition of Davis affect Dwight Evans?
Who replaces Pete Harnisch in the starting rotation?
Are the Orioles taking too much of a gamble, trading two pitchers from a staff that is far from proven for a player who may be here only one year?
It is safe to say the Orioles did not trade for Davis to set up other deals. But, it is obvious they are now in a position to do so if they desire.
News of the Davis trade had hardly circulated before it was reported that the Detroit Tigers had a “trade in place” for Mickey Tettleton if free-agent catcher Mike Heath signs with another team as expected.
The Orioles reportedly would receive right-handed pitcher Jeff Robinson, a hard thrower who was Detroit’s No. 2 starter before an arm injury sidelined him last year. The hangup in this potential trade is that Tettleton, as part of his rights for accepting arbitration and passing up free agency, cannot be traded without his permission before June 15.
General Manager Roland Hemond confirmed that he has had talks with the Tigers, although he wouldn’t mention names. Club President Larry Lucchino, in discussing the various ramifications of the trade for Davis, admitted it could have a domino effect on Chris Hoiles, a catcher and potential designated hitter. “What do you do with him, unless you catch him?” asked Lucchino.
When asked about a possible trade with Detroit involving Tettleton, Lucchino would only say “no comment.”
Trading Tettleton would give the right-handed-hitting Hoiles a more clearly defined role, but would only further imbalance the Orioles’ lineup. The switch-hitting Tettleton and Sam Horn represent all of the Orioles’ lefthanded power in a lineup that suddenly doesn’t have many openings.
Robinson is unconcerned about the overload of righthanded hitters. “I’d rather have it that way than the other (left-handed) way,” he said. He was referring to the fact that, for whatever reason, right-handed hitters traditionally have been least affected by the platoon system.
As far as the three first basemen go, Robinson dismissed the congestion by saying it “will be up to me to find at-bats and playing time for them.” Segui is considered one of the organization’s top prospects, but he hasn’t had the benefit of a full year at Triple A because he was rushed to the big leagues when Milligan was hurt a year ago.
Robinson said the subject hasn’t been discussed, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure the Orioles will do some experimenting in leftfield next season if the current roster remains intact. There are people in the organization who feel Segui, despite his slowness afoot, could adapt the easiest because he has good hands and defensive instincts. Others say that Milligan could make the adjustment.
Davis is yet another possibility, even though it hasn’t been discussed and he undoubtedly would prefer to remain at first base. “A lot of people don’t know it, but I played a couple of years in the minor leagues in the outfield and played well,” he said. “I made an all-star team and I played in the outfield in my first 10 games in the big leagues,” he said.
“I’ve worked hard to make myself a first baseman (he led the National League in fielding in 1988), but I think I can still play the outfield,” Davis said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to help this club, whether it be first base, the outfield, or designated hitter.”
The players most directly affected by the trade could be Evans and Brady Anderson. With Finley gone, Anderson is the only true leadoff hitter left. A similar player to Finley, Anderson is bound to see more playing time if his shoulder remains sound. As is Evans, who has expressed the desire to play in the field as much as possible. It now appears that will be as often as his 39-year-old body, and his bat, permit.
“It was always my hope to play him out there as much as I could,” Robinson said. “That hasn’t changed. He can make us that much better defensively when he’s in the outfield.”
The trade should decrease the amount of time Evans is needed as a designated hitter and increase, at least potentially, his time in the outfield. The same also holds true for Joe Orsulak, who has had the steadiest bat on the club for three years and now figures more prominently than ever in the Orioles’ lineup.
Replacing Harnisch could be the most complex problem for the Orioles, even though they won’t lack for candidates.
Jeff Ballard and Bob Milacki, neither of whom was a factor last year after combining for 32 wins the year before, head the list. Robinson will be counting heavily on at least one of the two rebounding from the physical problems that took a toll last year. If both revert to form the Orioles should be able to recoup their pitching losses.
The emergence of Jose Mesa at the end of last year was such that the organization had already penciled him into a starting role for 1991. Dave Johnson, who has played a career without being assured of a job, may be in his best position ever, with Anthony Telford, John Mitchell, rookie Mike Linskey and last year’s No. 1 draft choice, Mike Mussina, and even minor-league lefthander Arthur Rhodes also figuring more prominently.
In addition, there is another name to be reconsidered. Ossie Peraza, right-hander obtained along with Mesa in the Mike Flanagan trade with Toronto 3 1/2 years ago, apparently has made a complete recovery from shoulder surgery in 1989. Peraza threw well at the end of last season and had a spectacular winter in Venezuela.
All of these pitching candidates, of course, fall into order behind Ben McDonald, who in one year has moved into the mythical No. 1 spot in the rotation.
Even though their pitching staff is far from established, the Orioles have felt all along it was a position they could deal from. They knew they would have to trade young pitchers eventually. To get a proven commodity, like Davis, they had to deal from the top of the deck.
Because of the trade, the Orioles are a better team today than they were Thursday. Whether they will be better next year than they were Thursday probably depends on whether they can sign Glenn Davis to a long-term contract.