After quiet Day 1, O's see meetings heating up

Baseball

December 06, 2005|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

Dallas -- Most of the Orioles' brass arrived at baseball's winter meetings later than they planned yesterday, the result of the inclement weather on the East Coast.

After arrival, Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan and vice president Jim Duquette met with several clubs to discuss potential deals, along with a few representatives of free agents, but seemingly moved no closer to filling any holes.

"It's Day One," said Flanagan. "We haven't even finished booking all of our meetings. Once you do that, you have a better sense if something is going to happen quickly. But I do think there will be some things done at the winter meetings."

It was essentially a quiet day all around here on the trade and free-agent front, but Flanagan senses things could pick up, starting today, when the Orioles have scheduled meetings with eight or nine teams.

For the Orioles, the focus remains on finding starting pitching. They never were serious contenders for A.J. Burnett, whose future was the overwhelming topic of discussion at the meetings yesterday. Kevin Millwood, another of the top free-agent pitchers, is represented by Scott Boras, whose clients tend to sign late in the process.

The Orioles have some interest in Jarrod Washburn and Matt Morris, but they haven't made offers to either and Washburn is also a Boras client. Several of the teams that the Orioles have talked to seeking a big bat have asked for pitching in return.

That includes the Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies, who are at least listening to offers for Troy Glaus and Bobby Abreu, respectively. At this point, the Orioles are not interested in including young left-hander Erik Bedard in any deal for Abreu.

Thus far, the Orioles have balked, both at trading pitching and some of their top prospects. Flanagan said that the club is reluctant to go for a quick fix - a player who could help them next season, but may not want to stay with the club.

That makes it unlikely they would go after Oakland starter Barry Zito or Tampa Bay slugger Aubrey Huff, both who have one year left on their contracts.

"We would like to add a pitcher or two period," said Flanagan. "Obviously, if you did a couple of those things, it would free up some other pitching [for possible trades]. Everybody we talk to is looking for starting pitching.

"I don't think we are in a position where we want to mortgage the future. We are considering trading possibilities, the results getting a player you would have under control for probably more than a year. There may be certain exceptions, but I can't see giving up a high-level, young prospect for someone that is going to leave at the end of the year."

Their wish list extensive as it is, the Orioles have renewed interest in San Diego free-agent catcher Ramon Hernandez. The Orioles have bigger priorities and would be fine starting next season with Javy Lopez as the every-day catcher and Geronimo Gil as the backup, but they might be able to get Hernandez without having to overpay.

With the New York Mets acquiring Florida Marlins catcher Paul Lo Duca, there are very few teams still seeking a catcher. Hernandez, Bengie Molina and Brad Ausmus are all free agents, but the Orioles prefer Hernandez. Eric Goldschmidt, the agent for Hernandez, said that the catcher is interested in the Orioles.

"That's one area that was talked about," said Flanagan, who has the impression that Lopez wouldn't be totally against being a designated hitter, although the catcher said otherwise last season. "There is a curiosity to go back in and see what is developing. ... But right now, we are comfortable with Javy as our everyday catcher."

Notes -- Flanagan is expected to sit down with Arn Tellem, the representative for free agent Nomar Garciaparra, in Dallas this week. The Orioles have not made an offer to the former Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs infielder, but could be willing to give Garciaparra a two-year deal. Flanagan said that it's his understanding that the former All-Star shortstop would play either first base or the outfield. While the Orioles retain mild interest in outfielder Juan Pierre, they haven't had any discussions with Florida the past few days. ... Manager Sam Perlozzo and pitching coach Leo Mazzone are at the meetings.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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