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Plenty of rumors but little action for Orioles at first day of winter meetings

In what has become somewhat of a tradition in the first full day of baseball's winter meetings — both for the Orioles and the league as a whole — plenty of rumors swirled around the massive hallways and lobbies of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel on Monday but little news surfaced.

The first, and perhaps most interesting news conference Monday, was held by New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who announced that lightning rod third baseman Alex Rodriguez will undergo hip surgery and will miss a chunk of the 2013 season.

As for the Orioles, the runners-up to the Yankees in the American League East last year, they didn't get close to making an announcement at the ballroom podium Monday. But club executive vice president Dan Duquette believes he is continuing to lay the groundwork for landing a power hitter.

"Today we met with about four teams about trade discussions and trying to move that ball down the road. We met with three or four agents to see if we could address our needs that way, just by signing a player," Duquette said. "We're still working on a couple of trade options if we can develop them to a point where we can make a trade. But we're not quite there yet. It's still a process."

Duquette, as is his policy, would not name specific targets in either the trade or free agent market. And he wouldn't predict when a deal would or could get done.

"I don't know what the timing of the deals will be, but we are finding out what teams we are compatible with and we are narrowing our options," he said.

Seemingly every hour Monday afternoon there was another rumor involving the Orioles' potential interest in a player, whether it was free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche, free agent pitcher Brett Myers, or possible trade targets such as Washington's Michael Morse, Kansas City's Billy Butler or Pittsburgh's Garrett Jones. Ultimately, the involvement with each seemed to be overplayed as the day progressed.

LaRoche is the most intriguing name, a Gold Glove first baseman that hit 33 homers and drove in 100 runs for the NL East champion Nationals last year. The Orioles aggressively pursued LaRoche in the winter of 2010, but didn't want to offer three guaranteed years. It's unlikely the Orioles would offer three this time around — which LaRoche apparently is seeking — with the lefty now 33 years old.

The Orioles maintain some interest in LaRoche, but they are not expected to make a hefty investment in one player, preferring to acquire a hitter through a trade while purchasing complementary players through free agency.

The common belief is that LaRoche eventually will re-sign with the Nationals, which would then make Morse expendable. He is another intriguing hitter who can play first base, but the Orioles interest is seemingly preliminary — similar to any tire-kicking involving Jones.

Butler, 26, would perhaps be the best fit for the Orioles, a slugging 26-year-old designated hitter and first baseman who made the AL All Star team in 2012. At least one club source, however, believes the Orioles don't have what it would take — an established top-end starter — to pry the popular Butler from the Royals.

Duquette again stressed the club's current strength is pitching depth but is not ruling out the eventual acquisition of more arms.

"We're kind of focused on filling out our lineup … We think we have accumulated some solid pitching depth and there's a surplus of starting pitching and also a surplus of relievers on the roster, so that's not an immediate need, but we do need to fill out our ball club," he said. "We've had discussions with a number of agents that represent pitchers, but most of our work today was on the trade market and signing position players."

As of mid-day Monday, the Orioles had made no plans to speak to the representatives of the 32-year-old Myers, who pitched in 70 games in relief last year for the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros, but is looking to return to his more familiar starting role.

The Orioles, according to Duquette, also did not have discussions Monday with the representatives of left-hander Joe Saunders or outfielder Nate McLouth, both of whom the Orioles would like to retain.

Saunders, according to one source, is seeking a deal of at least three or four years, which could put him out of the Orioles' plans.

When things settle, Duquette believes that the Orioles will be able to fill their holes and improve on the 2012 roster. Until then, there likely will be plenty of rumors involving his club.

"The feedback we are getting is that players are interested in Baltimore, they are interested in what we did this past year so we have players that are interested in the opportunity when it comes up, which I think is a good thing," he said.

"As far as the number of rumors, I couldn't comment on that. It's that time of year, right?"

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