Tuesday, January 4, 2011

With Lee on board, O's infield makeover is complete

When the Orioles signed Derrek Lee to a one-year deal worth about $8-$10 million, they fortified the right side of the infield (along with Brian Roberts) and completed an obvious offseason goal of improving the entire infield. Along with signing Lee, the O's traded for Mark Reynolds to fill the hole at third base, acquired shortstop J.J. Hardy from the Twins (and infielder Brendan Harris), and re-signed Cesar Izturis to fill a utility role.

With all of those guys on board, the O's will likely have an Opening Day infield that looks like this:

C: Matt Wieters
1B: Derrek Lee
2B: Brian Roberts
SS: J.J. Hardy
3B: Mark Reynolds

Not too shabby. And when comparing that to last year's Opening Day infield arrangement, it looks even better:

C: Matt Wieters
1B: Garrett Atkins
2B: Brian Roberts
SS: Cesar Izturis
3B: Miguel Tejada

2011's infield is clearly better, but let's examine the offensive abilities of the two (excluding Wieters and Roberts, since their presence doesn't change):

Player2010 OBPCareer OBP2010 SLGCareer SLG

Player2010 OBPCareer OBP2010 SLGCareer SLG

There is only one place where a player in the first table outperforms someone in the second table: Tejada's career on-base percentage is five points higher than Reynolds's OBP. That's it. Lee, Hardy, and Reynolds are clearly better offensively across the board, and they're all, at the very least, minor defensive upgrades at their respective positions as well. Also, Lee, Hardy, and Reynolds have an average age of 30, while Atkins, Izturis, and Tejada had an average age of about 31-32, so the O's got a little younger while also strengthening three positions.

It would be hard to classify any of the moves as long-term solutions, and Reynolds may end up as the only one still in Baltimore after the 2011 season. Still, the moves make the O's better, and because the O's don't have a bunch of infield prospects knocking on the door to the big leagues, they're not blocking any almost-ready minor leaguers either. It's hard to ask for more than that.

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