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Orioles top priority at winter meetings is landing power bat

BaseballBaltimore OriolesRay FlahertyAlexi CasillaBuck ShowalterJoe Saunders

On the eve of this year's Winter Meetings, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette re-emphasized that the team's top priority this week is acquiring a middle-of-the-order power bat.

Speaking to reporters Sunday night at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Duquette said the Orioles are more likely to address that need via trade, but they will continue to monitor the free agent market.

Duquette fell short of saying he believed he could work a trade here in Nashville, but he sounded optimistic.

"I believe we will be able to do some good here," Duquette said. "We're working all the time. The timing of these deals isn't always [right] at the winter meetings, but it's a good time to close on a deal, so we are going to do what we can to help our team this week."

The non-tendering of first baseman Mark Reynolds, which occurred Friday, created a hole at first base and made the Orioles' need for a power bat a more pressing one, Duquette said. The Orioles are also looking to fill spots in left field and designated hitter. He added it didn't matter whether it was a left-handed or right-handed hitter.

"It really depends on the bat," Duquette said. "I know that we have some flexibility in some other areas.

"That question would be answered by who we might be able to get, right?" he added. "It's really dependent upon the quality of hitter we might add."

Duquette said that since the organization has acquired a "surplus" of pitching, the Orioles could be willing to part with pitching in order to get that power hitter."

"We have more depth through our pitching staff, which is a good thing, right?" Duquette said. "And we have a number of young pitchers on the horizon, in [Kevin] Gausman and [Dylan] Bundy, that could come up during the year and help us. We also have more qualified major league starting pitchers than we have slots. But all those things are good things. So if we have a surplus as perceived by other teams then we could make a trade that could help us in another area."

The team will also monitor recently non-tendered players as options.

Duquette added that he's comfortable with his options at second base — the team claimed Alexi Casilla off waivers — and thinks the team has added organizational speed and defense with the addition of Casilla, outfielder Trayvon Robinson and Yamaico Navarro.

The Orioles also look to be active in Thursday's Rule 5 draft, coming off the success of last year's draft, when they took infielder Ryan Flaherty from the Cubs and were able to retain him all season. The Orioles have the 23rd pick in this year's Rule 5 draft.

"We may be active in the draft this year," Duquette said. "We had some success with it last year with Flaherty, who had a good year."

Also of note:

• Duquette said that while the team still has interest in resigning outfielder Nate McLouth and pitcher Joe Saunders, the Orioles haven't had any contact with Jim Thome.

• Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he had narrowed his third-base coach search and would like to name his selection by the end of the meetings.

eencina@baltsun.com

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BaseballBaltimore OriolesRay FlahertyAlexi CasillaBuck ShowalterJoe Saunders
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