Orioles fans will remember Steve Pearce fondly, and so will I. In many ways, Pearce was the prototypical Oriole, understated, hardworking, and with little ego.
Pearce, who will be 33 during the season’s early weeks, cashed in on his hard work with a one-year, $4.75 million contract with the Tampa Bay Rays.
He would have preferred to stay with the Orioles, but the team showed little interest in him as a free agent. Pearce’s contract is more than three times than the $1.3 million Orioles paid another right-handed hitting outfielder, Nolan Reimold.
Pearce played with the Orioles for four seasons, and they were unusual. In 2012, he had two stints with the team and drop byes with the Yankees and Astros along the way.
In 2014, Pearce was designated for assignment in April, but a week later signed back with the club even though Toronto wanted him.
It turned out that 2014 basically made Pearce’s career. He hit 21 home runs, drove in 49 runs and hit .294.
Last year, with a $3.7 million salary, Pearce fell back to .218 with 15 homers and 40 RBIs.
Pearce’s ability to play the corner outfield positions and first base will make him valuable in Tampa Bay. He’ll like that he’s playing about an hour from his Lakeland, Fla. home.
He’ll miss the Orioles as he made clear in this series of tweets on Thursday night.
“So pumped for the opportunity to help bring a championship to my home state of FL as a member of the 2016 Tampa Bay Rays! While I am looking forward to the new challenge, I will forever remember my years in Baltimore with such great teammates, ownership, front office personal, members of the media, and especially, the tremendous fans! Thank you to all of you! My family enjoyed every moment!” he wrote.
Pearce’s return seemed probable when last season ended, but it didn’t happen. He’s found a landing spot, and here’s a big wish for a big season for one of the Orioles’ good guys.