By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
8:48 AM EST, December 10, 2013
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.
The Orioles came to the winter meetings with their eyes on acquiring a left-handed hitter to help fill the void in left field and also at designated hitter.
And the most likely avenue to snag that player seems to be in a trade, but from listening to executive vice president Dan Duquette speak last night, it seems like the Orioles aren't close to making a deal.
While the Orioles continued to talk about trades, Duquette wouldn’t describe any current discussions as better than “lukewarm.”
That can obviously change quickly.
So instead, the hot-stove rumor mill Monday revolved around a lot of names we’ve heard -- Nelson Cruz and Bartolo Colon -- and a few we haven’t.
Down in the lobby, I heard a few times about how Miami Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison seems to be a good fit for the Orioles. Morrison has had a couple down years, but he could fit the club’s need for a left-handed hitter to slot in at designated hitter and left fielder and is said to be healthy for the first time in years after scuffling through two knee surgeries.
He’s only 26 and is under team control for the next three seasons. Morrison showed some solid gap power early in his career, so if he’s truly healthy that could translate well with a change of scenery to Camden Yards. His .261/.354/.423 slash line against right-handed pitching last year is interesting, too.
Morrison is expendable now that the Marlins signed Garrett Jones. Like everything, it comes down to whether a deal can be reached. It doesn’t appear that anything is imminent now.
“We’re talking to teams and sometimes you hit on the players,” Duquette said about the trade front. “We haven’t quite got there yet.”
-- Now that Nate McLouth is gone and Brian Roberts remains unsigned, the Orioles must think about their options at leadoff next season and moving forward.
There are several options -- Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold have had success there in the past -- but Duquette said that void is something the Orioles are going to have to monitor.
“Yeah, that’s going to be a challenge, so that’s something we have to keep an eye on,” Duquette said.
That leads us to one of the more interesting parts of Duquette’s meeting with the local media Monday night. Duquette keeps the club’s negotiations close to the vest and doesn’t like to speak about players specifically, but when he was asked about free-agent outfielder Rajai Davis, he volunteered that he believed Davis would sign in the next few days.
With the Orioles? Not likely.
Davis did hit .319 against left-handed pitching, but he wouldn’t be a very big upgrade over the right-handed options the Orioles currently have in left field and at designated hitter. He’s also a player whose game relies heavily on speed. Also, he is 33 and doesn’t have a very high career on-base percentage (.316). The profile doesn’t fit.
-- Former Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel is beginning to receive interest from several teams and is seeking a three-year deal.
We know what the Orioles think about three-year deals, but they could be talked into a one-year pact that’s full of incentives. That really only will happen if the free-agent starting pitcher market begins to dry up.
While Hammel pitched well during his two years in Baltimore, he battled injury both years on the club. When he’s truly healthy, he’s been a solid pitcher. I think his early struggles last season had a lot to do with his flexor tendon issues.
Regardless, I think teams will wait on Hammel and see where the market goes.
-- On Monday, new Orioles pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti were introduced to the local media, and it’s easy to see why Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he thinks this might be the best coaching staff he’s ever had. No disrespect to their predecessors, but Wallace and Chiti definitely seem to be a good fit.
“I’ve learned there’s some talent that is untapped,” Wallace said about his new pitching staff. “By that, I mean, in today’s world, a lot of guys need to learn at the major league level and that’s a process that is a little bit more difficult as it sounds because you’re trying to compete on a winning ballclub, yet you’re trying to learn your way as to what it takes to pitch in the major leagues.”
Both are experienced baseball men who consider themselves teachers first. Both are thoughtful speakers who constantly talked about doing everything possible to get the most out of a pitcher. They did so while working together with young pitchers in the Braves system.
When the Orioles hold their pitchers minicamp next month in Sarasota, Fla., Wallace and Chiti will sit down with each pitcher and get to know them. They even have plans to go out West to meet with California-based pitchers Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz and Zach Britton.
For all the Orioles pitchers, the arrivals of Wallace and Chiti offer a clean slate.
“I think once they learn to trust us, they don’t care about how much you know. They care about how much you care about them in trying to make them better as a pitcher,” Wallace said. “It sounds simple, but again, everybody has a different rate at how they mature and go about it. Some guys we may get to know in a month, some guys we may get to know in a couple days. Some guys, we may not get to know them until July. We will let them know we are here for them.”
-- As a side note, Major League Baseball announced Monday a special auction that runs through Thursday at 10 p.m. to benefit the Stand Up To Cancer campaign. Bids can be made at MLB.com.
The Orioles items are currently some of the most popular.
As of Tuesday morning, an Orioles memorabilia package that included a Manny Machado game-used bat, Adam Jones autographed game-used batting helmet, Jim Johnson game-used and autographed spikes from his 50th save, a Chris Davis game-used cracked bat, an autographed Buck Showalter baseball and a Dylan Bundy autographed jersey is going for $1,225. A meet-and-greet with Showalter that includes a clubhouse tour is going for $1,131.
Fans can also bid on the opportunity for Davis to visit their child’s elementary school for lunch or a classroom visit. That is currently going for $520.
The most popular item is a school pizza lunch with the Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. The current bid for that is $3,026.
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