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Orioles didn't offer contracts to McLouth or Feldman

Club loses 2013 conributors, but agrees to terms with reliever

By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

9:29 PM EST, December 6, 2013

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The Orioles added another reliever to their roster on Friday, but also learned that two members of the 2013 club have gone elsewhere, including fan favorite Nate McLouth.

According to sources, the Orioles on Friday signed right-handed reliever Ryan Webb to a two-year, $4.5 million deal, pending a physical, but lost left fielder McLouth to the Washington Nationals and right-hander Scott Feldman to the Houston Astros.

McLouth, who had spent the last season and a half with the Orioles, agreed to a two-year, $10.75 million deal that includes a $6.5 million option for 2016, pending a physical, according to an industry source. Feldman, whom the Orioles acquired last July in a trade that sent pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Chicago Cubs, signed a three-year, $30 million deal.

Orioles decision-makers had said repeatedly that they'd like to have both back, but ultimately did not make an official offer to either player.

"I appreciate the work that those guys did and I wish them a lot of luck," said executive vice president Dan Duquette. "McLouth did a good job for us at the end of [2012] and in '13 and looks like he got a nice contract. And Scott did a nice job for us and looks like he got a very good contract for himself. … We have to work and build our team to replace their contributions."

Duquette said he "had maintained a dialogue with [McLouth's] agent throughout the process, but, no, we didn't [make an offer]."

As for not making an offer to Feldman, Duquette said, "We were just monitoring the market and we are concentrating on some other pitchers."

McLouth couldn't be reached for comment Friday, but Feldman said he was a bit surprised the Orioles didn't make a formal attempt to re-sign him.

"It's really hard to get disappointed with the situation I am in, but I was at least expecting a little bit of interest from them. But it's not like I'm mad or anything," said Feldman, who was 5-6 with a 4.27 ERA with the Orioles in 2013. "I will miss a lot of those guys. It's just one of those things. I wasn't sure why there wasn't more interest, but I am thankful I could play there for three months and be in a pennant race."

Feldman, whose wife is from the Houston area, said he felt like the Astros, "wanted me a little more than anybody else. And I am glad it worked out."

The 30-year-old made $6 million in 2013, when he was a combined 12-12 with a 3.86 ERA for the Orioles and Cubs. He became a free agent at a time when clubs are paying a premium for starting pitching. Asked if he had ever imagined signing a $30 million contract, the former 30th round draft pick said, "Maybe in a really good dream or something."

McLouth, 32, batted .258 with 12 homers, 36 RBIs and a team-high 30 stolen bases in 146 games last season. He endeared himself to Orioles' fans with his hustle, solid defense and the unexpected spark he brought in the second half of the 2012 season, when he helped get the club into the postseason for the first time in 14 years.

He signed a one-year, $2 million deal last offseason, but was in for a much bigger payday this winter after proving he could be a contributor for a full year.

The Orioles do not have an obvious replacement for McLouth. The current crop of candidates includes holdovers Steve Pearce, Henry Urrutia — whom Duquette said really impressed him in the Arizona Fall League this year — and Nolan Reimold, who hopes to make a full return from neck surgery.

Also, the Orioles soon will announce a one-year deal with 25-year-old outfielder Francisco Peguero, who hit .200 in 45 at-bats with the San Francisco Giants in the past two seasons, but is a career .306 hitter in the minors. The club was waiting on results from Peguero's Friday physical before making the deal official.

"I'm confident that we will have someone [strong in left] and he will be capable," said Duquette who has built his career on finding undervalued players such as McLouth. "I like this kid we signed, Peguero. He plays good defense, has a good arm and I've never had a .300 hitter that's 25 years old, that's hit that way all the way up. I'm interested to see how he does."

The Orioles also continue to add arms to their bullpen by agreeing to terms with Webb, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound sinkerballer who was 2-6 with a 2.91 ERA for the Miami Marlins in 2013. The Marlins chose not to tender him a contract last week and the Clearwater, Fla., native reportedly had multiple two-year offers before agreeing with the Orioles. The deal will be announced if he passes his physical early next week.

A former fourth-round pick of the Oakland A's in 2004, Webb is 13-15 with a 3.29 ERA in 276 innings in parts of five seasons in the majors with the Marlins and San Diego Padres.

Webb, who pitched mainly in the sixth through eighth innings in 2013, does not have a career save and is not currently considered an option to close for the Orioles. Like recently traded closer Jim Johnson, however, Webb is an extreme groundball pitcher and rarely serves up home runs (13 in 276 innings pitched).

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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