Some Orioles thoughts (non-tenders, Cespedes, international signings)

The Baltimore Sun

Tonight at midnight is the non-tender deadline for players who are arbitration-eligible. In other words, the Orioles have to decide whether they want to keep their players who can go through the arbitration process or allow them to be free agents.

The Orioles have nine players on this list – and, yes, that’s a whole lot.

A bunch of these are no-brainers; they will absolutely be tendered a contract. Those players are: outfielder Adam Jones, infielder Robert Andino and pitchers Jeremy Guthrie and Jim Johnson.

The two sides will then begin the arbitration process with hopes that they’ll settle before a hearing is set.

Two others almost certainly will be tendered contracts as well – but neither has thrown a pitch for the Orioles yet. The Orioles traded for Dana Eveland last week and plucked Darren O’Day off waivers last month. Since they looked to acquire both, you can assume contracts will be offered to both pitchers.

That leaves the Orioles with three intriguing cases: pitchers Brad Bergesen and Jo-Jo Reyes and outfielder Luke Scott.

The sense is that Scott will not be offered a contract since he’s coming off shoulder surgery and an injury-riddled season and is expected to make $6 million-plus in arbitration. That’s not to say the Orioles don’t want the affable slugger back – it would just be at a reduced price.

The sides have not had any meaningful talks, so the guess is he gets non-tendered and tests the market as a free agent. That said, Scott’s not shy in his desire to remain with the Orioles and Orioles manager Buck Showalter has been a big supporter of Scott’s, so maybe a deal can be reached to keep him in Baltimore in 2012 even if he is non-tendered.

The Bergesen situation is cloudier. He is considered a “Super 2” player, meaning he gets an extra year of arbitration – and probably is in line for a salary in excess of $1 million. He doesn’t appear to be in the Orioles’ rotation plans, at least not initially, so he could find himself back at Norfolk to start the season if he doesn’t have a good spring training. And that’s a lot of money for a Triple-A pitcher.

But he is also good insurance at the minors or in the big league bullpen if there are trades or injuries before Opening Day. And there is always the hope he can rekindle the success he had in 2009. This is the decision worth watching, in my opinion.

The other case is lefty Jo-Jo Reyes, who was snagged off the waiver wire from the Toronto Blue Jays at midseason and posted a 6.16 ERA for the Orioles in nine games (five starts). With the acquisition of Eveland, and the Orioles’ interest in other starting pitchers in the market, my guess is Reyes is non-tendered. They’d probably like to have him in the system, but there is no guarantee he’ll make the team and he’d have to be put through waivers again before being outrighted to the minors.

The official deadline is midnight, but we’ll probably know earlier than that.

In other Orioles matters, a couple people have emailed me to ask about the Orioles’ private workout of Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes in the Dominican on Saturday. Among those watching him were Showalter and international gurus Fred Ferreira and David Stockstill.

There were hints the 25-year-old Cespedes was impressive, but we’re not getting a full report here. No chance of that with an international free agent (clubs are even more close to the vest with these guys than they are domestic free agents). And, remember, he’s not even a free agent yet. Cespedes, a defector, needs to establish residency in the Dominican first. That could take weeks, maybe months, and the Orioles – or any of the other 10 or so teams that are interested – can’t make an offer until that is set.

One more note on the Orioles and the international market. I’m hearing lots of talk that the franchise really is attempting to make a big push with international players this winter. Nothing is set, but I’m hearing a lot of the club’s focus is heading in that direction.

But as Dan Duquette likes to say, the proof is in the pudding.

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