The last time the Orioles made a splash at the winter meetings, they signed free-agent shortstop Miguel Tejada, one of baseball's brightest stars. That was four years ago. Since then, the Orioles barely have been heard from at the annual swap meet.
But Andy MacPhail, Orioles president of baseball operations, arrived in Nashville, Tenn., yesterday, carrying with him two quality trade chips -- Tejada and ace left-hander Erik Bedard -- and a desire to fix the team's flawed and underachieving roster.
Tejada, whose name has been rampant in trade rumors for the past two years, is available to anyone willing to send the Orioles two high-level prospects. Bedard could bring more prospects after talks on a long-term contract extension stalled last week.
"I think they seriously want to make some changes," said one general manager who has engaged in trade discussions with the Orioles this offseason.
MacPhail has been upfront about wanting to make significant moves, standing up in a conference room at last month's general managers meetings and telling his competitors that every Oriole is available. That hasn't changed.
"We'll see how things unfold, but we hope to be busy," he said late last week. "I know a lot of clubs come into these meetings hoping to leave with a couple of transactions under their belts, and we're no different."
Now, the Orioles just need other teams to cooperate. The Orioles' quest to move Tejada was slowed considerably when the Florida Marlins made star third baseman Miguel Cabrera available. Tejada is considered by a few clubs, such as the Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Giants, as a quality fallback plan if they can't land Cabrera.
At this point, a team source said, the Orioles haven't gotten overwhelming interest in Tejada, a four-time All-Star. Defensive concerns -- poor range at shortstop and the uncertainty that he can make the transition to third base -- declining power numbers and his salary ($26 million over the next two seasons) have hurt Tejada's trade value severely, said two baseball executives, who requested anonymity. But there also is a feeling around the industry that Tejada would be energized with a trade to a winning environment, according to one National League executive.
The Orioles' asking price for Tejada -- two high-level prospects -- scared off the St. Louis Cardinals, who instead chose to sign free-agent shortstop Cesar Izturis. Seeking a third baseman, the Giants also have been interested in Tejada, but they aren't looking to deal young pitchers Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum and the talent in their system is relatively thin. The Orioles also have been talking to the Houston Astros about Tejada.
Bedard has attracted a lot of attention in a trade market that also includes the Minnesota Twins' Johan Santana, a two-time Cy Young Award winner. But it remains uncertain whether the Orioles will trade him, and, according to a team source, several members of the organization remain opposed to parting with Bedard, who is two years away from free agency.
MacPhail said last week that stalled contract talks won't "dramatically" affect the club's position on Bedard, and he didn't rule out a revival of the talks in the days ahead. Meanwhile, trade offers for the pitcher continue to roll in. The Orioles rejected the New York Mets' bid of young outfielder Carlos Gomez, reliever Aaron Heilman and pitching prospect Philip Humber.
The Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners are among other teams that have expressed interest, with the Dodgers seemingly having the most to offer in terms of young, major league-ready players.
MacPhail declined to characterize how close he is to making a deal, saying, "You have so many conversations conceptually, but a lot of them are contingent on another club doing A, B or C."
While considering trading two of his best players in Nashville, MacPhail also will try to create interest in several veterans with prohibitive price tags. That group includes Melvin Mora ($17.2 million remaining), Aubrey Huff ($16 million), Ramon Hernandez ($15.5 million), Jay Gibbons ($11.9 million) and Jay Payton ($5 million).
Mora has a blanket no-trade clause, and it is believed he would drop it to play for the Philadelphia Phillies. However, despite getting little production from third base last season, the Phillies' interest in Mora is "low," according to a baseball source.
The Orioles need one starter, a closer, a setup man and at least one outfielder. Manager Dave Trembley sounds confident holes will start getting filled, perhaps as early as this week.
"Everybody has their own timetable and agenda," said Trembley, who will be at the meetings. "I'm confident that our time at the winter meetings will be well spent."