While the Orioles have celebrated the return of Brian Roberts and could have Nick Markakis back by the end of the next homestand, the status of left fielder Nolan Reimold remains a different story entirely.
Prior to the start of a three-game series with the New York Mets, manager Buck Showalter told reporters Reimold won’t be back before the All-Star Break and the news could be even worse depending on the advice of a second cervical specialist. The 28-year-old was scheduled to seek a second opinion on Monday.
Still experiencing tingling and weakness on his left side after two epidural injections, Reimold underwent an MRI last week and has not played since April 30 while dealing with a herniated disc in his neck. The Orioles haven’t mentioned surgery as a possibility — at least, publicly — but it has to be part of the discussion with the outfielder not responding to shots and an extended period of rest.
In 67 at-bats this season, Reimold was hitting .313 with five home runs and 10 runs batted in before landing on the disabled list.
If the long-term prognosis isn’t favorable for Reimold to return this season, it leaves a major hole in left field that the Orioles have tried to fill on an interim basis with the likes of Endy Chavez, Steve Tolleson, Ryan Flaherty, and — most recently — Steve Pearce. With apologies to those players, it would be very ambitious to expect that combination of players to provide sufficient production for a club entering Monday only 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Yankees.
Of the nine regular positions in the lineup, the left field slot has posted the second-worst OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) behind second base and second-worst batting average (.227) behind third base.
The discussion of potential trades has heated up in recent weeks, with starting pitching being the No. 1 priority. However, should the Orioles pursue another outfield bat if the price is right?
With so many teams still viewing themselves as potential buyers with the addition of a second wild card in each league, few hitters have been mentioned as potential trade bait. However, one name that’s consistently come up is veteran left fielder Alfonso Soriano of the woeful Chicago Cubs.
Now 36 years old and still owed a total of $36 million in 2013 and 2014, Soriano won’t even be considered by teams unless the Cubs are willing to pay a substantial portion of his remaining salary — something they seem more than willing to do to move him. He is hitting .266 with 12 homers and 41 runs batted in after hitting .244 with 26 homers and 88 runs batted in in 2011.
If the Cubs are willing to absorb $27-$30 million of the estimated $47 million owed to Soriano over the next 2 1/2 seasons, would you be willing to part with a Chris Tillman or a Xavier Avery — and perhaps another throw-in — to bring the veteran to Baltimore?
Soriano is a below-average outfielder but could settle into the designated hitter role in the final two years of his contract. For a club not in a position to deal its top prospects but capable of taking on more payroll, Soriano is a name the Orioles should at least consider if the Cubs are willing to fork over gobs of cash to help pay for one of the worst contracts in baseball history.
Ultimately, starting pitching will remain the Orioles’ top priority should they remain in the race by the end of July, but losing Reimold for the season would force executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette to take a long look at left field.
Again, it’s not a move I would automatically endorse — especially when looking at Soriano’s age and limitations in the field — but it’s the type of move the Orioles can make without parting with an elite prospect.