Duquette on 2B, pitching, Johnson and adding a hitter

Orioles vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette just held court with the media. I’ll have a full story up on Orioles.com now, but here are the highlights…

Duquette said the team is looking to add a left-handed hitter here at the meetings. It’s a priority for them and if they could, they’d add two. Obviously, they also want to find a designated hitter and upgrade their pitching staff.

As for second base, the Orioles seem to like what Ryan Flaherty has done for them.

“We got really work out of Flaherty at second base, not only defensively but he hit the ball well the second half of the season,” Duquette said. “He made better contact, he made more consistent contact and he also played pretty good defense.”

Does that close the door on a possible return for free agent Brian Roberts?

“No, not necessarily,” Duquette said. “But I think we have some good options with the people we have.”

The additions of Chord Phelps and Jemile Weeks, both switch-hitters who have spent time at second base, were also moves to address that vacancy according to Duquette. Top prospect Jonathan Schoop is an option, but the organization feels he would benefit from some more Minor League time.

On the pitching front, the Orioles have offers out to relievers and starters on the market, a bunch that were made over the weekend. Not suprisingly, they won’t participate in the posting of top Japanese pitcher Mashiro Tanaka.

As for the Jim Johnson money, which Duquette said would be “reallocated elsewhere” at the time of the trade, that will go towards adding pitching depth.

“We are going to use it to hire players,” Duquette said.  “And if we were to trade for a player that had a significantly salary some of it would go to that, but specifically we are going to utilize it to add some depth to our pithing staff. It’s real easy to think about it that way, you take the money and redeploy it to other pitchers.”

Johnson was projected to make  more than $10 million in arbitration and while the Orioles did approach him about a potential extension, some of the figures thrown out there regarding what his camp was demanding weren’t close to being true. As for who will replace Johnson, the Orioles still remain interested in acquiring a free-agent closer and have interest in John Axford and Chris Perez.

“There’s a lot of pitchers that are closers on the market and I think some of them will sign for significantly less than 10 million a year,” Duquette said.

Reliever Ryan Webb, who will take his physical early this week, has a power sinker and keeps the ball down and is expected to be a late-inning option.

“That sound like another pitcher the Orioles have had recently?,” Duquette said, coyly comparing the right-hander to Johnson. “Same type of profile. doesn’t have the experience.”

The Orioles seem pretty unlikely to make a splash to sign a top free agent pitcher.

“If people are expecting the Orioles to go out and sign a significant pitcher, I think it’s more realistic to look for good pitchers to come up through the farm system,” Duquette said.

“Frankly I think we have more starting pitching depth going into this year than we’ve had the last couple years. We have some qualified starters already on the team and some pitchers in the Minors ready to supplement our team. That wasn’t the case last year.”

A lot of opposing teams have expressed interest in Mike Wright and the Orioles are also high on  Tim Berry and Eduardo Rodriguez and their potential to help the big league club.

1 Comment

Britt, D.D.’s comments projecting a guy who struggles to hit the Mendoza line at 2B and his take on the $10M salary dump and availability of cheaper pitching smells like the same old Peter Angelos fiscal handcuffs. Hoping 2012 was not an aberration but thinking that’s probably the case. Do you think they are going cheap again? Thanks.

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