Orioles fans are far too busy worrying about Chris Davis to be concerned with Steve Pearce. If the Orioles lose Davis, which is likely, and retain Pearce, there won’t be many cheers in Baltimore.
But if they lose Davis and Pearce, that would be something to worry about.
Pearce and Gerardo Parra, whose re-signing I advocated for Thursday, are the least sexy of the Orioles six free agents.
Davis, Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O’Day and Matt Wieters move the needle a lot more, but Pearce seems a necessary part of the 2016 Orioles.
Pearce wants to come back, and even though his 2015 was much poorer than his 2014, he could be useful.
First, he plays multiple positions. In 2015, Pearce played left field, right field, first base, and for the first time in the majors, second base. He can also play third.
The Orioles have a need at first and left, and while Pearce is probably better when he doesn’t play every day, Pearce’s batting average and on-base percentage both headed sharply south in 2015. From .293 and .373, they fell to .218 and .289.
The right-handed Pearce hit much better against right-handed pitchers than left-handers (.231 vs. 196).
He still hit 15 home runs and drove in 40 runs, and while his batting average was still sour late in the season, he hit six home runs in the season’s last four weeks.
These stats don’t make a convincing case for a multi-year contract, but the most relevant point is that the Orioles don’t have a better option on hand.
Of course, they may sign or trade for someone better than Pearce, but he’s probably worth a two-year contract between $10 and $12 million. One industry source believes the Orioles won’t have much competition for Pearce, and if he’s offered a multiyear contract, he should take it.
Interestingly, on baseballreference.com’s scale of most similar players, Nolan Reimold ranks third, but Reimold’s case is for another day.
Pearce likes the Orioles; they did give him his first extended opportunity, and Buck Showalter likes him.
Despite the poor 2015 stats, expect Pearce back in Baltimore for 2016 and perhaps 2017, too.
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