December 2010

Happy Holidays

Just wanted to take the time to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday, and thank you for all your nice emails and Tweets this offseason.

I feel truly blessed to have great family, friends and a job I love and appreciate you letting me into your lives, whether it’s at home, at work, on your phones, or whatever. You’ve made it fun for me in my rookie season on the beat and I look forward to continuing –and stepping up Orioles coverage — even further in 2011.
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Not much in Orioles’ related news is expected in this next week, as most teams are relatively quiet in the time between Christmas and New Years. I wrote about Nick and Christina Markakis’ holiday endeavors on Orioles.com and you can read that story here. Some pretty great stuff they’ve got going on there through their RightSide Foundation.

Here are two pictures from Tuesday’s shopping spree event, courtesy of the RightSide Foundation…

PHOTO 1 - Family & Markakises.jpg 

BACK ROW: Shelly Farrar-Wynn, Ella Farrar-Wynn, Christina Markakis, Jacqueline Bassett & Nick Markakis
FRONT ROW: Harry Farrar-Wynn, Troy Holly & Anthony Farrar-Wynn (young boy in the wheel chair)

PHOTO 2 - Nick Markakis & Harry Farrar-Wynn.jpg 

Nick Markakis helps Harry Farrar-Wynn fit all his new stuff into the shopping cart.
 

A few tidbits..

*The Toronto Blue Jays announced today that they have signed former Orioles outfielder Corey Patterson to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training.

Patterson was well thought of by manager Buck Showalter but the feeling was unless Felix Pie was traded, Patterson was the odd man out in the outfield. The Blue Jays showed the most interest in the 31-year-old, so it was the best move for him. Best of luck to Corey, who was a quiet, classy guy. 

*After making a financial donation and distributing a glove and baseball to each child present at last week’s annual OriolesReach Holiday Party, on Tuesday Nick and Christina Markakis –through their RightSide Foundation — treated area resident Jacqueline Bassett and her five children to an all-expenses paid Target trip. The shopping spree -which was coordinated in conjunction with OriolesReach-  started with the Bassetts being picked up in a limousine at their home and whisked off to join the Markakis clan.

The Bassett family was selected with the help of Samuel F. B. Morse Elementary School in Baltimore City, where two of the children are honor roll students and actively involved in student council, safety patrol and the chess team.

“It’s wonderful; it’s a feeling I don’t think anything can replace,” Christina said of the unique ability the Foundation has given her and Nick to help give back.
 
“These children, this family has proven themselves and shown that you can still work hard and do the right thing, even if you don’t have the financial need to have the best of the clothes, the best of stuff.

This is exactly why we want to gift them with what we feel they absolutely deserve.”

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As we creep closer to Christmas I’ll have a bigger story up on the Markakis’ charitable efforts, which are very wide-ranging this holiday season.

Follow me on Twitter. 

Clearing up a few things…

My tweet earlier about a source close to the Adam LaRoche situation saying that the free agent was still mulling over his options generated a lot of anger/confusion. So, let’s clear a few things up..

This does NOT mean LaRoche won’t come to Baltimore or doesn’t want to be an Oriole. It’s really not his fault that there have been multiple reports speculating that the two sides are closing in on an agreement.

I haven’t heard of any absolutes he has been offered, although I know the two sides have been in negotiations for quite some time. So, it’s a leap to say that LaRoche not being the Orioles first baseman as of Monday afternoon is a slight to the organization.

It’s his right as a free agent to weigh his options, and I don’t see Carl Pavano and his agent taking any wrath. LaRoche and Derrek Lee are the best two guys available at first base, so why shouldn’t they evaluate their options? I’m sure many of you in that spot would do the same.

As I’ve said before, there’s a lot of stuff that gets thrown against the wall this time of year. Didn’t everyone think the Angels made Carl Crawford a substantial offer? Turns out they didn’t. The O’s didn’t have any interest in right-hander Kenshin Kawakami either, as the Braves called every Major League team saying they were willing to trade him. See how a phone call gets twisted around?

On Freddy Garcia, a lot of you have asked if the Orioles are interested. And, yes, they’ve talked about him. But I’m told it’s more of doing their due diligence to a free-agent starter at this point. That could change, because you never know when, where or how a deal can get going.

The same can be said of LaRoche.

More to come on Orioles.com.

Orioles interested, no deal done w. LaRoche

According to Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse, the Orioles are closing in on a deal with Adam LaRoche. Price tweeted that around 3 p.m. ET and, although the O’s have interest in LaRoche, a source close to the negotiations said the two sides aren’t as close as Price suggests.

