Orioles quietly embark on search for a veteran catcher

The Orioles are looking for a veteran catcher to share time with Caleb Joseph.

One of the first things Dan Duquette did when he arrived at the Winter Meetings on Sunday night was make a round of agent calls to assess the free-agent catching market.

The Orioles are proceeding on the assumption that they will not be able to retain Matt Wieters. So they'll need a veteran catcher to share time with Caleb Joseph while they wait to see how quickly top catching prospect Chance Sisco, 21, develops.

It's not a simple matter because, as Duquette pointed out Monday afternoon, the club really does not know long it will take for Sisco to become major league ready.

"We have a good left-handed hitting prospect in Chance Sisco,'' Duquette said. "A lot of clubs would like to have Chance Sisco and we're glad we have him. I'm not sure he's going to be ready to start the season. We have some other depth behind him, but I would like to see us add another catcher to our club ... another veteran catcher."

Though Duquette seemed to leave open the possibility that Sisco might be ready at some point next season, that seems unlikely, and he said later that a two-year deal for a decent veteran is not out of the question.

Duquette also held out hope that Joseph will bounce back from a frustrating 2016 season and look more like guy who stepped in so ably to replace an injured Wieters in 2014 and '15. Joseph played solid defense in 49 games last year, but did not have a single RBI in 141 plate appearances.

"Caleb had an injury that set him back quite a bit and that affected his year overall,'' Duquette said. "He also needs to re-establish his value as an offensive player. He handles the pitchers well day in and day out, but I know he wants to be a productive hitter, too."

Here are a few other highlights from Duquette's media briefing at the Gaylord National Hotel:

-- Duquette wouldn't confirm nor deny reports that the Orioles had offered a four-year deal to Mark Trumbo, but seemed to be saying that the O's were focused on other priorities.

"Nothing’s really changed from our perspective,'' he said. "We’re still looking around. We want to improve our defense if we can next year in the OF."

-- He danced when asked if he had an idea of the optimum time for the club to decide whether to extend Manny Machado or deal him for a maximum possible return.

"I think that depends on a number of different things: The player, his abilities, the market, the age of the player,'' he said. "I’m not sure. I like the way Manny fits in with the Orioles.

"I noticed the other day when I picked up the [New York] Daily News, Manny was in pinstripes. I kind of like him in an Orioles uniform."

-- On the subject of a potential trade surplus in the starting rotation:

"We’ve had some teams talk to us about our starters on our pitching staff. I don’t think that’s a real priority for the club. We have a number of veteran pitchers and we have some young guys who have emerged and they’re all at the stage in their careers where they should be able to give us some good service and pitch some good games for us."

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