Winter Meetings wrap: Day 1
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Orioles made their first major move of the offseason Monday, trading for third baseman Mark Reynolds, in a deal that shipped relievers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio to Arizona.
For Baltimore, acquiring Reynolds is a big first step in a critical offseason. The organization was rebuffed by both Victor Martinez and Adam Dunn, who signed free-agent deals with the Tigers and White Sox, respectively, and went into this winter with positional holes at third base, first base and shortstop.
With Reynolds penciled in at third, the biggest hole is now at first base and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said Monday that Reynolds’ acquisition won’t drastically change the Orioles stance.
“It does not necessarily preclude anybody,” MacPhail said. “But it might change the priority order a little bit.”
Translation: while the Orioles remain confident they will get a first baseman, it’s likely they will shore up their bullpen first. Monday’s trade sent two young arms out West, leaving the Orioles bullpen extremely thin. Currently the O’s have eight relievers on their 40-man roster but six are coming off major injuries in the last two years, Rick VandenHurk is out of options and Pedro Viola spent last season in Double-A.
MacPhail has said the club has “several offers” out to free agents, and a good portion of those figure to be to bullpen guys. The Orioles have been linked to Kevin Gregg, Jesse Crain, Grant Balfour, Scott Downs and Brian Fuentes, among others, and also feel good about their chances to retain Japanese right-hander Koji Uehara.
“You have to take what the market gives you and I think there is a greater supply of [relievers] out there, perhaps, than anything on the market right now,” MacPhail said.
In looking at first base, the Orioles are still believed to be sifting through free-agent corner infielders Carlos Pena, Adam LaRoche and Derrek Lee, although MacPhail said Monday morning reports that the team is close to signing Lee are premature. Even with Reynolds’ high strikeout numbers, the Orioles aren’t backing off of their interest in Pena, although they think agent Scott Boras’ asking price is too high. Pena comes with a lot of strikeouts but would give the O’s premiere defense, which is something manager Buck Showalter has placed added emphasis on.
The Reynolds acquisition also doesn’t discount the potential return of Ty Wigginton, a right-handed hitting utility guy who is rumored to be high on the Rockies’ priority list.
“I wouldn’t say that eliminates [Wigginton],” MacPhail said of the impact of Reynolds’ trade. “Less playing time at third is a likely possibility but it certainly doesn’t eliminate him.”
Monday’s trade also doesn’t eliminate the Orioles prospects at any more deals, although it would take a substantial trade for MacPhail -who preaches homegrown arms -to move any of the clubs young starters.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations on the trade front as well as the free agent fronts,” MacPhail said. “Like I said a billion times, you don’t know which ones are going to develop or which ones are going to stall somewhere down the line. We’ll just have to see how the next couple of weeks play out.”
The O’s pursuit to upgrade at shortstop is another story that could come into play at the Winter Meetings, as both MacPhail and Showalter have acknowledged the need to upgrade the offense beyond Reynolds. The Orioles have asked about Jason Barlett and J.J. Hardy, but are casting a wide net that could lead to some surprise candidates.
“[It] could be [a veteran], MacPhail said. “Whatever foots the bill. We don’t have any box that they have to fill into. We have different discussions, sort of a wide variety of candidates.”