As the rumors continue to swirl around the Orioles, more and more will revolve around the bullpen.

In recent days the Orioles have been reported as interested in Jesse Crain and Kevin Gregg. They are, but the truth is, the list is much longer.


The Orioles have interest in any competent, veteran reliever, so add in a bunch more. Guys such as Grant Balfour and J.J. Putz and Matt Guerrier and Brian Fuentes and Scott Downs and our old buddy, Will Ohman, among others, are ripe for speculation.

They'll kick the tires on most, run away from the price tag on some and decide against giving up the required draft pick on a few.

But make no mistake, in a deep free-agent class for bullpen arms, the Orioles will sign at least one free-agent reliever and probably more this offseason.

We've talked so much about corner infielders and a shortstop and an innings-eating starter, but bullpen help is a major priority.

There are two reasons for this: One, manager Buck Showalter is a big believer in deep bullpens, especially with a young rotation. He's said multiple times that the importance of defense and strong relief cannot be overlooked.

Secondly, the Orioles' bullpen is a work in progress right now. Koji Uehara and Mark Hendrickson are free agents, Matt Albers could be non-tendered and Jason Berken missed most of the second half due to injury.

Mike Gonzalez, David Hernandez, Jim Johnson, Jim Hoey, Luis Lebron, Troy Patton and Alfredo Simon all have experienced disabled list stints in the past two seasons and Rick VandenHurk is out of options next April.

The Orioles have signed Mitch Atkins and Josh Rupe to be part of the Triple-A Norfolk bullpen, but the organization has to get more arms there, too. The Tides' seven leaders in appearances last season were Armando Gabino, Jim Miller, Dennis Sarfate, Alberto Castillo, Mike Hinckley, Kam Mickolio and Pat Egan.

Most are gone from the organization and only Mickolio is on the 40-man roster. Showalter would like a bevy of big-league-ready arms there, and that hasn't happened yet -- and it may not since a lot of those types have already signed minor-league deals.

Many of the relievers who will get 40-man spots, however, are still out there for the taking -- at the right price.

And it would be a surprise if the Orioles didn't jump heavily into that market.