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January 6, 2015

Rumor Roundup

Rasmus All About the Orioles?

by Daniel Rathman

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Colby Rasmus impressed with overture from Buck Showalter
Orioles skipper Buck Showalter visited with free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus over the weekend with a two-pronged mission: gauge Rasmus’ questionable makeup and persuade him to come to Baltimore. We don’t yet know whether the club is comfortable with the former. We do, however, have reason to believe that the former Blue Jay is sold on the latter.

FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweeted Monday morning that Rasmus “came away from the weekend meeting with a very favorable impression,” and given the paucity of interest in his services, that might mean Dan Duquette could reel him in at a bargain rate. Rasmus, 28, is just one year removed from 4.1-WARP production, so the Orioles stand a chance to upgrade on departed outfielder Nick Markakis by buying low, with some risk of diminished production from the position. They’ve taken character risks before, most recently with Delmon Young, relying on veteran leadership to assimilate newcomers into the clubhouse.

On the field, the 2014 version of Rasmus was a curiously flawed player. It’s not easy to crank 18 homers in 376 plate appearances, play well above average (+4.2 FRAA) defense, and still end up less than two wins above replacement, but, well, he did. Striking out 124 times in those same 376 trips will do that to you. And while Rasmus clobbered hard stuff last year, anything that moved was able to elude his bat.

But Rasmus has a higher upside than just about any remaining free agent, and that might make him more attractive than, say, Norichika Aoki, despite the ex-Royal’s relative consistency and lack of character concerns. Other bargain-hunting teams, like the Cubs and Twins, were reported to have passing interest in Rasmus around the Winter Meetings, but the Orioles have little company now. If Showalter’s takeaways from the weekend are as positive as Morosi says Rasmus’ are, then a one- or two-year hitch could work for both sides.

The only team known to be actively standing in the way are the Rays. Morosi heard from a source that Tampa Bay has “had discussions” with the outfielder, and he added that signing Rasmus could pave the way for Matt Silverman to move Ben Zobrist. The switch-hitter ceded some playing time at the keystone when Silverman brought in Asdrubal Cabrera and he’d lose some of his outfield at-bats to Rasmus. First-year skipper Kevin Cash would surely find a place for one of baseball’s most versatile regulars even with Rasmus in tow, but padding the outfield depth chart would make it easier for Silverman to export Zobrist if that’s the route he opts to take.

Marlins might have interest in Ichiro Suzuki
In other news involving Florida squads and left-handed-hitting outfielders, the Marlins are looking for a reserve and have their sights set on a big name.

Miami Herald beat writer Clark Spencer tweeted Monday that the Fish have at least been in contact with Ichiro, who might be a nice, cheap complement to a righty-heavy roster. Only three of manager Mike Redmond’s regulars—Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, and switch-hitting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia—bat from the left side versus right-handed pitching, and the only other lefty-swingers on the 40-man roster are Justin Bour and Derek Dietrich. The Marlins need a fourth outfielder, and age notwithstanding, Ichiro seems a fine man for the job.

That rumor comes on the 14th anniversary of the day the Mariners signed Ichiro to a three-year deal to begin his stateside career.

But Ichiro isn’t the only target in this chase: MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tossed Nate Schierholtz into the mix later in the day. The former National’s name hasn’t come up much this offseason, but that could change in the coming days, as teams begin to look for bench pieces that mesh well with lineups that are rounding into form.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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