The Orioles added some much-needed outfield depth Dec. 18, acquiring David Lough from the Kansas City Royals for Danny Valencia.
Lough (pronounced "low") is coming off a solid rookie season for the Royals, during which he batted .286/.311/.413/.724 with five home runs and 33 RBIs and placed eighth in the American League Rookie of the Year vote. It marked the 27-year-old Lough's first major opportunity at the big league level after he spent parts of four seasons with the Royals' Triple-A affiliate, Omaha.
Lough's real value lies in his defense. In 2013, Lough ranked ninth among all qualified outfielders with a 14.5 Ultimate Zone Rating. Thanks in large part to his defensive prowess, Lough led all AL rookies in Wins Above Replacement as measured by both Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com. Lough primarily played right field in 2013, but has big league experience at all three outfield positions.
With the Orioles currently lacking a starting left fielder, Lough could get playing time at that position, joining a mix of candidates, which includes Nolan Reimold, Henry Urrutia and Francisco Peguero.
As the O's have added an option for left field, though, they have subtracted a candidate for the designated hitter role. Valencia had figured to be penciled in as at least a platoon designated hitter against left-handed pitchers after putting up prolific numbers against southpaws in 2013 (.371/.392/.639/1.031 line in 102 plate appearances).
Valencia, who was more or less a spring training afterthought in 2013, emerged as an important part of the lineup by the end of the season. With Valencia gone, the O's will look for another lefty-bashing right-handed bat, with candidates including Reimold and Steve Pearce.
This trade, while not earth-shattering, appears to be a win for the Orioles. As excellent as Valencia was with the bat last season, he is sort of a one-dimensional player -- he can crush lefties, but struggles against right-handers and can't play any position particularly well. His playing time would have been sporadic whenever the O's faced a right-handed pitcher.
In exchange, the Birds received a player who profiles similarly to recently departed left fielder Nate McLouth. Lough likely doesn't have the offensive upside or speed of McLouth, but is a better defender. He's also five years younger than McLouth and will remain under team control for the next six years at a cheaper price. Even if the lefty-swinging Lough doesn't have the bat to be an everyday player, he should be a valuable asset to the Birds' bench as a fourth outfielder.