Orioles bring back Moeller

Veteran catcher agrees to minor league deal, will compete for backup job next season

December 05, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

A little more than a month after declining Chad Moeller's 2010 option, the Orioles reached an agreement with the veteran catcher on a minor league deal that includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Moeller, 34, whose leadership and game-calling drew praise from his Orioles teammates last season, will compete with MichelHernandez and Craig Tatum for the backup catcher position behind Matt Wieters.

Hernandez, who played in 30 games for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009, signed a minor league deal with the Orioles this offseason, while Tatum was claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds.

"No. 1, it's a good situation," Moeller said. "The familiarity is huge. There is no secret I've bounced around teams, and you kind of get tired of re-proving yourself each year. ... I just didn't think there was going to be a whole lot that was going to be much greener out there as far as what I have here. It's a desirable situation as far as being a backup catcher. I think this is a good job, and I don't want somebody else to come in and take it."

Moeller made the Orioles' Opening Day roster last season and initially served as a backup to Gregg Zaun. He was designated for assignment May 29 when Wieters' contract was selected by the Orioles. Moeller rejoined the club after Zaun was traded to the Rays in early August.

Moeller hit .258 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 30 games for the Orioles while serving as a mentor for Wieters and the club's young pitching staff. Orioles officials said all along that they wanted Moeller back, but they declined his $850,000 option Oct. 29 to maintain roster flexibility. His current deal pays him the same amount Moeller would have earned had the Orioles accepted his option.

Beltre staying out west?
It appears you can cross Adrian Beltre off the Orioles' free-agent third-base wish list. According to sources, Beltre, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners, is seeking a four- or five-year deal for at least $10 million per season and wants to remain on the West Coast.

Even if Beltre has a sudden interest in joining his friend Cesar Izturis in Baltimore, the Orioles don't want to commit long term to a third baseman with top position prospect Josh Bell close to being big league-ready. While the Orioles initially expressed interest in Beltre, 30, they've had no significant talks with his agent, Scott Boras.

Free agent Pedro Feliz and the Colorado Rockies' Garrett Atkins, who is expected to be nontendered, remain on the Orioles' wish list to fill the third-base vacancy.

New year, new outlook
When Orioles officials went to the winter meetings last year, they coveted Japanese pitchers Kenshin Kawakami and Koji Uehara, and the latter ultimately signed a two-year deal with the club. While the Orioles remain interested in some Japanese pitchers, particularly right-handed setup man Ryota Igarashi and lefty swingman Hisanori Takahashi, they aren't expected to be as aggressive in their pursuit as they were last year.

Two pitchers added
The Orioles reached agreements on minor league contracts and big league spring training invitations with pitchers Alfredo Simon and Frank Mata.


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