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It's just chatter at this point, but the Denver Post reported today that the Orioles have expressed interest in Colorado Rockies minor-leaguer Ryan Shealy, a power-hitting first baseman.

Shealy is blocked in Colorado by Todd Helton, and a conversion to the outfield proved unsuccessful. So in that respect, a trade to the Orioles - who know a few things about unsuccessful position switches - makes sense.

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There are surely other teams interested in Shealy, a right-hander hitter who batted .330 with two home runs and 16 RBIs in 91 at-bats for the Rockies last season. But he could fill a glaring need at first base for the Orioles, who are biding their time with Kevin Millar and Jeff Conine at the position and don't have any top prospects on the way.

Shealy missed all of April with an elbow injury, but he has batted .284 with 12 homers and 43 RBIs in 43 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs this season. He homered 26 times at Triple-A a year ago and, at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, is an imposing presence at the plate. Baseball America listed Shealy as the Rockies' No. 9 prospect heading into 2006, though at 26 he's close to outgrowing the 'prospect' moniker.

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The Post article says that the Rockies have identified two players they would accept in a one-for-one trade with the Orioles. And an article in The Sun earlier this week mentioned several Orioles - Millar, Conine, Luis Matos, Javy Lopez, LaTroy Hawkins, Bruce Chen and Rodrigo Lopez - who could be had in the right deal.

There's no telling what the Rockies' asking price is, but they're not going to give this guy away. You'd think if they wanted Matos as an alternative to Cory Sullivan in center field, the deal would be done already. And Colorado doesn't have much use for Millar or Conine.

Most likely the Rockies, who at 36-36 are two games out in the NL West, are targeting pitching. Though I shudder to think what would happen to the ERAs of Chen (6.95) or Lopez (6.85) in Coors Field.

The Orioles will be hesitant to make any trade that seems to indicate they're packing it in for 2006, such as adding a guy like Shealy for a more established major league player. But that's just the kind of deal the O's should be making. Heck, maybe he's the next Ryan Howard. Or maybe he's the next Chris Richard. Either way, wouldn't it be nice to find out?

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