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December 5, 2011

Reader alert: The great migration

Just a heads up for regular readers of this blog who get here by clicking on your "Favorites" menu. We are migrating the blog to a new software, so your favorites link may just take you to the last items on the old software.

What you need to do is click here or go to the baltimoresun.com website and click on the Orioles insider icon in the blogs section, which will take you to the main page of the blog, which has been updated several times today with good stuff from Brooks Robinson, Dan Duquette and the Hall of Fame news conference announcing Ron Santo's pending induction. When you get there, add the main page to your "Favorites" menu and delete the old Orioles Insider line there.

Simple as that. Thanks for being a part of the blog.

New address for Orioles Insider: baltimoresun.com/sports/orioles/blog.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 1:50 PM | | Comments (0)
        

December 4, 2011

Evening briefing

New Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette held his first news briefing of the Winter Meetings this evening and introduced new special assistant Lee Thomas and new executive director of international recruiting Fred Ferreira to the Baltimore-area media.

“I’m looking forward to having both these guys,'' Duquette said. "They’ve got terrific track records in the industry and they will be be a great resource for the all the young people in the organization.”

The feeling obviously is mutual.

"I don’t think people know how good Dan Duquette is,'' Thomas said. "I really don’t. I think there are a lot of people out there who missed the boat on him. He and Buck are going to work great together and if Dan gets him the right players, you’re going to see great things happen. I really believe that.”

Duquette said that he met with two teams earlier in the day and indicated that the Orioles contingent would have a staff meeting on Monday morning before fanning out to make contact with other clubs. He seemed hopeful that the Orioles will be able to get something done here over the next four days, and it's no secret that the club will be seeking pitching help.

“We’d like to support our pitching staff,'' he said. "We’d like to add to our pitching staff and then we’d also like to add a bat in the outfield. Add some depth to our roster. So, I don’t know how quickly this market is going to develop. I have a feeling that some of these (free agent) signings are going to go beyond the Winter Meetings, but we’re looking forward to the hunt this week.

"I don’t want people to be disappointed if we don’t come home (with something), because there are going to be opportunities at the end of the week, after the week is over. We have our shopping list. We’re looking to add depth to our pitching staff and upgrade our team and if we can, add a bat to our team, but we’re also mindful of upgrading our defense.”

Duquette deftly dodged a question about Manny Ramirez, who has reportedly applied for reinstatement, but don't get too excited about that. Ramirez would have to serve at least a 50-day suspension for his second violation of the MLB drug policy.

The Orioles are interested in acquiring a bat, but it seems unlikely that will turn to a one-dimensional DH. Buck Showalter has said that he would like someone who could move in and out of the DH role and help in other areas, but he said he would not be inflexible if the right player became available at the right price.

“I think if there’s a player, we’re always open to all those things,'' Showalter said. "I don’t think we’re in a position to not examine everything and see what might be a fit. You’d like to be able to move some guys in and out of that role, but if the right guy presented himself, it’s not a problem.”

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 7:55 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Duquette on Manny Ramirez

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette laughed as soon as the name Manny Ramirez was brought up to him on Sunday night. He then glanced over his shoulder at manager Buck Showalter.

According to various reports, the slugger has applied for reinstatement but likely would have to serve a 50-game suspension for a failed drug test before he could return to the majors.

As the top executive in Boston, Duquette was the one who signed Ramirez to his massive deal when he was in his prime. So it was an obvious question to ask whether Duquette would have interest now in the 39-year-old slugger.

Duquette really wouldn’t say whether there is or isn’t interest on the Orioles’ end – it’s obviously very early in the process and there are a whole lot of questions that need to be answered. And the Orioles would prefer not to have a DH-only in 2012.

Here is Duquette’s response:

“Manny is always interesting and he’s never predictable, but I don’t know too much about the mechanics of what we would have to do or if we could do it,” Duquette said. “Manny is always a lot of fun to be around and he is very entertaining.”

By the way, according to Fox Sports, Ramirez apparently has hired agents Barry Praver and Scott Shapiro to represent him. The Orioles are plenty familiar with Praver. He represented former Oriole pitcher Sidney Ponson.


Posted by Dan Connolly at 7:40 PM | | Comments (10)
        

Orioles announce hiring of Thomas, Ferreira (updated, Stockstill keeping title/position))

Dan Duquette is continuing to staff his front office with veteran baseball men that he worked with years ago.

In an attempt to revamp the organization’s infrastructure, Duquette, the Orioles’ new executive vice president for baseball operations, has hired former Philadelphia Phillies general manager Lee Thomas as a special assistant and longtime international scouting guru Fred Ferreira as the club’s new international scouting director.

Last week he announced the hiring of new amateur scouting director Gary Rajsich, who worked with Duquette for years with the Boston Red Sox.

Ferreira has held a similar international scouting director position with the New York Yankees, Florida Marlins and the Montreal Expos -- one of Duquette’s former teams. He is credited with signing a host of international players including the Dominican Republic’s Vladimir Guerrero (for the Expos) and Puerto Rico’s Bernie Williams (for the Yankees).

Ferreira also is credited with signing current Orioles’ right hander Rick VandenHurk for the Marlins.

The Orioles have had little to no success in the international market for years. Their most successful signed and developed Dominican players of the past two decades are pitchers Armando Benitez and Daniel Cabrera.