When asked if a LaRoche deal was in the works, the source said “not that I’m aware of.” To be clear, the Orioles are very interested in LaRoche, as well as Derrek Lee.

I blogged earlier today that the organization is very confident it can sign a true first baseman this winter. But there is nothing imminent on that front right now.

Gregg still weighing options

*ESPN Boston reported last night that Kevin Gregg was closing in on an agreement with the Orioles, a statement which Gregg’s agent, Dan Horwits, refuted on Wednesday evening.

“Nothing is done,” Horwits said. “We are still involved with numerous teams.”

The Orioles have offers out to several relievers and Gregg is one of them. Horwits confirmed that his client has interest and that Baltimore remains in the mix. 

A few notes…

I’m back from vacation and had a few notes/thoughts to pass along while I try to catch back up…

*In terms of the offseason to-do list, first base remains the Orioles top priority. And I don’t think there’s any debate that Adam LaRoche would be the best possible fit right now. He’s got power, is a great clubhouse guy and plays good defense. And manager Buck Showalter has made it no secret that he would prefer to have an above-average glove at first. If the Orioles don’t get LaRoche or Derrek Lee, they’d likely have to settle for more of a DH-type and sacrifice a good glove. Having a young pitching staff places extra emphasis on run prevention and, as much as I like Luke Scott’s bat, it would be less than ideal to have to pencil him at first base every day.

*Reliever, relievers, relievers. The O’s need a few more arms, particularly given the injury history of some of their current bullpen guys. Currently, their roster has three left-handed relievers in Michael Gonzalez, Pedro Viola and Troy Patton. Viola spent last season in Double-A, Gonzalez has a pretty lengthy injury history and the organization has yet to determine Patton’s role going forward. The Orioles will look to add at least one more viable lefty and another arm to help solidify the back-end of the bullpen. They did resign Koji Uehara, but losing David Hernandez –who was a pleasant surprise in the bullpen — is another late-innings hole that needs to be filled. 

I have not heard anything regarding an agreement with former Blue Jays closer Kevin Gregg. I did read ESPN Boston’s report, which stated that the Orioles were closing in on a deal with Gregg on Tuesday, but haven’t been able to confirm that. The O’s like Gregg and they do have an offer out to him and several other relievers. Right now, that’s all I got on that.

While we’re on the dispelling rumors track, there were some reports when I was gone that the Orioles signed infielder Nick Green to a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite. While there was interest, that never went through. The O’s did ink Cesar Izturis to a one-year deal and certainly enter the spring with more infield options than they had a year ago.

*The more I hear about Mark Reynolds, the more I like the Orioles move to trade for him. I was talking to one of his former teammates who said he’s the kind of guy who isn’t afraid to stand by his locker and face the music after a horrible game. He’s not overly vocal, but won’t shy away from what needs to be said. He’s played through multiple injuries and is known to be a real grinder-type. Still, with all that being said, it’ll be interesting to see if last year’s poor performance was an anomaly or the first step in a steady decline.

*The Orioles are holding the Inaugural OriolesREACH Birdland Classic on Thursday, February 17 at the Founders Club in Sarasota, Florida. Golf with the Orioles and help support the Miracle League of Manasota, a new organization dedicated to providing an opportunity for every person to play baseball, regardless of their ability.

Manager Buck Showalter, Brian Roberts, Jeremy Guthrie, Jim Johnson, and Matt Wieters are all scheduled to attend the event which includes a silent auction, lunch and a chance to play golf with current and former Orioles. For registration and complete details, call 941-954-4101.

Speaking of Roberts, he was at the Orioles Holiday Party event earlier in the week and told reporters that he was 100 percent healthy. Always good to hear.

*Finally, if you’re curious to read about Cliff Lee’s decision to go to Philly (aren’t we all?), you can read the press conference transcription here, courtesy of MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.

Gone Fishing

gonefishing.jpg

Now that I’ve survived my first Winter Meetings on the beat –and a busy one for the Orioles at that — I’m taking a few days off to recharge. I will be going on vacation ’til Wednesday, but all your news will still be on Orioles.com so you will be covered.

Thanks for all the nice comments and Tweets this week. See you back in Baltimore.

Hardy talks still ongoing

Update 8:00 p.m.: The Twins and Orioles are talking again and
things could draw closer. But it’s important to note that nothing is
imminent, and there are a lot of names still being discussed. Bartlett’s
move could help the two sides get closer to a deal, and keep in mind
MacPhail is familiar with the Twins organization (he won two World Series as a GM in Minnesota) so it could be a
Reynolds-type situation where the two sides agree rather quickly once
names start to factor in.

