The last of the Orioles’ free agents has finally found a home.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, veteran outfielder and first baseman Steve Pearce has agreed to a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. The deal is pending a physical.
Though a favorite of manager Buck Showalter, the 32-year-old Pearce was not expected to return as the Orioles hadn’t made any real effort to re-sign him after a disappointing followup to his career year in 2014. With the acquisition of Mark Trumbo early in the offseason and the re-signing of Nolan Reimold, Pearce became expendable with the Orioles having a number of right-handed bats to fill a similar role.
In 325 plate appearances in 2015, Pearce hit just .218 with 15 home runs, 40 runs batted in, and a .711 on-base plus slugging percentage. He received starts at first base, second base, left field, right field, and designated hitter in 2015.
The journeyman was a major reason why the Orioles were able to endure the losses of Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis on their way to finishing 96-66 and winning their first American League East title in 17 years two seasons ago. Playing a career-high 102 games, Pearce hit .293 with 21 homers, 49 RBIs, and a club-leading .930 OPS. Despite receiving only 383 plate appearances, he led the Orioles with 5.9 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.
The Lakeland, Fla. native would appear to be a perfect fit with Tampa Bay, especially when you consider his career numbers at Tropicana Field. Pearce has seven homers and a 1.039 OPS in 86 career plate appearances playing at the Rays’ home ballpark.
Beginning the offseason with six free agents, the Orioles ultimately kept three as catcher Matt Wieters accepted a $15.8 million qualifying offer, relief pitcher Darren O’Day signed a four-year, $31 million contract, and first baseman Chris Davis agreed to a seven-year, $161 million deal last weekend. Starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen (Miami) and outfielder Gerardo Parra (Colorado) joined Pearce as free-agent departures.