Free Agent Stock Watch: Nate McLouth

The last few seasons have been a rollercoaster for 30-year-old Nate McLouth, a former All-Star with the Pirates who finished the season as the regular left fielder for the Orioles. In between he was traded to the Braves, had his option declined, re-signed by the Pirates, released by Pittsburgh, and signed by Baltimore.

Uspw_6644238McLouth earned himself a three-year deal worth $15.75MM back in 2009 after hitting .276/.356/.497 with 26 homers, 23 steals, and a league-leading 46 doubles back in 2008. He was traded to Atlanta shortly thereafter, where he put together just a .229/.335/.364 batting line in over 1,000 plate appearances across three years. After a second tour of duty as a bench player with the Pirates failed, McLouth hooked on with the Orioles and had the best stretch of his career since breaking out in 2008.

Called up in early-August after hitting .244/.325/.461 in 209 plate appearances for the team's Triple-A affiliate, McLouth quickly assumed Baltimore's left field job full-time and even batted third for a few weeks. When Nick Markakis went down with a season-ending thumb injury, the 2008 All-Star assumed the leadoff spot. McLouth finished the season with a .268/.342/.435 batting line in 236 plate appearances for the Orioles, and he went 7-for-22 (.318) with a homer and two steals against the Yankees in the ALDS.

McLouth is now set to head back onto the open market, this time on much more favorable terms after the Braves declined his club option last winter. He's a .248/.335/.421 hitter in nearly 3,000 career plate appearances, and he's shown both speed and decent pop from the left side. As a left-handed hitter, most of his damage comes against righties (.257/.346/.447) and not lefties (.223/.303/.346). Although he's is a strong defender by reputation, the various advanced metrics actually rate him as below-average.

Two strong months and one great playoff series with the Orioles won't be enough to make teams forget McLouth's performance with Pirates earlier this year as well with the Braves. He fits best as a platoon corner outfielder who can fill in at center on occasion, and the good news is that he's on the "heavy" side of the platoon as a lefty. I think McLouth's best free agent comparable may be Casey Kotchman, another guy who bounced around and struggled for years before having the proverbial "one good year" with the Rays a season ago. He turned that year into a one-year, $3MM contract with the Indians last offseason.

Earlier today we learned that McLouth would like to return to the Orioles, but the club already boasts impressive outfield depth with Markakis, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, and even Chris Davis. There simply may not be a spot for him in Baltimore next season. McLouth played well enough down the stretch that he will likely be able to find a guaranteed contract (rather than a minor league deal) on the open market, but that contract may only be for one year and a few million bucks. He'll have to repeat this year's his success again in 2013 before richer opportunities come along.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


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21 Comments on "Free Agent Stock Watch: Nate McLouth"


Rabbitov
2 years 10 months ago

O’s next year for sure.

johnsilver
2 years 10 months ago

Ya know who he reminds me of? Cody Ross coming off of his impressive Post season performance for SF a couple years back, but really.. McLouth has less upside than Ross then and now.

i doubt he gets 6m that the Giants rewarded Ross with in 2011. He is going to have to show something for the 1st time in 3 seasons to get the 3m even that Ross earned in 2012 IMO.

Rabbitov
2 years 10 months ago

Maybe, but 2/3 of the game is 1/2 mental. McLouth looks more motivated than I’ve seen him in his career and that can do a lot for a player.

mstrchef
2 years 10 months ago

I think the O’s will bring him back. I can see him platooning with Reimold in LF and batting leadoff. He brings some on base ability and some speed, something that the O’s are severely lacking. He can play CF in a pinch, and he’s a more viable platoon LF/4th outfielder than Chavez.

You Know Who
2 years 10 months ago

On no he’ll only get a few million bucks next contract… I wish I could make a few million bucks next year

TimotheusATL
2 years 10 months ago

i might suggest you get slightly better at hitting 95mph fastballs and knee-buckling curveballs, then.

Howard VA
2 years 10 months ago

I hope the O’s bring him back, even as a 4th outfielder, or in a platoon situation. It would be nice to have a little depth in the outfield, because we all know that injuries happen (Reimold and Markakis, for example).

$22264602
2 years 10 months ago

I have a habit of going straight to the comments, and THEN reading the article… Only me?

