Potential New Targets Still Low On O's Radar

Free Agents Capps, Rodney Could Fill Team's Closer Role

December 16, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,Dan.connolly@baltsun.com

The Orioles' pool of potential free agents expanded this week, but none of the newly available targets has shot to the top of the club's wish list.

President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said his front office has contacted the representatives of several players who were not tendered contracts by their previous clubs at Saturday's deadline.

That group includes corner infielders Garrett Atkins, Ryan Garko and Mike Jacobs and closers Matt Capps and Mike MacDougal.

"It was pretty much what we anticipated," MacPhail said. "And we made a few calls."

None of the players is considered a must-have for the Orioles, but several could fit in with the club's plans, depending on how the market develops.

Perhaps the most intriguing is Capps, who saved 66 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the past three seasons but struggled in 2009 with eight losses, five blown saves and a 5.80 ERA.

Capps, 26, wants a full-time closer's job in 2010, but the Orioles are unlikely to guarantee him that role, instead offering him a chance to compete this spring with a group that includes Jim Johnson, Kam Mickolio and perhaps Koji Uehara.

"We're still talking to everybody right now," said Capps' agent, Paul Kinzer. "We're going to talk to everybody and see who is the most serious. But I'd say the Orioles are a good fit."

Fernando Rodney, who converted 37 of 38 save opportunities for the Detroit Tigers in 2009, is considered the Orioles' top target at closer, but they have yet to make a formal offer. The Orioles also have contacted the representatives for closers Mike Gonzalez and Jose Valverde, but either would cost the Orioles a 2010 second-round draft pick, making them slightly less attractive to a rebuilding club.

Other possibilities include Kevin Gregg, who closed in Florida under the Orioles' current pitching coach, Rick Kranitz, and MacDougal, who was successful in 20 of 21 save opportunities for the Washington Nationals last year.

"Mike will listen to anything. He likes to close, and he's willing to consider any important role late in the game," said MacDougal's agent, Rex Gary. "He's in a position to help a club looking for bullpen help."

As for position players, Atkins, Garko and Jacobs join a crowded group of corner infield targets that includes free agents Carlos Delgado, Hank Blalock, Joe Crede and Nick Johnson, all of whom the Orioles have contacted to express interest.

Atkins, 30, is probably the highest regarded industry-wide, after slugging 21 or more homers for the Colorado Rockies from 2006 to 2008 before hitting just nine in a platoon last year. A right-hander, he has experience playing first or third base.

"I have talked with a lot of teams in the last couple of days and the Orioles are one of them," said Atkins' agent, Jeff Blanks. "I think he is just looking for an opportunity to be a starter."

Jacobs, a left-handed-hitting first baseman who hit 32 homers with the Florida Marlins in 2008 but dropped to 19 after being traded to the Kansas City Royals last year, is considered a fallback option for the Orioles.

In other Orioles-related news:

* International scouting director John Stockstill, along with Orioles scouts Calvin Maduro and Rich Morales, was in Houston on Tuesday watching Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman work out and throw a side session. About 25 teams were on hand to observe the 22-year-old left-hander throw 60 pitches in a simulated game.

Afterward, Stockstill, who had met with Chapman in October, spoke with the player and his representatives for about 40 minutes. Chapman will continue to meet with teams this week, with no timetable for signing.

"It's an ongoing process," Stockstill said. "And we intend to be involved as long as we feel we have a chance."

* MacPhail said he has paid close attention as divisional rivals have made major moves this offseason, with the New York Yankees adding outfielder Curtis Granderson, the Boston Red Sox near a deal for starter John Lackey and the Toronto Blue Jays about to deal ace Roy Halladay.

"We watch it, of course, like everyone does," MacPhail said. "But it really doesn't dictate what we do. We make decisions that we think make sense for us. We have been pretty upfront about what it is we are trying to do. And those things stay the same despite what swirls around us."

Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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