Orioles pull out of Reimold-for-Bartlett trade talks, move closer to adding relievers

Club decides to keep outfielder instead of sending him to Rays for shortstop

December 07, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — On a rumor-filled Day Two at baseball's winter meetings, the Orioles kept outfielder Nolan Reimold instead of securing a shortstop and moved closer to adding a couple of pitchers to their depleted bullpen.

A day after finding their third baseman with the acquisition of Mark Reynolds, the Orioles came close to landing a new shortstop, but trade talks with the Tampa Bay Rays about Jason Bartlett fell through when the Orioles had second thoughts about dealing Reimold, according to sources.

The Orioles were set to send Reimold, 27, once considered the team's everyday left fielder until he lost the job to Felix Pie during a disastrous 2010 season, and reliever Alfredo Simon to the Rays for Bartlett. However, the Orioles ultimately decided that one year of Bartlett, who is eligible for free agency after the 2011 season, wasn't worth the proposed package. A big part of that decision was the result of a positive report on Reimold from former Orioles star Brady Anderson, who has been training the outfielder in California.

While the chances they will acquire Bartlett aren't totally dead, according to a source, the Orioles are strongly considering other options, including deals for the Minnesota Twins' J.J. Hardy and the St. Louis Cardinals' Brendan Ryan, and re-signing Cesar Izturis, their starting shortstop for the past two seasons.

"We are trying to do some things," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said, declining to specifically address the failed Bartlett talks. "We have had conversations. We have come close on some things. [We're] still working to try to figure out how we can improve different areas. [We] have some offers out. We'll just have to see how this stuff plays out."

The Orioles made their most progress at the Swan and Dolphin Resort in augmenting the bullpen, which has been left thin by the non-tendering of Matt Albers and the trade of David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio for Reynolds.

They met with the agent for Kevin Gregg, who saved 37 games for the Toronto Blue Jays last season, and extended a two-year offer worth between $8 million and $10 million, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. Gregg, a 32-year-old right-hander who has saved 121 games over the past four seasons and has a career 4.03 ERA, has attracted interest from several teams.

The Orioles also engaged in more negotiations with Mark Pieper, the agent for Koji Uehara, the team's best reliever for the second half of last season. MacPhail said he was more optimistic that they'll be able to re-sign the right-hander after the talks with Pieper, but "that doesn't necessarily mean anything."

Uehara had a 2.86 ERA and 13 saves in 43 appearances for the Orioles in 2010. The team's offer is unknown, but it's expected to include multiple incentives for the 35-year-old pitcher who has had four stints on the disabled list in two seasons.

Uehara, who is believed to be leaning toward a Baltimore return — though he could be swayed if another team offers him a guaranteed two-year deal — has also attracted significant interest on the free-agent market.

The Orioles have considered several other relievers, including another of their former closers, George Sherrill. They have set up a meeting with Sherrill's agent this week.

With only eight relievers on their 40-man roster and six of them not far removed from serious injuries, the Orioles are hoping to add several relievers either in trades or major and minor league signings. Manager Buck Showalter was confident they'll be able to do just that.

"There's a lot of things that I know that you're not aware of yet, but as far as some six-year guys that we really like, [we] have the Rule 5 draft coming up shortly, and we also have some free-agent guys that we feel like we are pretty close on, so that number you are talking about could change quickly," Showalter said.

"It's probably a good question for a couple weeks from now when the smoke kind of clears. I know that if we are able to do the things we are talking about doing here shortly, that question won't be relevant anymore."

As for finding a shortstop, Showalter said: "We have some moving parts there. There are some possibilities out there that we continue to look at."

Showalter said the offensively challenged Izturis remains an option and didn't rule out bringing back the veteran in a utility role even had the Orioles landed a player like Bartlett.

That appeared to be a certainty Tuesday until the Orioles had second thoughts about trading Reimold, who hit .207 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 39 big league games last season, a poor follow-up to a rookie season in which he batted .279 with 15 homers and 45 RBIs in 104 games.

Reimold made a slow recovery from Achilles tendon surgery in September 2009 and struggled with off-the-field distractions. He got off to a poor start for the Orioles and was jettisoned to Triple-A Norfolk, where he hit an underwhelming .249 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs in 94 games.

Still, Tuesday's decision is proof that the Orioles aren't ready to give up on Reimold. MacPhail went as far as to say that he expects the outfielder to be with the club come spring training, though he acknowledged that things could always change.

"We have seen two Nolans," MacPhail said. "We're hopeful that the Nolan we get back will resemble more the 2009 [version] than the 2010 [one]."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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