Greetings from Nashville
Greetings from Nashville, where baseball’s Winter Meetings officially kicked off this morning.
In case you missed it, I wrote a primer on the Orioles’ needs here, and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette held court with the O’s beat reporter crew last night (which you can read here).
There’s going to be a lot of rumors and speculation floating around the vast lobbies here, so check back frequently on the blog and follow along on Twitter to stay up to speed in what’s sure to be a hectic few days.
The question I’m asked the most is what do I think the Orioles will do here and Duquette hinted again last night about a potential trade getting done. He was confident last year at the meeting the Orioles would make a move and they did on the final day in trading for pitcher Dana Eveland. This year, the hope is Baltimore is able to make a much bigger acquisition and get a bat for the middle of the lineup.
I’ve said it again but it bears repeating: It’s far more likely that the Orioles make a trade than sign a free agent bat.
Duquette has said numerous times the payroll will stay around the same as it was last year –figure in the $85 million range– and while non-tendering Mark Reynolds frees up some money it still doesn’t give the Orioles a lot of wiggle room. (Or room for premiere free agent Josh Hamilton, who will probably be linked with the Orioles up until he signs elsewhere).
The Orioles main goal last year was to build pitching depth and that’s the area where they’ll deal from to acquire a bat. Duquette said again last night that their pitching is what interests other teams the most and they’re in a spot right now where there’s a logjam for the starting rotation. Adding lefty starter Joe Saunders, who the club remains in talks with resigning, would further that issue.
With top prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman not far away –and off the board to other clubs– the Orioles could package one or two of their young arms to bring back a bat. But who would they part with? Outside of Bundy/Gausman, I don’t think any of those young arms are off the table, although there’s more of a sell-high factor with Chris Tillman or Brian Matusz than there would be with Zach Britton or Jake Arrieta at this point. Arrieta and Matusz got a lot of interest leading up to July’s Trade Deadline and the O’s didn’t bite. There are some in the organization who still believe Arrieta can be a solid Major League starting pitcher, although it doesn’t mean he can’t be had in the right deal, for the right player.
Stay tuned throughout the day as it’s sure to get interesting around baseball these next few days….
*Quick Spring Training note: Spain will now be playing their first round games in Puerto Rico and training in Florida which will make them the new opponent for the Orioles on March 6 in Sarasota.
The Brazil WBC team will now be playing their first round games in Japan (instead of Puerto Rico) and will train there (they have several Japanese players and a strong connection to Japan).