The Baltimore Orioles signed outfielder Craig Gentry to a minor league contract Feb. 7. The move may have added depth to the team's outfield, but it also complicated the chances of several other outfielders making the Orioles' Opening Day roster.
The Orioles are still searching for another left-handed hitting outfielder to pair with Adam Jones in center field and Trey Mancini in left. Mark Trumbo will occasionally play right field, but he's again likely to spend most of his time as the team's designated hitter.
If the Orioles add that left-handed hitting outfielder, there will probably be two spots open. Here's a rundown on the candidates:
Gentry is a 34-year-old right-handed hitter who can play all three outfield positions. Last season, he hit .257 in 77 games for the Orioles.
Not only is manager Buck Showalter a champion of Gentry's defense, he likes his versatility. Gentry has some speed, though he was only successful on five steals in nine attempts last year.
While Gentry doesn't help with the need for a left-handed hitter, he does provide the team with a late-inning defensive replacement and speed. He's also a credible backup for Jones in center.
Gentry's addition may make it hard for Rickard, a Rule 5 draft pick two seasons ago, to start a third season in Baltimore.
Like Gentry, Rickard can play all three outfield positions. But the 26-year-old right-handed hitter hasn't developed into the on-base threat the team would like.
Gentry doesn't strike out much and had a .333 OBP last year. Rickard walked just nine times and struck out 63 times while hitting .241 in 111 games.
Rickard has options and can be freely sent to the minors, while Gentry can't.
If it weren't for Santander, a Rule 5 draft pick in December 2016, the Orioles could probably find room for Gentry and Rickard.
But the 23-year-old Santander spent most of last season on the disabled list, and in order for the Orioles to be able to option him to the minor leagues, Santander must spend the first 44 days of the season on the major league roster.
Santander, who is a switch-hitter, didn't get to play much after he was added to the roster in mid-August last season. He hit .267 in 13 games, and his defense was a question mark.
He plays both left and right field, and according to Showalter, he'll have to prove he has major league potential in spring training to make the club. Otherwise, he'll have to be offered back to Cleveland, the team the Orioles drafted him from.
It was a memorable 2017 for Hays, who became the first player from the Orioles' 2016 draft class to make the majors.
Hays, a 22-year-old right-handed hitter, had an outstanding season for Class-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie and was rewarded with a September promotion to the Orioles.
He hit .217 in 20 games, but he may have to start the season at Triple-A Norfolk if Santander makes the team.
Brugman, a 26-year-old left-handed hitter, was acquired from Oakland in November for minor league pitcher Jake Bray.
Besides hitting left-handed, Brugman can play all three outfield positions. He hit .266 with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 48 games for the Athletics last season,
He also has two options remaining, which increases the Orioles' roster flexibility.
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