11/30/10 12:00 AM EST
Orioles could be active at Winter Meetings
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
The O's were one of several teams which bid on free agent Victor Martinez -- who chose Detroit as his final destination -- forcing Baltimore's front office to explore other options in acquiring the power bat it so desperately needs. Following the General Managers Meetings in mid-November, president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail made it clear that there was "no shortage of activity" in discussing potential trades and free-agent signings, both of which figure to occur given the Orioles' attractive collection of young arms.
So far, the O's have yet to make a move, a quiet front that is the product of two truths. Under MacPhail, Baltimore's decision makers have remained incredibly close to the vest -- preventing leaks and limiting rumors. Secondly, the O's need to acquire a premier free agent, an area they have struggled in, and that will largely depend on how the market unfolds elsewhere.
Orioles fans are understandably restless, a product of 13 consecutive losing seasons, as well as winters filled with marquee players who frequently turn down playing in Baltimore. The addition of new manager Buck Showalter, coupled with an end-of-the-season surge, could help some. But ultimately, money talks, and the Orioles -- with less than $29 million committed to next season -- have enough to considerably upgrade a squad that finished 66-96. Just don't expect MacPhail to throw money around haphazardly in the Florida sunshine.
"What's important at the end of the day is that the moves are the ones that help the club," MacPhail said following the GM Meetings. "Whether they move fast or slow is less impactful than whether they are right."
So what are the right moves?
The Orioles need offense; there is no way around that. They have to fill three holes in the infield, with only second baseman Brian Roberts -- one of four players signed for 2011 -- assured a spot. They are looking at a crop of corner infielders that includes free agents Adrian Beltre, Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche, Carlos Pena and Derrek Lee, and the club will likely explore a trade to fill at least one of those infield positions.
If the O's do make a deal -- they reportedly asked the Rays about shortstop Jason Bartlett and the Twins about shortstop J.J. Hardy -- the cost would almost certainly involve giving up pitching. No young arm is untouchable in a group that includes David Hernandez, Jim Johnson, Chris Tillman, Brad Bergesen and Jake Arrieta, with prized lefty Brian Matusz the only pitcher that would require a substantially favorable deal in order to be moved.
Look for the Orioles to sign a veteran innings-eater for the rotation, as well as possibly inking a utility infielder at some point this winter, the latter being insurance for Roberts, who is coming off an injury-plagued year. MacPhail's mantra is "You can never have enough pitching," and adding another arm will help foster competition for the O's rotation next spring. With the potential loss of closer Koji Uehara to free agency, Baltimore will also look to add bullpen arms and has been rumored to have interest in Kevin Gregg and Jesse Crain, among others.
The O's declined to offer arbitration to Uehara, but remain in talks with his representatives, as well as those for Ty Wigginton and Cesar Izturis. The trio of free agents has the best chance to remain with the club out of the seven; although it's still a possibility that outfielder Corey Patterson could be re-signed. That probability would be greatly enhanced if the club was to include fellow outfielder Felix Pie in a trade.
One X-factor that might emerge this winter and work in the Orioles' favor is the non-tender situation. Teams have until midnight ET on Thursday to decide whether or not to tender contracts to players facing arbitration, providing a deeper free-agent pool and more opportunity for bargain-bin discounts. Of the six O's in that category, only right-handed reliever Matt Albers is a candidate to be non-tendered.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.