02/03/09 11:39 AM EST
Wigginton, Orioles agree to deal
Slugger inked to two-year contract, adding depth to infield
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail declined comment about the move when reached Tuesday morning. Wigginton will undergo a physical examination later in the week before being introduced to the media. The veteran can play second base and both the infield and outfield corners, enhancing the flexibility on the bench.
The Orioles have a well defined infield with four clearly entrenched starters -- first baseman Aubrey Huff, second baseman Brian Roberts, third baseman Melvin Mora and shortstop Cesar Izturis -- but Wigginton should still find plenty of at-bats. His acquisition may damage the bids of reserves Chris Gomez and Ryan Freel to make the team.
Wigginton, a career .270 hitter with 110 home runs in seven seasons, is coming off a career year. The right-handed hitter split time between left field and third base with Houston, batting .285 with 23 home runs in just 386 at-bats. Barring injuries or trades, Wigginton might be hard pressed to find that many at-bats in Baltimore.
The Orioles seem set on feeding the lion's share of left field at-bats to Felix Pie, who was acquired earlier this winter from the Cubs. Luke Scott appears to be set as the designated hitter, perhaps limiting Wigginton's utility. But manager Dave Trembley has said that he likes Wigginton and will no doubt be able to find a use for him.
"We need some high-energy guys and we need some versatile guys," Trembley said earlier this winter of adjusting the team's hard-earned chemistry. "I've known Wigginton for a long time. He was in Triple-A when i was there, and he's got some pop and he's like Freel in that he's a blue-collar guy."
Wigginton had some American League experience as recently as 2007, when he was with Tampa Bay. Three of the team's top four power bats -- Huff, Nick Markakis and Scott -- bat from the left side, and Wigginton may be able to break up that block of the lineup. He can also be used to spell Mora and Pie and as a late-inning defensive substitute for Huff.
Freel, who was acquired from the Reds in the Ramon Hernandez deal, does many of the same things as Wigginton. Both players can be counted on as reserves at second base, third base and left field, and both are being expected to support Baltimore against southpaw pitchers. Now, it's a question of whether the Orioles have room to carry both.
Neither Freel nor Wigginton has that skill on his resume, making the last reserve choice even tougher. Baltimore inked Gomez, Jolbert Cabrera and Donnie Murphy to Minor League contracts to compete for a utility slot, but given the fact that both Freel and Wigginton have guaranteed contracts, there may be another move in the offing.
Baltimore has also added Japanese free agent Koji Uehara to the rotation and signed franchise cornerstone Markakis to a six-year contract extension. The Orioles signed Mark Hendrickson to a one-year deal earlier in the winter and are still interested in adding at least one experienced starting pitcher before Spring Training begins.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.