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August 1, 2016

Transaction Analysis

In Charm City, Is Third Time a...

by Dustin Palmateer, Christopher Crawford and Scooter Hotz


IN THIS ISSUE

American League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Acquired 1B/OF-R Steve Pearce from Tampa Bay Rays for CA-S Jonah Heim [8/1].

Technically, this is Pearce’s fourth separate stint with the Orioles—that is, if you count the time they released him in April 2014 only to re-sign him two days later. Either way, for Pearce, Baltimore is home again. Though he feels like an all-or-nothing slugger, Pearce can masquerade as something more than that for stretches. Like, for instance, this season, where he’s hitting .309/.388/.520 with an 11.2 percent walk rate and a 17.2 percent strikeout percentage, in 232 plate appearances. Two years back, Pearce notched his finest season with the Orioles, an out-of-nowhere .346 TAv, 5.0 WARP tour de force.

All the better, the Orioles kept Pearce’s old room intact at Camden Yards, where he fits the roster almost too well. He can spot left-handed hitters at first base (Chris Davis), designated hitter (Pedro Alvarez), and left field (Hyun Soo Kim), as all three of those players have sizable platoon splits—particularly Alvarez, who owns a career .200/.266/.328 slash line against lefties (and Kim rarely plays against them). Pearce, meanwhile, boasts a .861 career OPS against left-handers, and he’s tattooed them for a .377/.476/.736 line this season, making him a significant upgrade over incumbent backup outfielder Nolan Reimold.

The Orioles made a nice acquisition the other day to bolster their pitching staff, adding Wade Miley to a depleted starting rotation. That was an obvious move, one the worst player in your fantasy league could have made. Here, Baltimore improved more subtly, deepening its bench and shoring up soft spots against left-handed pitching, which helps doubly in a divisional race that includes southpaw starters like David Price, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and J.A. Happ. The Orioles have a bottom five farm system, which probably disqualified them from serious runs at pitchers like Pomeranz or Rich Hill, relegating them instead to cheaper patchwork. It’s not as exciting as a summer blockbuster, but sometimes it works out just as well. —Dustin Palmateer

Fantasy Impact

Steve Pearce

After a slow start to the season followed by a stint on the DL, Steve Pearce has returned to his normally productive self. He's also managed to make himself versatile positionally, playing double-digit games at both first base and second base. Now an Oriole, Pearce won’t get as much playing time as he did in Tampa where he was playing nearly every day. In Baltimore, he’ll probably occupy the bad side of a platoon at DH with Pedro Alvarez on the good side. He’ll also pick up some plate appearances as a utility player, but that still won’t get him close to the starter’s share of plate appearances he was getting with the Rays. Barring an injury to an infielder or a collapse from Pedro Alvarez, Pearce is now a part-time player.

Pedro Alvarez

He’s been the Orioles’ DH against righties for most of the season, and that’s what he’ll continue to be following Steve Pearce’s arrival. If Baltimore had acquired a lefty power bat at the deadline, Alvarez might have ended up on the bench more often, but that didn’t happen. Unless he goes through a long slump, this transaction won’t have any impact on his playing time since Pearce is a lefty masher and Alvarez rarely plays against lefties already. —Scooter Hotz

TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Acquired CA-S Jonah Heim from Baltimore Orioles for OF-R Steve Pearce [8/1].

The Orioles took Heim in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, the same year they took Chance Sisco. At the time, there were some who preferred Heim. That's no longer the case, but Heim has developed into an interesting catching prospect. He has a solid approach at the plate, and his willingness to work counts and draw walks helps compensate for a below-average hit tool and below-average power. The latter has shown some improvement, however, as seen in his 22 extra-base hits in 88 games in the Carolina League this summer. Those 88 games represent a career-high played for Heim, who has seen his production crater in July. As he adds strength to his frame, he should be able to endure the dog days of summer with a bit more aplomb.

The reason Heim has a chance to be a big-league catcher, however, is the glove. The arm is plus, and he's already a very good framer, receiver, and game-caller. Maybe he's not Reese McGuire quality behind the plate, but he's not too far behind. The ceiling is a backup or starter you have a pinch-hitter for, but the floor is a competent backup who can hit from both sides of the plate and also help with your pitching staff. There are worse things. —Christopher Crawford

Dustin Palmateer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Dustin's other articles. You can contact Dustin by clicking here
Christopher Crawford is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christopher's other articles. You can contact Christopher by clicking here
Scooter Hotz is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Scooter's other articles. You can contact Scooter by clicking here

Related Content:  Baltimore Orioles,  Tampa Bay Rays

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