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O's like landscape at third; Millwood talks continue

Baltimore Sun

- While the Orioles exchange proposals with the Texas Rangers about veteran pitcher Kevin Millwood, they continue to search for their next third baseman.

The Orioles have talked with the Florida Marlins about Dan Uggla, but at this point, the Marlins' asking price of at least two pitching prospects is too high.

They are one of several teams that have talked with the San Diego Padres about Kevin Kouzmanoff, a 28-year-old who has averaged 20 home runs and 82 RBIs the past three seasons. The Padres are looking for young pitching in return. Kouzmanoff, who is arbitration-eligible, is an appealing option to the Orioles because of his power and his ability to move to first when top position prospect Josh Bell is deemed ready for the big leagues.

The Orioles remain mildly interested in the Colorado Rockies' Garrett Atkins, who will likely be nontendered by Saturday's deadline, adding to the list of available free-agent third basemen.

"There are some options available to us at third and not just the free agents, potential trades that we have identified," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "It's a reasonably sized list and again, we're somewhat guided by the fact that we're really pleased with how Josh Bell has responded since he has put on an Orioles uniform. We don't want to do anything that is going to hamper his development, but we also have to be realistic that prospects are just that; they are prospects."

As for free agents, only Chone Figgins and Adrian Beltre have been eliminated from the Orioles' consideration. Figgins signed with the Seattle Mariners, and Beltre is asking for too much money and too many years, and he wants to stay on the West Coast. Another of Scott Boras' clients, Joe Crede, is interested in playing in Baltimore, but his durability issues - he has played in fewer than 100 games three straight seasons - are likely too problematic for the Orioles to overlook.

Pedro Feliz, on whom the Philadelphia Phillies declined to exercise their option for 2010, remains at the top of the Orioles' third-base wish list. Feliz, 34, hit .266 with 12 home runs and 82 RBIs in 2009.

• According to sources, the Rangers originally asked for Orioles right-hander David Hernandez and a lower-level prospect in return for Millwood. The Rangers also agreed to pick up about $3 million of the $12 million owed to the veteran pitcher for the 2010 season, the last on Millwood's contract.

The two sides have since discussed other proposals, and while several teams have inquired about Millwood, the Orioles remain one of the front-runners.

MacPhail wouldn't comment specifically about the trade talks, but he did acknowledge that he has had secondary conversations with teams.

"We have had multiple conversations, and generally that starts marching you toward what can be a conclusion or you find out that route is a dead one," he said. "We don't have anything that I can necessarily identify right now as a phone call away."

Along with trying to acquire Millwood, the Orioles this week have met with several teams peddling veteran pitchers. That includes the Atlanta Braves, who are trying to move Derek Lowe, and the Phillies, who are looking to trade Joe Blanton. The Orioles weren't particularly intrigued in either case.

• The Orioles still haven't made any concrete offers to free agents, MacPhail said. "We've talked in generalities," he said.

The Orioles have met with the agents of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, which represents free-agent first baseman Russell Branyan and relievers Kevin Gregg and Jose Valverde. The Orioles have tepid interest in all three.

They met Tuesday with agents from SFX Baseball Group, which represents pitcher Erik Bedard and sluggers Vladimir Guerrero and Adam LaRoche. The Orioles covet Bedard, a player they traded in February 2008, if his medical records check out. Guerrero and LaRoche are extreme long shots.

MacPhail also confirmed that team officials gathered Tuesday with Randy and Alan Hendricks, who represent Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman. And on the first day of the winter meetings, they met with the Levinson Brothers, who represent Feliz and closer Fernando Rodney.

MacPhail said that he recently spoke with Boras by telephone and will meet with him in person before the end of the meetings.

• While Braves reliever Rafael Soriano accepted arbitration, ending the Orioles' chances of signing him as a free agent, they technically still could acquire the right-hander in a trade.

Soriano has reportedly already given the Braves permission to deal him, which is required to trade any player who has accepted arbitration. According to sources, Orioles officials met with the Braves on Tuesday to discuss scenarios, including ones involving Soriano.

The Braves aren't exactly in a great bargaining position with Soriano, who is expected to earn between $7 million and $8 million in arbitration. Atlanta already signed relievers Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito for a total of approximately $10 million, and they need to free up money to take care of other needs.

NOTES: Looking for a center fielder, the Kansas City Royals are one of the teams that has expressed interest in Felix Pie. However, the Orioles don't think the Royals are a good match for their needs. ... The Orioles weren't one of the teams that watched reliever J.J. Putz's recent throwing session, and they aren't currently interested in the free agent. ... reported Tuesday that the Rockies have interest in free-agent third baseman Melvin Mora, who was the longest-tenured Oriole before the club declined his option this offseason.

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