The Orioles have reportedly come to terms on a one year deal with 35 year old utility infielder Chris Gomez. The right-hander is set to make $850,000 for 2007, though there are bonuses based on appearances that could make it worth as much as $1.1 million.
Gomez has been an integral part of the Orioles' bench since signing in Baltimore as a free agent before the 2005 season. For a team that has struggled to get on base at a league-average clip or hit left-handed pitching, Gomez makes a perfect platoon partner. He has hit .313/.395/.398 against southpaws over the past three years. Gomez's defensive versatility has also proven invaluable, as the Orioles have played him at every infield position over the past two seasons. He can no longer handle shortstop on a consistent basis, but that hardly presents a problem in Baltimore with Miguel Tejada currently entrenched as the active leader for consecutive games played.
Although Gomez produced when healthy; there is always some concern about a player well into his thirties coming off a major injury. In this case, however, Gomez broke his left hand on May 10th when a Joel Zumaya fastball hit him on the hand. Not only was the injury of the indiscriminate variety, but broken bones generally heal cleanly and permanently. Orioles' officials are confident that Gomez will not be a health risk going forward, citing his durability prior to 2006.
With Chris Gomez in tow, the Orioles 2007 roster is nearly full. Even with David Newhan not returning next season, the additions of Freddie Bynum and Paul Bako leave only one more spot open for a bench player. Bynum's versatility will certainly allow the Orioles to get creative with that last spot, but it is becoming increasingly unlikely that Rule 5 draftee Adam Donachie will be able to stay on the roster all season. The Orioles could still send a player or cash to the Kansas City Royals to attain his full rights. Brandon Fahey faces a similar roster crunch, with Gomez's signing and Tejada's durability making his limited skill set redundant. The Orioles would like to add another right-handed hitter, but it is unclear how that would affect the rest of the 25-man roster at this point.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com