Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail held court in his hotel suite for about 20 minutes with the Baltimore media, preparing for tomorrow's official start of the winter meetings.
He said he is hoping the next four days will be "hectic" and although he is well aware that Oriole fans are growing more and more disenchanted by the day with the club's inactivity, MacPhail said he doesn't feel any added pressure to make moves.
"We have to do those things that we think are in our best interests," said MacPhail, acknowledging that he is not averse to overpaying a free agent as long as he's the type of player who will get the club over the hump.
"They have to pass the litmus test of something that makes sense," MacPhail said. "Those out years do arrive. You have other clubs that are dealing with those issues right now where they handcuff themselves in the future and really don't allow themselves much movement. It's always important to give yourself the opportunity to respond to events and make signings contemporary on player ages and performance as opposed to locking yourself into guys that are going to finish their contracts late in the 30s. Some clubs have the economic wherewithal to absorb that, but I don't think there are very many of them."
There were no huge revelations, nor did I expect any. MacPhail did say he has multiple offers out to free agents but declined to name them. As I've written, they have made an offer to reliever Koji Uehara, along with at least one other reliever. It wouldn't surprise me if that guy is Kevin Gregg, but I can't say that for sure.
The Orioles are not in on free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre. Though Scott Boras said earlier today that geography is not a big factor in where Beltre signs, it is clear that the player doesn't want to play in Baltimore. And even if he did, the Orioles aren't interested in getting anywhere near his asking price.
Also, do not expect -- I hope by now you wouldn't -- any huge deals for a slugger, like Prince Fielder. The Orioles feel like the combination of the prospects they would need to give up and the money it would cost to extend them is simply too much. (Remember, don't shoot the messenger.)
Since the Orioles were not in on Jayson Werth, who agreed to an eye-popping, seven-year, $126 million deal that is the talk of the winter meetings so far, and not in the bidding for Beltre and not involved in huge trade talk for a celebrated slugger (Mark Reynolds doesn't count), MacPhail was asked where this much-discussed, middle-of-the-order bat was going to come from.
"We're going to have to look at all the different positions and try to juice up the offense as much as we can," he said. "We still have third [base], short, first. I wouldn't rule out the outfield in different ways. It would have been cleaner to just make a big free-agent signing, but those weren't in the cards for us, so now we have to respond to them."
The Orioles do have some interest in first basemen Carlos Pena and Adam LaRoche. However, according to one source, Derrek Lee isn't exactly high on coming to Baltimore. We'll see whether he has better options.
On the Koji front, his agent told the Japanese media today that six teams are in on the bidding with the Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals being among that group. MacPhail didn't completely rule out offering the oft-injured Uehara two guaranteed years, but it certainly is not the club's preference.
"We're trying to protect ourselves in the event that he's not on the field," MacPhail said. "If he's on the field, we're happy with his performance. Anything that makes sense for us that stands that scrutiny, we would consider. We wouldn't rule anything out."
MacPhail did say he would hope to upgrade the bullpen this week and acknowledged "we're working toward different things."
While MacPhail wouldn't rule out trading young pitching, it's an area where he'll tread carefully.
"There are certain aspects of our club where we're going to try to be judicious," he said. "I've made no secret of the fact that to me, it's all about starting pitching. You just have to grow it. I think the reason once [manager Buck Showalter] got here our team performed as well as it did over the last two months was our starting pitching. That's something we have to be very protective about unless we really get something that we think is an offer we can't refuse."
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