As the nonwaiver trade deadline approaches Friday, the Orioles are moving further away from making a noteworthy deal - unless it involves closer George Sherrill.
The Orioles have other trade pieces available, but according to several baseball sources, there is little, if any, interest in the club's trio of high-salaried pending free agents: reliever Danys Baez, first baseman Aubrey Huff and third baseman Melvin Mora.
That leaves Sherrill, the club's 2008 All-Star who has converted 20 of 23 save opportunities this season, as the primary target. Several teams have contacted the Orioles about Sherrill, with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels considered favorites because they both have a young corner infield prospect to dangle.
Any Sherrill trade with the Dodgers would likely involve 22-year-old switch-hitting third baseman Josh Bell, who batted .300 with 11 homers and 52 RBIs in his first 92 games this season with Double-A Chattanooga.
With the Angels, the Orioles would be seeking, among others, 24-year-old right-handed hitting third baseman Brandon Wood, who batted .313 with 17 homers and 52 RBIs at Triple-A Salt Lake before being promoted to the majors this month.
Orioles president Andy MacPhail would not talk about specific players or deals but reiterated that the club does not have to trade Sherrill. The 32-year-old left-hander is under club control for two more full seasons.
"There are very few teams in baseball that couldn't use a quality left-handed reliever," MacPhail said. "We don't feel an obligation to be the farm system for a contending team. We'll act on whatever we perceive is in the best interest of the club."
And that might mean waiting until after Friday's nonwaiver deadline to move one of the pending free agents.
The lone suitor for Huff, the San Francisco Giants, filled their biggest need Monday by trading left-handed pitching prospect Scott Barnes to the Cleveland Indians for first baseman Ryan Garko.
Consequently, the Giants have dropped their pursuit of Huff, and no other clubs have shown much interest. That means the Orioles are likely to hold on to their first baseman and might offer him arbitration this winter - which would secure his services for another season. If he declines arbitration and becomes a free agent, he would yield the club two supplemental draft picks in 2010.
It's also possible Huff could be traded in August, when players must first clear trade waivers - which can be revoked if a player is claimed by another team. Huff, who is batting .251 with 11 homers and 57 RBIs after being named the Most Valuable Oriole in 2008, might clear waivers because the claiming club would have to pick up what's left of his $8 million salary.
Baez, who is 4-3 with a 4.40 ERA, and Mora, who is hitting .264 with three homers, most likely would clear trade waivers as well.
Also, according to sources, there has been some casual interest in other Orioles, including outfielder Felix Pie, infielder Ty Wigginton and pitcher Mark Hendrickson. The Colorado Rockies, for instance, have contacted the Orioles about Hendrickson's availability.
Hill's shoulder a concern
After another rough start, Orioles lefty Rich Hill said Monday night that he had been battling tendinitis for much of the season.
On Tuesday, Orioles manager Dave Trembley said the club was aware that Hill was having his shoulder treated, but that was nothing unusual.
"Obviously if it was at such a point where he couldn't pitch, he wouldn't pitch, but it's never been brought to my attention that he was not able to pitch," Trembley said. "I get the medical reports and I see that guys get ice and they get treatments and they have soreness and this and that, and his name has been on [it]. But it's never been a situation that has not allowed him to pitch."
Hill (3-3, 7.80 ERA) likely will be placed on the disabled list or designated for assignment today, when the club officially promotes top prospect Chris Tillman to start against the Kansas City Royals.
Around the horn
Tillman was at the park for an early workout, but left before speaking to reporters. ... Right fielder Nick Markakis batted cleanup for the second time this season and seventh in his career. Huff batted third for the first time in 2009.