A day after acquiring a new shortstop, the Orioles decided that they'd like to have their old one back too. Surprisingly, the O's have signed Cesar Izturis to a one-year, $1.5 million contract, according to Orioles Insider's Jeff Zrebiec. The deal apparently also includes some playing time incentives.
Even though the deal will end up only costing $1-$2 million, the decision to bring back Izturis is puzzling at best. J.J. Hardy is obviously better than Izturis in just about every way, so what's the point of spending the money on a backup shortstop like Izturis when a cheaper option like Robert Andino could be used instead?
In just 16 games last year, Andino (0.5 fWAR, 0.4 brWAR) was more valuable than Izturis (-0.3 fWAR, -0.4 brWAR) was in 150 games. Meanwhile, Andino earned the league minimum in 2010 while Izturis made a little over $2.5 million.
Even if Hardy gets hurt and ends up missing time -- which has to be Andy MacPhail's main reason for re-signing Izturis -- Izturis isn't likely to produce much at all. He hit just .230/.277/.268 last season, so it's not like he's any kind of intimidating bat coming off the bench. Hardy is also a better fielder than Izturis at this point in his career, so he won't be a late-game defensive sub at shortstop, either. Izturis could take over for Mark Reynolds at third when the O's have a late lead, but then again, so can Andino, who is a fine defensive infielder himself. Even if any of those possible roles mattered a whole lot, would it make sense to spend $1.5 million for a backup who may not see much of the field?
In the end, if this is the worst decision the O's make this offseason, it's hard to get too upset about it, especially since the deal isn't for a ton of money. But still, it's unlikely that both Izturis and Andino will be on the roster if the O's decide to keep Brendan Harris around, which seems probable since he's still due about $1.75 million in 2011.
If Izturis ends up taking Andino's roster spot, it'll be a shame because not only is Andino younger and cheaper, but he's also probably a better player.