After taking a big step backwards this year, 26-year-old Felix Pie was designated for assignment by the Orioles on Tuesday. The team has called up fellow outfielder Matt Angle to take his place.
Pie, a former Cubs prospect, seemed ready to start in center field for some team after a 2009 season in which he hit .266/.326/.437 with nine homers in 252 at-bats, but rather than trade him, the Orioles instead kept him around as a part-time left fielder in 2010. He wasn’t really an asset in that role, hitting .274/.305/.413 in 288 at-bats.
Pie’s hopes of an expanded role this year died with the Vladimir Guerrero signing, and he was unable to capitalize after injuries to Derrek Lee, Luke Scott and Guerrero opened the door for him to seize the left-field job. He was hitting just .220/.264/.280 in 164 at-bats. Since the beginning of June, he was hitting .184 with two RBI and six runs scored in 87 at-bats.
While Pie may yet be young enough to turn into a useful player, his hopes of making it as a regular appear dashed. His lack of plate discipline is a huge issue at the plate, and he doesn’t use his speed to the best of his ability. Advertised as a quality defensive center fielder when he arrived in the majors, his fielding numbers have gotten worse every year to the point at which he was actually abysmal in left field this season.
To replace their underachiever, the Orioles are calling up an overachiever with a similar profile. Like Pie, Angle is left-handed-hitting outfielder with limited power and good speed. He was hitting .272/.347/.345 with 27 steals in 30 attempts for Triple-A Norfolk this season. Angle is just seven months younger than Pie, and he’s probably a fifth outfielder at best. Still, the Orioles have nothing to lose by giving him a look.
Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.
Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.
As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.
Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement commits the players and the league to regular season games on foreign soil. Most of the focus of this has been on games in London, for which there has been a lot of activity and discussion.
Yesterday before the Astros-Tigers game in Houston, however, Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about playing games in Mexico. And not as just a one-off, but as a foot-in-the-water towards possible expansion:
Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the time had come to play regular-season games in Mexico City as Major League Baseball weighs international expansion.
“We think it’s time to move past exhibition games and play real live ‘they-count’ games in Mexico,” Manfred said. “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in better position to make a judgement as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team.”
A team in Mexico could make some geographic sense and some marketing sense, though it’s not clear if there is a city that would be appropriate for that right now. Mexico City is huge but it has plenty of its own sports teams and is far away from the parts of the country where baseball is popular (mostly the border states and areas along the Pacific coast). At 7,382 feet, its elevation would make games at Coors Field look like the Deadball Era.
Monterrey has been talked about — games have been played there and it’s certainly closer — but it’s somewhat unknown territory demographically speaking. It’s not as big as Mexico City, obviously. Income stratification is greater there and most of the rest of Mexico than it is in the United States too, making projections of how much discretionary income people may spend on an expensive entertainment product like Major League Baseball uncertain. Especially when they have other sports they’ve been following for decades.
Interesting, though. It’s something Manfred has talked about many times over the years, so unlike so many other things he says he’s “considering” or “hasn’t ruled out,” Major League Baseball in Mexico is something worth keeping our eyes on.