Despite the glut of first basemen still on the free-agent market, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail remains more focused on adding another third baseman to the team's corner infield mix, increasing the likelihood that he could sign either Joe Crede or have a reunion with Miguel Tejada.
The Orioles signed Garrett Atkins last month partially because of his ability to play either third or first, but MacPhail reiterated Monday that the organization's plans for Atkins haven't changed.
"We've made no secret over the fact that it's our preference to have Atkins go to first," MacPhail said.
If that's the case, the Orioles have very few options to fill their third base vacancy beyond Crede and Tejada, who is far more willing to move from shortstop to third than he was when he was a member of the club from 2004 to 2007.
There have been very few reported suitors for Tejada after a season in which he batted .313 with 14 home runs and 86 RBIs in 158 games for the Houston Astros. Team officials have never publicly eliminated Tejada from consideration, but reacquiring him this offseason was viewed as an unlikely move. However, the Orioles' other available options at third have shrunk, and there are several key members of the organization who would very much support Tejada's return.
MacPhail has had talks with both Diego Bentz, Tejada's representative, and Scott Boras, the agent for Crede, who is still believed to be at the top of the Orioles' wish list.
"Crede is an option, but in our view, he's not the only option," MacPhail said. "We've primarily talked to free-agent [third basemen]. We're not completely out of the trade business, and we're still also very much involved in the first base market as well."
"We're just doing what we said we were going to do," said MacPhail, who is looking to add a corner infielder and a left-handed reliever. "There's no magic here. We said we were going to lay low for a while and then we would finish up. I would expect that starting this week we would put the finishing touches on" the roster.
Asked whether the club has made any offers to free agents, MacPhail said: "We've had multiple discussions. The last phase of free agency is over the course of the next week to 10 days. People want to know where they're going for spring training. It's a meaningful time."
The Orioles are also considering free-agent first basemen Hank Blalock and Russell Branyan, and they had director of professional scouting Lee MacPhail in Puerto Rico last week to scout rehabilitating free agent Carlos Delgado, who is trying to prove his hip is healthy by playing winter ball.
"We've zeroed on [Delgado] a little bit. I think we have a pretty good handle on where he is," said Andy MacPhail, declining to get specific.
Free-agent first basemen Ryan Garko, Mike Jacobs and Chad Tracy are all fallback options for the Orioles. They had interest in Adam LaRoche, who signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks on a one-year deal that was slightly above what the Orioles would have offered for the free-agent first baseman.
They also had trade talks about third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, but the Orioles weren't prepared to meet the San Diego Padres' asking price because they already had third base prospects Josh Bell and Brandon Waring in the system. The Padres sent Kouzmanoff to the Oakland Athletics last week.
It is believed that the Florida Marlins would still consider trading Dan Uggla, but he has no desire to leave second base to play third, and the Orioles do not want to have a defensive liability at third base.
NOTES: The Orioles will exchange arbitration figures today with designated hitter Luke Scott and starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. ... MacPhail hasn't spoken to Mark Pieper, the representative for free-agent pitcher Erik Bedard, in "seven to 10 days," but the club still has some interest in its former ace. ... Nothing has changed in the team's negotiations to bring back free-agent pitcher Mark Hendrickson, though MacPhail said that the situation will become clearer over the next 10 days. … The Orioles aren't planning on having a representative at free-agent pitcher Ben Sheets' bullpen session today in Louisiana. ... The Los Angeles Dodgers have been one of the more aggressive suitors for pitcher Rich Hill, who is expected to decline the Orioles' minor league offer.