By Dan Connolly
The Baltimore Sun
8:00 AM EST, November 22, 2012
Trayvon Robinson, the 25-year-old outfielder the Orioles received in Tuesday’s trade with the Seattle Mariners for infielder Robert Andino, is an intriguing player, though the reality is he may never become a big league regular. The Orioles view him as someone who can battle for the fourth spot in the outfield in 2013.
Robinson was called a “veritable toolshed” by Baseball America a few years ago as he was climbing up the ranks in the Los Angeles Dodgers system because of his speed-power-defense potential.
He reached as high as ninth on the Dodgers’ prospect list in 2010, according to Baseball America, but he’s never been able to put it all together. One of the big reasons is that, for a guy with his speed, he is way too much of a free swinger.
Robinson, who was traded by the Dodgers to Seattle in a three-way deal in 2011 that involved former Oriole Erik Bedard, has had 288 at-bats in parts of two big league seasons. He has struck out 104 times (with 22 walks) in those at-bats. And now he’s joining a team that’s not exactly known for patience and selectivity. One observer told me that he’s never seen someone looked as lost at the plate as Robinson did in September 2011, when he fanned 35 times in 74 at-bats.
His natural position is center field – which Adam Jones has locked down in Baltimore – and Robinson’s below-average arm could be a detriment in left at Camden Yards. Plus, Robinson is out of options, so if he doesn’t make the club out of spring training, he’ll have to be put on waivers and could be claimed by another team.
So why did the Orioles acquire a guy who probably will never be more than a reserve outfielder for Andino, a popular player and competent utility infielder who had his moments as an everyday player?
Well, Robinson is three years younger. He’ll be considerably cheaper than Andino, who could make close to $2 million in arbitration in 2013 (Robinson will make roughly $500,000), and the Orioles feel like they have plenty of other options at second base, especially after acquiring Alexi Casilla off waivers from the Minnesota Twins.
This is the kind of move that Orioles’ executive vice president Dan Duquette nailed in 2012: An under-the-radar acquisition of someone whose chances in another organization had dwindled.
And one trait that Duquette exhibited last year could come into play with this one: the ability to walk away from a move that doesn’t work. If Robinson doesn’t make the Orioles out of spring training, Duquette likely will cut his losses and move on. So, in that aspect, it really is a no-risk move considering Andino probably would not have been tendered a contract at the end of this month.
Trading Andino was a baseball move, pure and simple. The Orioles found a younger player that might fit the roster better than a guy that could have been cut loose on Nov. 30 (when arbitration eligible players must be tendered contracts).
But that doesn’t mean it was an easy one for the Orioles or their fans. Andino was easy to root for, a hard-working guy with a rough exterior that became a clubhouse favorite. Dino – as he was called – came from humble roots in Miami and always seemed to have a chip shoulder.
But you can make the argument that he appreciated the opportunity to play professional baseball more than anyone else in the Orioles’ clubhouse. There was a lot of pressure for him to succeed with his hometown Marlins, and he never met those expectations.
He became a lot more comfortable in Baltimore; he really clicked with Showalter and became a productive member of the club. And he provided fans with one of the best highlights of the last 15 years, with his season-ending RBI hit – the Curse of the Andino – in 2011 that helped kick the Red Sox out of a postseason berth.
Andino, his crooked hat, his tough-guy swagger-walk, and his hilarious video-board movie reviews will be missed.