"We've had some conversations, but there is nothing… (Christian Petersen / Getty…)
With the market for Vladimir Guerrero seemingly slimming by the day, the Orioles have had recent conversations with the agent for the veteran slugger, but they still don't feel they are close to a deal.
"We've had some conversations, but there is nothing on the horizon," said Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, declining to characterize his team's chances of landing the nine-time All-Star.
The Orioles expressed interest in Guerrero, who hit .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBIs for the Texas Rangers in 2010, earlier this offseason as a contingency plan had they been unable to sign a first baseman and needed to play normal designated hitter Luke Scott at the position.
However, since the Orioles signed veteran first baseman Derrek Lee earlier this month, there has been very little dialogue between MacPhail and Guerrero's representatives — Fern Cuza and Diego Bentz — as the club was content with using Scott at designated hitter and a platoon of Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold in left field.
That the two sides have talked this week is an indication both that Guerrero's price tag has dropped, as has his list of suitors. The Tampa Bay Rays, believed to be Guerrero's most likely landing spot 10 days ago, agreed to terms with both Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez on Friday, taking them out of the picture. The Rangers, already planning to use Michael Young in a utility/designated hitter role but still interested in a right-handed bat off the bench, acquired catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli on Tuesday.
Another potential destination, the Los Angeles Angels, whom Guerrero stared for from 2004 to 2009, acquired outfielder Vernon Wells last week. They still haven't ruled out signing Guerrero, but they are more likely to use Bobby Abreu at designated hitter.
Guerrero, who has 436 career home runs and has driven in 100 runs or more 10 different seasons, was looking for a two-year deal worth between $8 million and $10 million per when the offseason began, according to multiple reports.
However, his demands have dropped after seeing other designated hitter types, like Jim Thome ($3 million with the Minnesota Twins), Ramirez ($2 million), Damon ($5.25 million) and Hideki Matsui ($4.25 million with the Oakland Athletics) sign for much less.
It's unknown how much Guerrero's price tag would have to fall for the Orioles to intensify their pursuit of him. The Orioles' current payroll sits at approximately $83 million, which is more than what team officials projected it to be when the offseason started. However, owner Peter Angelos has long admired Guerrero, so it wouldn't be surprising for him to give MacPhail the go-ahead to increase the payroll.
O's to watch Duchscherer on Friday
Free agent starter Justin Duchscherer, a two-time All-Star whose career has been marred by injuries and a bout of depression, will throw a bullpen session on Friday in Arizona in front of an Orioles professional scout.
The Orioles are still looking to increase their starting pitching depth, and Duchscherer, 33, is one of the most attractive remaining options despite the fact that he's started only five games since the start of the 2009 season because of various injuries and ailments. Duchscherer, who had surgery to repair a congenital issue with his left hip in June, is hosting workouts for several teams to prove that he is healthy and ready to pitch during the 2011 season.
"It's routine," MacPhail said. "We do it often. This is probably the third or fourth guy that we've seen throw somewhere [this offseason]. We're just doing our due diligence."
The Orioles have not pursued Joe Blanton and Kenshin Kawakami, two of the pitchers available on the trade market, and they've shown only tepid interest in free agent starters Kevin Millwood and Freddy Garcia.
Around the horn
The Orioles have had recent discussions with Page Odle, the agent for Scott, about a one-year deal that will prevent the designated hitter from going to an arbitration hearing, but no deal is imminent. … Orioles Hall of Fame pitcher and broadcaster Jim Palmer and pitching prospect Brandon Erbe (McDonogh) have been added to autograph sessions for Saturday's FanFest. Palmer has been added to Station No. 3 at 3:20 p.m., and Erbe has been added to Station No. 1 at 4:40 p.m. An updated list of the autograph sessions is available at orioles.com/fanfest.