In what has proven to be a lackluster Winter Meetings, the Orioles finally got the ball rolling by trading for Chicago Cubs utility man Freddie Bynum. Bynum had been on the O's radar for a while, but it took until Wednesday to get a deal done. In return, the Orioles will surrender a player to be named later. It is unlikely that the player is on the current 40-man roster.
Bynum was a second round pick of the Oakland Athletics in 2000 and quickly became a top middle infield prospect. Although his career minor league batting line of .275/.347/.362 is solid at best, the 26 year old's sheer athleticism left scouts drooling. Bynum has blazing speed and has worked hard to become an efficient base-stealer. He has also demonstrated the versatility to play just about anywhere in the field, though he is no more than adequate at any position.
This past season, Bynum saw his first significant big league action with the Cubs. In 136 at bats off the bench, he hit .257/.308/.456 and posted his highest power numbers at any level. Much of that is due to his demonstrated ability to beat out triples, but Bynum is unlikely to post a ~.200 isolated power going forward. His batting average was in line with his minor league numbers, but he'll have to improve upon striking out once in every three at bats if he wants to sustain even that level of success. Bynum also suffered a shoulder injury this season, which caused him to miss two months of action, but he is expected to be fully healthy.
The addition of Bynum makes it unlikely that the Orioles are expecting both Chris Gomez and Brandon Fahey on the major league roster next year. If they fail to re-sign Gomez, Bynum will do little to replace his lefty-mashing skills. A left-handed batter himself, Bynum has a .359 OPS against southpaws in limited major league action. If the Orioles re-sign Gomez and option Fahey to Triple-A Norfolk, then they will lack a bench player capable of playing shortstop for any length of time. Of course, with the steadfast Miguel Tejada in tow, that is a luxury the Orioles can afford.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com