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Top questions for O's heading into winter meetings

In his brief tenure as the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations, Dan Duquette has executed a number of firsts.

He made his first trade (acquiring catcher Taylor Teagarden), signed his first free agent to a 40-man roster spot (infielder Matt Antonelli), hired his first important lieutenant (amateur scouting director Gary Rajsich) and rubbed elbows with other top executives at his first general manager meetings since being fired by the Boston Red Sox in 2002.

Now the training wheels -- or, perhaps more appropriately in Duquette's case, the rust -- will officially vanish this week as he represents the Orioles at baseball's annual winter meetings in Dallas. He'll be catching up with old friends and contacts and hoping to make new ones as he attempts to improve an Orioles club that has had a losing record for a franchise-worst 14 straight seasons.

“The winter meetings are fun,” Duquette said. “You are on the hunt. You are trying to get players that will help your team.”

The fun begins in earnest Monday and runs through Thursday. The hunt will be expansive and exhaustive; the club has a number of holes but is unlikely to compete for top-tier free agents. So there likely will be plenty of trade talk with other teams as well as a parade of agents representing mid-level players visiting the Orioles' suite at the Hilton Anatole.

Here are some questions -- and attempts at answers -- heading into the winter meetings, broken down into five installments.

Who will be in the Orioles' contingent?

Duquette is still formalizing his staff, so it's a partial list. Orioles manager Buck Showalter will be there, as will Rajsich and John Stockstill, entering his third season as the club's player development director.

Pro scouts Dave Engle and Bruce Kison are expected to attend, but Lee MacPhail IV, who was reassigned last week from pro scouting director to a regular scouting role, will not. Four men prominent in the Orioles' suite at the past few meetings -- MacPhail; his uncle, former club president Andy MacPhail; former baseball operations director Matt Klentak; and former amateur scouting director Joe Jordan -- will be elsewhere this year.

Because the winter meetings are also part trade show, there will be plenty of support staff and Orioles minor league officials in attendance. And perhaps one or more new hires that have not been announced will be part of the Orioles' brain trust in Dallas.

That could include former Philadelphia Phillies GM Lee Thomas, who reportedly has been hired as a special assistant to Duquette, who has not confirmed the move. By the end of Thursday, there could be a few more additions to Duquette's front office.

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