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According to a source here, the Orioles have made substantial progress over the past 24 hours on the prospective deal that would send Ramon Hernandez to the Cincinnati Reds for fourth outfielder Ryan Freel and a mid-level prospect.

There is a general manager's meeting going on right now, but it's possible the deal could be announced very soon. If there is any holdup, it could be because the Commissioner's Office will have to approve the deal, since more than $1 million in cash will also change hands to subsidize Ramon's salary.

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O's president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said yesterday that he hoped to get something done at these winter meetings, and this deal would probably be it. The O's don't appear to be close enough with any free agents to get a deal done in the next two days.

Hernandez became expendable for a couple of reasons -- the first, of course, being the quick progress of top catching prospect Matt Wieters. But the Orioles had become increasingly disenchanted with his lack of intensity behind the plate. The club still is reluctant to turn the starting job over to Wieters on Opening Day, but will likely sign a moderately priced free agent veteran to share the job with him.

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