Whole lot of nothing

Winter meetings fail to produce significant roster changes

Rebuilding the Orioles

December 07, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly | Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly,SUN REPORTERS

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Worn out by two days of trade talks that lasted into the wee hours of the morning, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail stopped what he was doing before midnight Wednesday and went to bed. By then, it had become clear that the significant roster changes MacPhail hoped to make at this week's winter meetings were not going to happen.

Over 3 1/2 days at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, MacPhail listened to a barrage of trade offers, most of them for three of his best players - ace left-hander Erik Bedard, shortstop Miguel Tejada and second baseman Brian Roberts. However, he never received one he viewed as good enough to begin his anticipated rebuilding plan.

Instead, the Orioles' only transactions to their major league roster this week were the signing of journeyman backup catcher Guillermo Quiroz and yesterday's acquisition of 23-year-old reliever Randor Bierd with the third selection in the Rule 5 draft. "Unfortunately, there wasn't as much activity as I thought there would be tradewise," MacPhail said. "I'm disappointed for ourselves and many others, but these meetings were productive for us. We've learned what we need to learn. We have a pretty good idea of what our options may be going forward. In that regard, it was worthwhile. I'd much rather not bring anything home dealwise than a couple of bad ones."

By all accounts, the Orioles were one of the most aggressive teams in trade discussions, and MacPhail made it clear that they are open to trading pretty much anybody not named Nick Markakis. That includes second baseman Brian Roberts, a prime target of the Chicago Cubs.

However, Roberts, the team's lone All-Star last season, doesn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. According to team and industry sources, MacPhail would prefer to move other pieces first, such as Tejada, and trade Roberts as the final - not the first - part of the offseason rebuilding plan. To deal Roberts, the Cubs also likely would need to part with more than just young pitcher Sean Gallagher and another prospect, according to a team source.

Speaking in general, MacPhail said: "We do have a pretty clear understanding of what we think is appropriate. When we get to that level, then that would be something that we could potentially move on. But we're not there."

Several reports yesterday indicated that the Orioles were close to trading Tejada to the Houston Astros, though team sources said they were never imminently close to a deal for their shortstop or anybody else on the roster during the meetings. One team source confirmed that the two teams have had "significant discussions" and the Orioles believe the Astros have enough young talent to get a deal done.

However, a package headed by light-hitting shortstop Adam Everett and outfielder Luke Scott is not close to what it's going to take to pry Tejada from the Orioles. MacPhail also met this week with the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Angels about Tejada. However, the Cardinals and Giants remain short on young, major league-ready talent that they are willing to trade, and the Angels have not aggressively pursued Tejada to this point.

Bedard, on the other hand, was pursued aggressively by more than 10 teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds. One team source agreed with the assessment that the Mariners have emerged as one of the front-runners to land Bedard, with young center fielder Adam Jones as the centerpiece of the package coming back to the Orioles.

However, the Orioles remain committed to getting an organization's top prospects in any deal for Bedard, and so far they haven't been satisfied that has been offered.

The Orioles did make a step toward getting younger yesterday with the acquisition of Bierd, a reliever who was taken out of the Detroit Tigers' organization.

Bierd (6 feet 4, 190 pounds) had impressive numbers last season in stints at Double-A Erie and Single-A Western Michigan, combining for a 4-3 record with a 2.93 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings. The Orioles must keep Bierd on their 25-man roster all season or offer him back to the Tigers for half of the original $50,000 fee.

"It's about trying to add as many arms to the inventory as you can," MacPhail said. "I think what appealed to our guys was command, sinks the ball, good velocity, great downward plane, definitely worthy of a risk."

Note -- MacPhail said no standing offers are on the table for any of the higher-profile free agents. Asked whether the club has any interest in veteran relievers Eric Gagne and Octavio Dotel, who both have closer experience, MacPhail said, "We're examining different options."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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