Orioles Sign Wilson Betemit

The Orioles have agreed to a two-year* contract with switch-hitter Wilson Betemit. The 30 year-old is expected to get some playing-time at third-base and DH. Betemit is a career .269/.336/.448 hitter, usually as a part-time player. That’s pretty good for someone who can play third-base competently (he can’t; -14 runs per 150 games there career according to UZR) but not that impressive for a DH. He’ll take a walk and has some pop (though he’s only at 16 home runs per 500 plate appearances career, and he does swing and miss quite a bit), which is nice, and he really mashes against righties (.350 career wOBA, compared to just .299 versus lefties).

* This post was originally written when it was reported as a one-year deal. The actual contract – two years plus an option – seems kind of crazy. Why is a 5th place team investing multiple years in a guy who’s averaged just about 0.5 fWAR per 100 games in his career? The money hasn’t been released yet, but if it’s for anything more than a couple million dollars a year then I don’t understand why the O’s needed to do this.

Update: looks like it’s for just $3 M total for the first two years, though the option is a vesting one and with the incentives it could go up to $6 over three years. That doesn’t seem so bad, but it’s still unclear why they had to give Betemit 2+ years.

It’ll be interesting to see how playing-time is doled out – and where – given that Betemit, Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds all have similar all-hit, no-glove profiles. Maybe there will just be a merry-go-round from first to third to DH so that fans can’t get to disgruntled with any one guy’s defense before they forget about it? Matt Antonelli and Ryan Flarety (the team’s Rule 5 pick) probably lose out, with the latter fairly unlikely to stick in Baltimore now.

The signing seems like OK value, but giving at bats to an older guy without too much upside doesn’t seem like what should be Plan A for the Orioles in 2012. Maybe if Betemit plays well, the O’s can get something for him at the trade deadline, I guess.