December 2013

Boras on Wieters/Davis extensions

Agent Scott Boras just held court with the media for about 25 minutes and briefly touched on two of his Oriole clients, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters.

[on having extension talks with Dan Duquette about either guy]

“I’m sure that conversation will be with Peter [Angelos] and I some day but certainly welcome to entertain it and look at it and talk.”

[on his relationship with the Orioles]

“Dan and I talk frequently, if not two, three times a month. Had a meeting in September. We have a good working relationship and had one when he was in Boston. He’s got great hair, too.”

Duquette said earlier this week that they aren’t actively discussing an extension with either player, noting that now is not the time for that stuff.

Orioles have an offer on table, but not to a closer

For the Orioles on Tuesday there was plenty of smoke, but no fire. Despite the frenzy of rumors in the morning involving the Orioles adding closer Grant Balfour, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette confirmed there has been no formal offer extended to the free agent.

“A lot of speculation has been way beyond the activity,” Duquette said of the rumblings involving his club.

“We did make some progress [in regards to free agent pitchers] in that we have a pretty good idea what the market is there, but we have a lot more work to do. We have a lot more work to do to actually build our pitching staff.”

Duquette said the Orioles do have an offer out—but it’s not to a closer— and any speculation that the club has or is close to a deal is “not accurate.”

The Orioles, who spent a good chunk of the day going over preparations for the Rule 5 Draft, also ramped up efforts to secure a left-handed hitter on Tuesday. Duquette said they are looking at trade scenarios and free agents and the Marlins’ Logan Morrison —along with a few other Miami outfielders— and free agent Jason Kubel are two names that they’ve been tied to.

The O’s have also been linked to numerous free agent starters, including Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, and Duquette said he’d be willing to beyond two years in the right situation.

“I guess it depends on the pitcher. What the price is and what the risk is,” he said. “I think you have to look at each one closely and see if it works for your team.”

The Orioles did officially add a pitcher Tuesday, with reliever Ryan Webb passing his physical and agreeing to a two-year pact. Besides the Rule 5 Draft, the Orioles remain optimistic they will leave with another player before departing Orlando on Thursday.

“We are working on a couple pitching options, hopefully we will be able to do some good there,” Duquette said.

In addition to Balfour, the Orioles remain interested in Chris Perez and John Axford for their closer opening.

 

Showalter on Chen, Reimold and McFarland

Last year’s Rule 5 Draft pick T.J. McFarland, coming off a successful winter ball stint, will attend the Orioles mini-camp in January and compete for a starting rotation spot this spring, manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday.

Showalter also hopes to have starter Wei-Yin Chen at the four-day camp, although baseball’s rules dictate that the team can’t invite any players and it has to go through the League and their agent first. Chen had surgery to remove bone spurs around his right knee in October and the organization is hoping to get a handle on where he is physically as soon as possible.

As for Nolan Reimold, who the organization re-signed for $1.025 million at the non-tender deadline, Showalter said he wasn’t sure if the left fielder would be a full-go by the team Spring Training starts.

“Basically, what keeps coming out of [vice president of baseball operations] Brady [Anderson] is that [Reimold] is further along than he was last year at this time,” Showalter said of Reimold, who is recovering from a correct neck procedure that marked the second consecutive season-ending operation. “What that means, I don’t think anybody knows until we get into the rigors of the baseball full activity. But we’re going to take another shot with him.

“In today’s world, it’s probably pretty cheap when you look at the going rate of things. If Nolan comes back 100 percent, we’ve got something, a pretty good deal, so I’m pulling for him. It’s been a long, tough road for him. When you look at what he’s gone through and how it happened and the whole nine yards, he got injured diving into the stands trying to help his club win.

“The organization, Mr. Angelos, has been very loyal to Nolan in not just closing the door on him. I’m proud of that.”

Buck on bringing back Roberts

Orioles manager Buck Showalter held court with the media Tuesday afternoon, speaking for nearly 30 minutes on a variety of topics including his desire to bring back second baseman Brian Roberts, which the organization has remained in contact with.

Roberts, a free agent this winter who has spent his entire career with the Orioles, has attracted other suitors in a thin market that’s already seen high-price Robinson Cano jet for Seattle. Despite his difficulty staying on the field the past few seasons, Roberts —who will likely get a one-year deal— could help the Orioles fill their hole at leadoff and help stabilize second base, a position executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette indicated earlier this week that could go to Ryan Flaherty.

Is Flaherty ready to be a full-time player?

“Could [be],” Showalter said. “The way they do the metrics they profile him out as hitting 20 home runs at second base and playing pretty good defense. That’s a pretty good combo. We have Jemile [Weeks], we have the potential of [prospect] Jonathan Schoop. First and foremost, we have the potential of Brian Roberts. So, I like our options.”

The switch-hitting Roberts was able to stay healthy in the season’s final few months and Showalter said in a perfect world the Orioles roster would include him this spring.

