The annual baseball winter meetings begin next Monday in Nashville, Tenn. Last year’s gathering, Dan Duquette’s first in charge, was a relative non-event for the Orioles.
On the final day of last year’s meetings, Duquette made a minor trade to acquire pitcher Dana Eveland and picked up Ryan Flaherty in the Rule 5 Draft. That’s it.
Let’s look at five things the Orioles may accomplish during the winter meetings.
1) Find a first baseman
If the Orioles choose not to tender a contract to Mark Reynolds, making him a free agent, they should negotiate aggressively to try and get a deal done for him—or for someone else.
The Orioles enter the winter meetings with catcher, shortstop, third base, right and center field solidified. If they sign Reynolds, life is much simpler.
If they don’t sign Reynolds, they’ll have to see if they want Chris Davis playing there or sign a designated hitter.
One name that’s been thrown around is Kansas City’s Billy Butler. One of the few nearly exclusive designated hitters, Butler could allow Davis to play first base.
He averages 20 home runs, 91 RBIs and a .300 average each season. At 26, he’s signed for two years at $8 million with a $12.5 million option for 2015.
2) Get a veteran innings eater
The Orioles hope that Jason Hammel will fill this role, but last year, he missed nearly all of the second half after knee surgery.
It’s hard to imagine the team contending again with just one pitcher who has 10 or more wins. In 2011, they had two pitchers with 10 or more and won 24 games fewer than last season.
Joe Saunders would be an ideal addition to bolster the staff, but he’s apparently attracting interest elsewhere.
Scott Feldman, let go by Texas, has signed with the Chicago Cubs. His $6 million-plus incentives price tag was out of Duquette’s range.
There are several younger pitchers, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Tommy Hunter, who might be dealt, but they also may hold on to them for depth in case a veteran isn’t signed.
3) Get some infield depth
The Orioles aren’t expected to re-sign Omar Quintanilla. If he goes, three of the five second basemen last year will be gone: Steve Tolleson and Robert Andino have already found new homes.
Alexi Casilla hasn’t played every day, and it’s overly optimistic to expect Brian Roberts to play second base. Ryan Flaherty must exhibit some strong growth to make the club again.
Wilson Betemit is on hand, but he’s played little second base. He’s more of a stopgap at first and third.
If J.J. Hardy or Manny Machado is hurt, a capable utility infielder should e added.
4) Sort out left field
The Orioles hope that Nolan Reimold will be at full strength. In the first few weeks of the season, Reimold showed to be a capable leadoff man. But, that’s all he played.
If he’s healthy, the Orioles hope he’ll again be a regular, but he still hasn’t played a full season in the majors.
Trayvon Robinson, acquired last week from Seattle for Andino, could be an extra outfielder. So could Xavier Avery, Lew Ford, L.J. Hoes or Nate McLouth, if he’s signed again.
One of the outfielders the Orioles looked at in the market, Jonny Gomes, signed at a price far beyond what the team was willing to pay. If McLouth’s price is reasonable, he could re-sign. If not, perhaps they’ll wait until January or early February and pick up a bargain or two.
5) Decide on a new third base coach
The Orioles have a short list of candidates for third base coach, which now includes Rich Dauer, who was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame last year. Dauer played second base for the Orioles from 1976-85. Dauer was recently let go in Colorado.
Steve Smith is another candidate. Smith was Buck Showalter’s third-base coach in Texas, and worked for Manny Acta in Cleveland the last three years.
Bobby Dickerson and Brian Graham are two of the in-house candidates. For one season, Graham was a non-uniformed coach with the Orioles. Dickerson has a long organizational history.
Last year, the Orioles finalized their coaching staff at the winter meetings.
NOTE: The Philadelphia Phillies signed former Orioles minor league pitcher Brandon Erbe to a minor league contract on Monday.