Forget for a moment the big names. Put the dreams of Canos and Garzas to bed for a little. Neglect the need for rotational help, for a possible fill-in at third if Machado is unable to go come March 31st.
Let’s talk a possible replacement for Nate McLouth; a replacement that replenishes the possibility lost speed as well as works to correct the Orioles’ inefficiencies against left-handed pitching.
Let’s talk Jason Bourgeois.
You may have heard his name mentioned before, most recently last season for a few games with the Rays. His last two games of the season — August 19th and 21st — were played in Baltimore. He went deep on the 21st off Wei-Yin Chen, as a matter of fact. But those are the only two games he has ever played against the Orioles.
Still, you wouldn’t be blamed for never taking notice of him. He’s bounced around the league from the Chicago White Sox to Milwaukee to Houston to Kansas City to Tampa Bay with numerous minor league layovers in between, not to mention the eight years it took between being drafted and making his major league debut. The most games he has played in a season was 93. His name will never be mentioned for his power, as only three home runs are scattered throughout his 515 plate appearances.
He’s a career .259 hitter that has never been given a real chance despite entering his 13th season in pro ball.
To see Jason Bourgeois’ capabilities, his 93-game season in 2011 provides a window. Bourgeois collected a .294 batting average with 31 steals while primarily batting lead-off for the Astros.
Even while he collected career highs in all major offensive categories, Houston failed to use Bourgeois correctly. In putting up that .294 average, Bourgeois hit a staggering .396 against left-handed pitching, leading the majors in that category among players with at least 100 plate appearances against lefties.
Over the course of his career, Bourgeois’ split against lefties sits at .308, more than 100 points higher than against right-handed pitching. Be mindful, the .308 has been collected without a stable playing situation for the outfielder.
In 2013, the Orioles were aware of their struggles against left-handed pitching. They added Michael Morse in August for just that reason, and ultimately depended heavily on Danny Valencia in situational at bats down the stretch in an attempt to right the offensive wrongs. Overall, among the winning teams in the American League in 2013, the Orioles had the third highest depreciation of OPS between right-handed pitching to left-handed, a difference of .017. The Red Sox held the highest with their league-leading .818 OPS against righties skewing the statistic, and the Yankees the second highest with their abundance of lefty-hitting fill-ins.
It is uncertain whether the Orioles want Nate McLouth back for 2014. While he was an important part of the winning offense in 2012 as well as 2013, his most recent season left a question of whether he will be effective in 2014 or beyond. Added to the doubts of performance is his potential for a salary exceeding his million dollar tag last year as he is sure to garner higher bids from other teams looking to fill a platoon role.
Price will not be an issue with Bourgeois. In fact, a major league contract is not even needed. Bourgeois earned $488,000 in 2012 with Kansas City, his highest big league salary. Last season, the Rays won his services with a minor league contract.
One downside to Bourgeois’ offensive play, besides his struggles against right-handed pitching, is that he is basically an Adam Jones without power. That is to say, he does not like to take a walk. Alongside his .308 career batting average against lefties is a .355 OBP. As a whole, his career OBP of .305 is only a shade higher than his .259 batting average. Through 515 plate appearances, Bourgeois has only walked 32 times.
And still, that .355 OBP against left-handed pitching is .046 higher than the Orioles’ team average last season. Among players with a substantial amount of plate appearances on the team, Bourgeois’ .355 OBP against left-handed pitching would have been third to only Danny Valencia’s .392 and Steve Pearce’s .375.
What is there really to lose in bringing in the 32-year-old Jason Bourgeois? The price will undoubtedly be right for his services. In essence, he is Nate McLouth v2.0, just from the other side of the plate.