Sunday, April 4, 2010

Julio Lugo Adds Much-Needed Depth to Baltimore Orioles' Infield

The Orioles made what is probably the team’s final transaction before the regular season kicks off by acquiring veteran utility man Julio Lugo from the St. Louis Cardinals this morning.

The O's seemingly got him for nothing, as they will send the Cards either cash or the ever-so-specific “player to be named later.”

While there are some grumblings about bringing in an over-the-hump shortstop to take the utility role from a younger player, the deal makes perfect sense if you believe in Andy MacPhail’s statements.

MacPhail has been saying throughout the spring that this season’s goal is to win. While players are still developing, the term “rebuilding year” is no longer being applied by Baltimore’s management. Because of this, MacPhail is making sure that he gives Dave Trembley the tools to at least make it seem reasonable to achieve the goals of the organization.

Much attention was paid to the corners of the infield this offseason, but the middle isn’t exactly solid as a rock. Cezar Izturis only batter .256 last year while missing 48 games, and Brian Roberts’ potential for injury this year is well documented.

In addition, the struggles of Izturis this spring seem to be unnoticed by those focusing on the younger guys. At 1-47, Izturis’ .128 batting average is the worst amongst all Orioles who have registered a hit. Simply put, pitchers have been hitting as well as Izturis lately.

Throughout the spring, Trembley has talked about how Robert Andino is the man that would fill in and I agree to some extent, but under no circumstance should he be a long term option.

That is where Lugo comes in.

Lugo has not only proved his worth for successful teams, but he spent 2007-2009 in Boston, showing that he can handle the American League East. His .952 fielding percentage isn’t fantastic, but it is serviceable for a utility guy. More importantly, Lugo batted .280 last season, which is drastically better than whoever occupied the position for the Orioles in 2009.

For those who claim that he is too old to be an impact player, I ask you to remember the fact that he was considered good enough to be the Red Sox’s starting shortstop just last season before he got hurt. Then, after he returned, another World Series contender, the Cardinals, thought he had value to contribute as well. Other than being a year older, what make’s you think that he won’t put up similar numbers this year? Remember, age is but a number for some people.

Not only do I see this as a great move to add depth to the infield, I think it is very possible he could take some time away from Izturis and split the starting job. If Izturis is really as bad at the plate as his preseason numbers indicate, the permanent switch could be made in the first month of the season.

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