No one is shutting the door on this and it’s situation that could heat
up quick. But as of 8 p.m. Wednesday night, there is still communication
between the two clubs.

The Twins appear to be looking for pitching in return for Hardy, particularly relief help to help bolster a bullpen that could be hit hard by free agent departures. However, talks haven’t progressed enough yet for the Orioles to start talking exactly what prospects they would ship. There’s a list of different names and, as I said earlier, their fourth pick in tomorrow’s Rule 5 Draft could come into play.

While Twins general manager Bill Smith declined to talk about any possible trade scenarios, he was asked Wednesday if it’s necessary for his club to get back Major League talent in a trade.

“Not necessarily,” Smith said. “Sometimes you take the short-term hit if you can strengthen your organization long-term.”

When reached on his cell phone on Wednesday evening, Hardy said that he had not heard anything from the Twins in regards to a trade, although he said that likely wouldn’t happen until a deal was complete.

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I blogged earlier about the J.J. Hardy to the Orioles talk being premature. And it appears they were, as a source close to the situation told MLB.com that the two sides did talk but they were “never close” to a deal on Wednesday afternoon.

The Orioles and Twins have been talking for a while, as you would figure they would. The Orioles need a shortstop and the Twins have a surplus and don’t want to pay Hardy arbitration that figures to be around $6 million. It’s important to note that –like yesterday with Bartlett — the Orioles could still make a swap.

With Bartlett now gone to the Padres, the Orioles are left with Brendan Ryan or Hardy as their options if they chose to not retain Cesar Izturis. MacPhail said tonight that the clubs only options are trade or Izturis, which eliminates free agents like Orlando Cabrera.

Os statement on Scott

Per communications director Greg Bader, here is the Orioles statement on Luke Scott’s comments yesterday.

“Luke Scott’s comments do not reflect the opinion of the Baltimore Orioles organization.  The fact is that Barack Obama is our President, duly elected by the people of the United States.  End of story.”

Boras on Fielder

Scott Boras held court with the media and talked a little Prince Fielder. While Fielder is under the Brewers control, they have been shopping him.

The Orioles have asked about him, but it’s important to take into account that they have just inquired. It would take some young starters to net a guy like Fielder, and while I think it’s a good idea, they’d have to sign Fielder to an extension to make it worth it. So you’re talking big-time money and some good young arms.

Otherwise, they’d only have him for a year and to give up on a young promising arm for a rental is not a good idea for a team that is still trying to finish .500. The O’s aren’t about to pull out all the stops to be competitive in 2011. They have to build for long-term success and have to think things through. Is it frustrating at times? I bet. Even more so for the fans.

Here’s Boras..

[On Fielders situation]
“I can’t really address that. I think that, in each situation, a general manager has got to look at the probability and whether the ownership wants the player to stay vs. the prospects and/or draft picks they may get. In each scenario, it really depends on the judgments of the variables given to the general manager. sometimes ownership gets to reflect on what goes on in the marketplace and they may evaluate their positions on what they want to do with their existing players.”

[on the possibility of the Brewers working out an extension]
“We’ve certainly, had discussions last year. Doug and I met at the GM Meetings. We continue to talk. Whether Mark and I are going to sit down, I don’t know. Doug and I are going to have meetings further about Prince’s short term and potentially long-term situation.”

[Open to an extension before free agency?] “Always, my clients, our ears are open to everything. We’ve shared the information with everyone. We’ve not closed any doors, no.”

[Do the Brewers want to do it?]
 “I don’t really have a sense other than, there’s obviously  … I find attractive information that’s occurred over the past couple of weeks about the value of hitters and sluggers and things. sluggers are sluggers. I think the important thing is the rarity of them, particularly in the game today. we’ve really seen, and carlos pena signing today, is an example of the fact that when you have power, teams are going to aggressively pursue you. The one thing that I hear, anyone in the game who is going to hit 25 home runs nad play defense, you have extreme value. What I call, new value. The game has arisen, the metrics are different then they were five years ago. The general managers and the teams have, they’re looking for things that I think in the past, there was a plentiful supply of. Now there is really just a lot less reliability in the ability to have an .800 OPS. An ability to drive in runs nad play defense and have power, boil down the numbers, the rarity .. the realization of that really hit this winter.”

“I met with Prince a couple of weeks ago. We expected this. When you’re that talented … the freeway for sluggers is a pretty known one and he kind of knows where all the x’s are and what route he’s on.”

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