“It’s not always a perfect world, it’s got to fit for him,” he said. “There’s some decisions that have to be made when people start changing salaries and fits…I think Dan [Duquette] has got it wired. conversations that need to be had will be had.”

Latest on Balfour and the Os

LAKE BUENA VISTA—As of Tuesday afternoon, there was no official offer from the Orioles to free agent Grant Balfour but that’s expected to change as Baltimore remains interested in the fiery closer and is trying to get a deal done, according to multiple sources.

Despite several reports that a Balfour deal had been reached, Orioles manager Buck Showalter confirmed that there hasn’t been an offer extended and he called any claims that the O’s are closer with Balfour than other free agent closers “erroneous”. The Orioles have interest in both John Axford and Chris Perez and remain interested in adding to their rotation with continued interest in local product Gavin Floyd, who is rehabbing back from injury and would be an interesting low-risk, one-year proposition.

But all the early buzz Tuesday was about Balfour, who will be 36 at the end of the month and went 1-3 with a 2.59 ERA in 65 games for the A’s last season, pitching 62 2/3 innings and compiling 38 saves. The Orioles, in need of a closer after trading Jim Johnson earlier this month —because they were unwilling to pay a salary of more than $10 million to him— would have to negotiate a multi-year contract with Balfour, who is said to be looking in the three or four-year range. It’s unclear how comfortable the Orioles feel about anything more than two years, but they were still considered the favorite on Tuesday to land his services and Balfour is the best closer on the free agent market.

The Australian native has 10 years of big league experience, the past three with Oakland and the four prior to that with Tampa Bay. He made his debut with Minnesota in ’01 and owns a career 28-17 record with a 3.27 ERA in 463 games, over 473 innings.

“[We’re] closer than the day we got here,” Showalter said of filling the team’s ninth-inning need. “But Im looking at the 37 we got on the roster here and trying to figure out from within… certainly we’ve talked about players [externally], we’ve talked about the same players you all are talking about. I will say we are no closer on one than we are the other. I don’t think any offers have been made, that I’ve been privy to.”

Should the team not add a closer this offseason, their internal option would be Tommy Hunter, although they haven’t ruled out rehabbing guys like Joel Hanrahan, who could step in later in the season.

The Orioles —who spent a good chunk of Tuesday morning preparing for the Rule 5 Draft— also have interest in Logan Morrison, who is one of “five or six” outfielders the club is considering right now.

Orioles closing in on a closer? (updated w/ Balfour)

The Orioles are ramping up efforts to get a left-handed hitter, which is one of their top priorities at the Winter Meetings, although Tuesday morning’s buzz has been all about the ninth inning.

Several media outlets, including MLB.com’s Jim Duquette, reported that the O’s are a favorite to land free agent Grant Balfour and the team remains interested in non-tenders Chris Perez and John Axford. While the latter two would represent a significant savings from Jim Johnson –who was traded to get the club off the hook for the more than $10 million he would make– Balfour’s price has been a sticking point.

As of last night, the Orioles were waiting on Balfour’s price –as high as $9 million depending on who you talk to– to come down some. It would be hard to justify letting Johnson go, just to sign a closer for the same amount.  It’s likely the O’s would explore a two-year deal to lessen the money a little bit, which is something they briefly explored with Johnson.

Right now, there’s no offer on the table to Balfour  but things could change quickly.

Balfour, who will be 36 at the end of the month, went 1-3 with a 2.59 ERA in 65 games for the A’s last season, pitching 62 2/3 innings and compiling 38 saves. The Australian native has 10 years of big league experience, the past three with Oakland and the four prior to that with Tampa Bay. He made his debut with Minnesota in ’01 and owns a career 28-17 record with a 3.27 ERA in 463 games, over 473 innings.

Quick hits from Duquette

Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette just held court with the media as well as new pitching coach Dave Wallance, bullpen coach Dom Chiti and manager Buck Showalter.

I’ll have plenty of notes/quotes up shortly on Orioles.com, but here are the highlights…

*The Orioles continued to search for a left-handed hitter today, exploring trade talks with several clubs and the free agent market. They have offers out to several free agent pitchers, starting and relief, but Duquette said they have made no new offers since coming to Orlando.

Asked if he felt confident the club would add a player in these next few days –excluding the Rule 5 Draft– Duquette said, “absolutely.”

*The team would like a designated hitter who could also play the field, so that Showalter can rotate that spot around if necessary.

*While the priority remains adding a left-handed hitter, they still have interest in some right-handed hitters. The O’s met with Nelson Cruz’s camp today, among others, and they’ll do their due diligence in meeting with everyone these next few days.

*It would be hard to see the team spend more than $6 million on a closer given that the whole purpose of trading Jim Johnson  –projected to make $10 million– was to reallocate money elsewhere.

*Duquette said the Orioles aren’t ruling out guys who may not be ready in time for Spring Training and are still rehabbing back from injury, meaning reliever Joel Hanrahan and starter Gavin Floyd are still in play.

*Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy are among those who will be invited to the team’s mini-camp in Sarasota, Fla. in Janaury. The camp will be mainly pitchers –Bundy will be throwing off flat ground by then– although guys who are arbitration-eligible cannot be invited.

*Seems pretty clear the Orioles will stretch out Brian Matusz and Kevin Gausman this spring, regardless of what roles they both end up playing on the team. Tommy Hunter, however, is not a given and he could remain in the bullpen.

*The Orioles out righted infielder Chord Phelps to Triple-A Norfolk today, leaving their 40-man roster at 37.

*Asked if the O’s could sacrifice a Draft pick to sign a qualifying free agent pitcher, such as Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, Duquette said maybe.

*Would the Orioles have an issue signing a guy with PED issues, such as Cruz or starter Bartolo Colon? Duquette said that unfortunately those things have become part of the game and said the team has done “due diligence” on everyone. It seems really unlikely the team would sign either as Cruz is a right-handed hitter who would command a large chunk of money, and Colon –while he could sign on a one year deal– is said to be in the $10 million range. Bringing in either guy would also be an interesting, (i.e. unpopular) move in a clubhouse big on chemistry under Showalter.

Early Day 1 rumblings

A fairly slow news day around baseball so far in the first day of the Winter Meetings in Orlando. The Orioles made several offers to free agent pitchers –both starters and relievers– over the weekend and are trying to land a left-handed hitter to add to their lineup over the next couple days.

They met with Nelson Cruz’s representation, according to FOX Sports, and remain interested in the outfielder. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said last night that it was unlikely the team signs a significant free agent pitcher and it remains to be seen if they’ll make a significant move positionally. They also remain interested in Shin-Soo Choo, who will command some considerable money on the free agent market.

Given the Orioles lengthy list of holes –they’d like to upgrade the rotation, bullpen, left field and designated hitter– they’ll come up in a lot of rumors over these next few days in Orlando. They would like to add a veteran starter –Bronson Arroyo and A.J. Burnett are two names that have come up– and a closer (John Axford and Chris Perez are among the considerations) externally to replace Jim Johnson and have also touched base with several teams on trades today.  I should have more within the next hour as the media meets with Duquette.

On a side note, the Ryan Webb two-year contract is expected to be announced after his physical in Baltimore tomorrow. The reliever gives the O’s another late-inning option.

MLB also announced its Stand Up to Cancer auction this afternoon with some pretty cool items for the Orioles, including a meet-and-greet and tour with manager Buck Showalter and a school visit from Chris Davis. You can read more on that here.

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.

Will the Orioles fill any holes this week?

Greetings from the Winter Meetings in Disney World, where I found my hotel and room without getting lost in the sprawling resorts here. (No small feat, trust me).

Baseball is back at the Swan & Dolphin resort this week and with such a busy offseason already –at least around the league– it remains to be seen how much actual news will come out of the next four days in Florida.

For the Orioles, it’s a crucial time coming off a week in which the organization made its first big move –trading closer Jim Johnson– for “resource allocation” that is waiting to be spent. Will the O’s, who have a length list of holes to fill, find any magic in Florida?

The team remains committed to adding a closer on the free agent market and it’s been widely reported that they have interest in John Axford.

You can add former Indian Chris Perez to that list. Perez, originally a product of the Cardinals farm system, was released by Cleveland in September and he could be a decent buy-low option. Perez had some injuries and off field issues last year, but FanGraphs shows his velocity started to come back toward the end of the year and owns a career 3.41 ERA in six seasons. The 28-year-old right-hander saved 25 games last year, 39 in 2012 and 36 in ’11, so he’s certainly got closing experience.

On the starting front, the Orioles weren’t willing to go near the $30-million over three years to retain Scott Feldman (which is what the Astros signed him to) and were prepared for him to leave given the way the free agent market for starters have developed this winter.  Perhaps they revisit the idea of bringing back Jason Hammel now.

Who else is left? Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santanta are two names that have been kicked around in discussions although they’d have to weigh that again giving up a Draft pick because both guys declined their qualifying offers to test the market.

The Orioles best money spent in free agency would probably be on a bat but they’d have to shell out some serious money to get an impact guy, such as Nelson Cruz or Shin-Soo Choo. Last year’s power-filled lineup went through a lot of slumps last year, and adding some players known to get on base is another priority.

In addition to the news and all the rumors, MLB.com will hand out its Greatness in Baseball Yearly (GIBBY) Awards here in Orlando and Orioles manager Buck Showalter will meet with the media to discuss the team’s offseason needs and other moves. Stay tuned for a daily recap of all things O’s on Orioles.com and, I’ll be using my blog and Twitter to supplement coverage and help provide insightful news, thoughts and analysis in the most timely and accurate manner possible.

I’d also like to hear from you about what moves the Orioles are/aren’t making these next few days. Who should they aggressively pursue? Who is an expendable trade chip?

Fans are encouraged to take part by filling the comments section at Orioles.com this week and joining the discussion on Twitter with suggestions for getting the club back to the postseason.

By the end of the week, we should know a lot more about what direction the Orioles are headed in.

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