Baseball's winter meetings, which are just getting under way in Indianapolis, will never be what they once were.

The days when Bill Veeck and Roland Hemond set up a table in the hotel lobby and put up a handwritten sign that said "Open for Business" are long gone. But this year's offseason convention has a chance to be more of a traditional tradefest than the usual free-agent free-for-all.


Commissioner Bud Selig's announcement last month that some major league teams lost money this year seemed to signal another round of baseball belt-tightening, and there are rumblings that several budget-conscious teams are willing to part with their expensive players.

It is against this recessionary backdrop that the Orioles will begin the next phase of Andy MacPhail's long-term rebuilding program, which now is focused on filling some key holes in the 25-man roster while the youth movement takes another significant step forward.The Orioles have some specific needs, and they have the wherewithal to fill them by either trade or free-agent acquisition. The accompanying chart identifies some of the players who might be available on the trade market and could be prominent in Orioles trade speculation during the next four days.

Whether the Orioles are truly in play for any of them will depend on just how reluctant MacPhail is to dip into the club's pool of young talent to upgrade the batting order, the starting rotation or the back end of the bullpen.

MacPhail has made it clear he's not interested in dealing any of the Orioles' top prospects, and he has downplayed the likelihood of any major moves this week. But the winter meetings have been known to create unexpected synergies that lead to surprising deals.

Back in 1990, for instance, the Toronto Blue Jays and San Diego Padres started out discussing a lesser deal and quickly completed one of the biggest winter meeting trades in history - the Blue Jays dealing stars Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff for likely Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar and eventual World Series hero Joe Carter.

Orioles fans can dream that MacPhail finds a way to pry Miguel Cabrera out of Detroit or Adrian Gonzalez out of San Diego without setting back the Orioles' youth movement. But the O's are far more likely to be spectators if any truly blockbuster deals are completed.

Either way, there figures to be plenty of speculation and intrigue, because - no matter how much MacPhail tries to temper expectations - anything is possible.