Nancy Rolen
2 years 10 months ago

Did you know Nate was hitting 320 in S. Training w/the Pirates, did not play for. 12 games and then was played sparingly and put in to pinch hit on occasion so that is the reason for his poor stats w/Pirates. He thrived w/Orioles because he played every day & was able to stay injury free which was reason for performance in Atlanta….

Manny Being Manny
2 years 10 months ago

“There simply may not be a spot for him in Baltimore next season.”

Oh, there will be a spot or Orioles fans will riot. We want him back badly and would easily take him over Reimold over in left. We have too many power guys, we need someone who has speed, can get on base and plays good defense in left. Getting rid of one of the guys who was vital in the last 2 months in our run to make the playoffs wouldn’t make any sense.

Jeff Kisamore
2 years 10 months ago

A 4th outfielder for the veteran minimum

BradyAndersonsSideburns
2 years 10 months ago

Dear O’s,
You finally found a player that has speed and actually can make use of it. Please don’t mess this up.
Sincerely,
BradyAndersonsSideburns

basemonkey
2 years 10 months ago

Lead off bat and the centerfielder’s glove in LF. That alone warrants puts him ahead of Reimold. Reimold isn’t even a lock to be on the team considering his perpetual injury issues.

2 years 10 months ago

Writing as an Orioles season ticket holder and ardent fan of the team since the late 1960s, I strongly believe that the Orioles bring back McLouth in the Endy Chavez role as the 4th outfielder. He brings an intangible charisma to the game and probably to the clubhouse. Only an opportunity to start every day elsewhere, would make this not happen. This article cites good reason why such an opportunity is doubtful.

Jerry232323
2 years 10 months ago

if Kotchman’s year with the rays was his one good year, then what do you call his 2007 year where he had more HR’s RBI’s and a higher SLG% in less games?

goner
2 years 10 months ago

McLouth had a nice comeback with the O’s, but let’s not forget how incredibly awful he was with the Pirates in 2012 (-0.5 WAR in 62 PA). His triple-slash line was .140/.210/.175, for an OPS+ of ten.

TEN!

Max Pogacar
2 years 10 months ago

62 PA isn’t really a fair sample size but it is a good reminder. Nate was great under pressure, but I too wonder how he’ll perform over an entire season.

goner
2 years 10 months ago

agreed, 62 PA is a very small sample size, yet in that very small sample size McLouth was “worth” -0.5 WAR to the Pirates.

Furthermore, if McLouth’s bat hadn’t turned into a pumpkin, maybe the Pirates don’t trade RP Brad Lincoln for OF Travis Snider (who promptly gets hurt), and then Chad “Ipecac” Qualls is never acquired to essentially replace Lincoln in the bullpen.

Who knows, maybe McLouth is motivated by the experience of being released and working his way back to MLB, and will do well for whoever takes a chance on him next year. I wish him well, but wouldn’t expect a repeat of his performance with the O’s last year.

Max Pogacar
2 years 10 months ago

I loved watching Nate as an O. Yet another player who seemed to thrive under the watchful eyes of Buck. Honestly, I don’t get why people are so quick to assume that he’d be the fourth outfielder. I love Reimold and hope we get him back at 100%, but doesn’t Nolan have more to prove than Nate? I feel that Nate earned the starter role for now.
Davis played outfield out of necessity, yes? He put up fantastic numbers this year but he also represents the 2011 Orioles: power sometimes, tons of strikeouts all the time. I really wonder if DD doesn’t move to replace guys like Reynolds and Davis. (Who again, were great this year but have some SERIOUS flaws).

FOmeOLS
2 years 10 months ago

if the Oriole’s don’t bring back Nate, 1) who do they use instead? and 2) who would take a chance on him?
He had a terrific 55 games, but only 55 games.
Id love to see him come back to the Orioles. He won’t get 3 years/15Mill, but he might get 2/8.
Then you’ve got a fast leadoff guy with power who can steal a base(well, well, someone who can steal) and offer a gold glove in LF
Then find a place for Markakis, use Reynolds-maybe-at first, use Davis as a platoon outfielder, and find a second baseman.
All’s well!

J.M. Flowers
2 years 9 months ago

Reserve outfielder/ DH. Plus he’s got that hungry look in his eye. He’s an Oriole.