Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said earlier this week that he is content with the team’s current options at second base, but manager Buck Showalter expressed his desire to re-sign free agent Brian Roberts during his news conference with the media on Tuesday at the winter meetings.
The 36-year-old Roberts is a life-long Oriole and would likely return on a one-year deal. Ryan Flaherty is the front-runner for the position, but the team also acquired second baseman Jemile Weeks from the Oakland Athletics in last week’s Jim Johnson trade. Top position player prospect Jonathan Schoop is another option.
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“The way they do the metrics, they profile [Flaherty] out as hitting 20 home runs at second base and playing pretty good defense,” Showalter said.” That’s a pretty good combo. We have Jemile, we have the potential of Jonathan Schoop. First and foremost, we have the potential of Brian Roberts. So, I like our options.”
Duquette indicated Tuesday that the club still has interest in Roberts, but that right now the Orioles’ top priorities are acquiring a left-handed hitter to share at-bats in left field and designated hitter, signing a closer to replace Johnson and adding another starting pitcher to upgrade the rotation.
“It’s not always a perfect world, it’s got to fit for him,” Showalter said of Roberts’ possible return. “There are some decisions that have to be made when people start changing salaries and fits. I think Dan’s got it wired. Conversations that need to be had will be had.”
-- Showalter said he believed the decision to tender and sign outfielder Nolan Reimold, who has been beset by neck injuries the past two seasons, could pay off this season. Reimold’s rehab is going well and Showalter is regularly getting updates from Orioles vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson.
Reimold, who has played in just 56 total games in the past two seasons and hasn’t played more than 87 since his rookie season in 2009, signed a $1.025 million deal just before the tender deadline last week.
“I think Nolan knows that, from our standpoint, we’re going to take another shot,” Showalter said. "In today’s world, I know I hate to say it publicly, but it’s actually pretty cheap when you look at the going rate of things. If Nolan comes back 100 percent, we’ve got something at a pretty good deal.
“I’m pulling for him,” Showalter continued. “It’s been a long, tough road for him. I think because of our loyalty to Nolan, and what he’s gone through, and how it happened. He got injured diving into the stands trying to help his team. So the organization and Mr. Angelos has been very loyal with Nolan and not just close the door on him, and I’m proud of that.”
-- With Nate McLouth gone and Roberts unsigned, the Orioles will have to find a leadoff hitter if the team is unable to acquire one in the offseason. Showalter said Nick Markakis, who hit .335/ .390/.489 in 54 games from the leadoff spot in 2012, will be a candidate.
“He’s a candidate,” Showalter said of Markakis. “He’s one of the guys, if I have to fill it internally. He’s a guy who, at the end of the day, we’d look at comparatively speaking. In a perfect world, I’d rather not, but I could, and I think Nick would do a fine job.
-- Showalter also said that he believes left-hander Zach Britton, who has been unable to gain the form of his rookie year two seasons ago, can make strides forward now that he does not have any minor league options remaining.
He compared Britton’s situation to that of Chris Tillman, who became a 16-game winner last year and emerged as the club’s top starter last season when he didn't have any options remaining.
“There should be a real peace about that coming into camp for the first time in a while because he gets some anxiety about it,” Showalter said. “I can see it. Tilly and I talked about it last year, that he’s at a great point, that it’s not an issue any more. ‘Go get them.’ And he took it in the right direction last year.
"I think Zach’s got the chance to do that, too. He’s got a good hand. He can do some things with the baseball. It’s there for him. It’s in his hands. He’s going to be given the opportunity.”