Let’s get the simple part out of the way: No one can replace Cedric Mullins, be it for a couple games, a couple weeks or, if it comes to it, a couple months.

But at the risk of sounding even more like I’ve read and watched “Moneyball” many more times than would be considered normal, that’s not what the Orioles will be trying to do for whatever period of time he’s on the shelf with his right groin/abductor injury.

With top prospect Colton Cowser injured himself with what Mike Elias described last week as a short-term quadriceps injury, there’s not a like-for-like replacement for Mullins anywhere in the Orioles’ organization. As a left-handed hitting center fielder with on-base capabilities who can be trusted to hit near the top of the lineup, Cowser could have been it.

Absent him, the Orioles will probably use what’s already a deep and versatile roster to try and get as close as they can to recreating Mullins in the aggregate. Knowing what we do about how they view roster construction and management, that might not make for the splashiest roster moves Tuesday afternoon.

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It might, however, be enough to keep the Orioles on pace with the best teams in the American League until Mullins returns.

The roster move

Cowser’s quad injury that has him on the injured list at Triple-A Norfolk isn’t supposed to keep him out too long. With 303 Triple-A plate appearances and a .916 OPS at the level, he certainly has enough experience at the level to justify his promotion in the Orioles’ eyes. After all, Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson were up after fewer. But it’s unclear, as much as the Orioles like him, whether the Orioles would put him on that level or would require him to get closer to a full season at Triple-A, as they have for many other top prospects not on the 40-man roster. If this is a longer-term injury for Mullins, and the centerfield-by-committee approach doesn’t seem like it’s going well, perhaps he can be an option after he returns.

The only outfielder on the 40-man roster who isn’t in Baltimore is Kyle Stowers, who is also on the injured list with a shoulder issue at Norfolk. Even though Joey Ortiz was only just sent down last week, the rookie infielder would be eligible to return if Mullins goes on the injured list. Considering he’s the only healthy position player on the 40-man roster, he seems like a natural choice.

There is the small matter of the open roster spot created when the Orioles designated Luis Torrens for assignment a few weeks ago, though, and that brings a couple other names into play.

Jordan Westburg is primarily a shortstop but can play all over the infield and has five games of corner outfield experience this month at Norfolk. His presence would probably mean Adam Frazier spends more time in a corner outfield spot as Westburg rotates through the infield with Ramón Urías, Jorge Mateo, and Henderson. If the Orioles want a true outfielder, they can do worse than Daz Cameron, an offseason waiver claim who has an .840 OPS at Norfolk this year.

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Smart money goes on Ortiz considering he’s already on the 40-man roster, but Westburg and Cameron are sound options.

The lineup

It’s one thing to make a roster move, and another to make out a lineup. Mullins leaves two significant gaps: at the leadoff spot, and in center field. Austin Hays may end up being the solution for both. He’s been the Orioles’ leadoff man 11 times this season, the only player trusted with that role more than once besides Mullins. Adam Frazier hit leadoff on Thursday when Mullins wasn’t available in New York, and his recent hot streak and overall consistency may make him a candidate as well. Mullins in 2021 was the only example of Brandon Hyde batting his best hitter leadoff; he has said in the past he prefers that player to bat second, which is likely where Rutschman will stay. Hays, with a .364 on-base percentage entering Monday, had the next-best OBP on the team behind Rutschman, with Urías and Terrin Vavra not far behind. They could be options to hit leadoff as well.

Perhaps Hays will be the center field option when the Orioles face a righty, and Ryan McKenna will bump him back to left field when they face a left-handed starter. On those days against righties, Mullins’ absence will mean the Orioles will want to maintain their balance and ensure both of Frazier and Vavra are in the lineup as well, with Vavra likely in a corner outfield spot and Frazier at second base. Against lefties, they’ll still miss Mullins’ much-improved production, but can load up on righties with whomever is added to the roster, plus McKenna still in the lineup.

If they add Ortiz, Frazier may end up with more outfield time as Ortiz, Urías, Henderson, and Mateo will all require infield time. Same goes for Westburg, though Cameron’s potential addition as another right-handed bat would create a similar dynamic with Frazier and Vavra still potential corner outfield options against righties.

The defense

There are a lot of different ways to quantify outfield defense, and in many of them Mullins is among the best center fielders in the game. According to MLB’s Statcast data, he was worth 10 outs above average in center field in 2021, and nine last season.

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Hays last played center field for any meaningful amount of time in 2020, and he rated favorably on most metrics there then. Since Mullins took over, McKenna has been his primary deputy with less favorable fielding metrics. Cameron didn’t get to play much center field in his three seasons in the majors with Detroit, but wasn’t rated terribly highly there when he was at the spot either. Vavra came up playing plenty of center field, but probably wouldn’t get a look there over any of the outfield regulars if the spot is vacated.

There is one intriguing option on the roster with some successful center field time in the majors to his name: Mateo. The Orioles’ primary shortstop didn’t have a set position with San Diego before he came over on waivers, but played 67 innings there with decent defensive metrics in a very small sample.

It might not be the most natural transition, and at this precise moment in time he wouldn’t warrant time there more than someone like McKenna from an offensive perspective. But giving him a chance out there could keep his speed in the lineup, continue to give him at-bats, and create more infield opportunities for someone like Ortiz or Westburg if they’re added to the roster.

Mullins’ offense is going to be hard enough to replace; he’s basically hitting as well as he did in 2021 when he was an All-Star. But defensively, replicating what he does is going to be even harder. Mateo may be the Orioles’ best chance to get close to that, but given his lack of experience there and their faith in him on the infield dirt, the only way it would make sense would be if they were looking for a reason to give one of the rookies a chance.