The organization has never signed and developed its own Venezuelan major leaguer. This year, more than 60 Venezuelans were on Major League Baseball’s Opening Day rosters (including infielder Cesar Izturis).

In the 75-year-old Thomas, Duquette is rekindling a relationship he had during the last half of his tenure as the Boston Red Sox’s GM. Thomas served as Duquette’s special assistant there after a long career as a scout and administrator.

Thomas was the GM of the Phillies from 1988 to 1997, and won the Sporting News’ Executive of the Year Award in 1993 when his club made it to the World Series. Duquette hired Thomas to be a special assistant in 1998 and he stayed with the club until 2003 – a year after Duquette was fired by the Red Sox.

Thomas is the first special assistant added by Duquette; former Orioles president Andy MacPhail did not have any special assistants in 2011.

David Stockstill, who has been the organization’s international scouting director since switching job titles with his brother, John, in 2010, will maintain his position and job title. It's unclear how much a role he will have or specifically what it will be, but Duquette said Stockstill and Ferreira will both report directly to him.


John Stockstill will continue as the club’s player development director for the third consecutive season.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 5:30 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Will the Orioles make any significant moves this week?

We conclude our five-part look at the biggest questions facing new executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and the Orioles heading into the winter meetings.

So, bottom line, will the Orioles make any significant moves this week?

We'll let Duquette take a stab at that one.

“I certainly hope we are able to add to the club this week, but the market has been slow developing in recent years,” he said. “Before, free agents traditionally liked to choose their new teams before the holidays. The last several years, that's not been the case.

“But, having said that, I'd sure like to add some players this week.”

Posted by Dan Connolly at 12:00 PM | | Comments (6)
        

Winter Meetings begin...at least for O's

The Orioles contingent is settling in at the Anatole Hotel in Dallas, where the Winter Meetings will officially get underway tomorrow. They will get underway for the Orioles a little later today, with an official announcement of some front office changes.

Look for Lee Thomas to be introduced as one of Dan Duquette's chief lieutenants and some other personnel updates. The Orioles already have introduced scouting director Gary Rajsich and moved some people around, but we'll have a better idea of who's doing what at the meetings in a few hours.

Dan Connolly and I are en route to Dallas right now and will arrive at the hotel in the early afternoon. We'll be bringing you constant updates and interviews from the Winter Meetings all week here at Orioles Insider and on Twitter.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:32 AM | | Comments (0)
        

What is Duquette looking for this week?

We continue our five-part look at the biggest questions facing new vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and the Orioles this week heading into the winter meetings.

What is Duquette looking for this week?

The obvious answer is pitching, both starters and relievers. And he is looking at free agency and trade options.

“That really hasn't changed. We are still working on the pitching,” Duquette said.

In the past, the Orioles have been reluctant to go beyond three years for a free-agent pitcher, and Duquette supports that theory. So that essentially takes them out of signing the top available starters such as C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle.

In fact, there has been little connection between the Orioles and any starters on the free-agent market. That could mean a trade is their best option. Several noteworthy pitchers have been rumored to be available via trade, including the Houston Astros' Wandy Rodriguez, the Chicago Cubs' Matt Garza and a pair of Chicago White Sox, John Danks and Mount St. Joseph alumnus Gavin Floyd.

Aside from pitching, Duquette said the Orioles are targeting an outfielder who can “back up our center fielder and possibly support left field.”

He said a middle infielder is not a top priority because he is “hopeful Brian Roberts will be available to lead off and play second.” If he's not, the Orioles would still have Robert Andino and newly signed infielders Matt Antonelli and Steve Tolleson and “all those are capable players to support second base.”

Another back-burner issue is designated hitter. Manager Buck Showalter would prefer having flexibility at the position, and so it is unlikely the Orioles would sign a DH-only type after being handcuffed by Vladimir Guerrero's inability to play a position last year.

Luke Scott, whose 2011 season was cut short because of shoulder surgery, is still in play. But the Orioles would prefer to re-sign him at a reduced rate from the $6 million-plus he'll be due through arbitration.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 9:00 AM | | Comments (0)
        

So what trade pieces do the Orioles have?

We continue our five-part look at the biggest questions facing new executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and the Orioles heading into the winter meetings.

So whom do they have to trade?

There aren't many movable chips. The Orioles are expected to hold on to center fielder Adam Jones, shortstop J.J. Hardy and catcher Matt Wieters. Right fielder Nick Markakis has a hefty contract and, given the drop-off in his offensive numbers, the Orioles likely couldn't get enough in return to justify trading one of the club's most popular players.

Infielder Mark Reynolds could be moved, but the going rate for him last year was two relievers. So he likely wouldn't be the centerpiece of a deal for a quality starter.

That leaves right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, a free agent at the end of the 2012 season, as the best trade chip. But he is also the only dependable starter in an uncertain rotation.

“My take is that we need to add to the pitching staff,” Duquette said. “Guthrie has been dependable in terms of innings, and we need some more of those, pitchers that are dependable in terms of innings and that can contribute.”

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (7)
        

December 3, 2011

Will Duquette's late hiring hamper Orioles' ability to add pieces this week?

We continue our five-part look at the biggest questions facing new executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and the Orioles heading into the winter meetings.

Will Duquette's late hiring hamper the team's ability to add pieces this week?

It certainly will be interesting to see. Duquette said he doesn't believe so.

“We know what our needs are, and we are in a position to address them,” Duquette said. “Other clubs that had their GMs in place, they are probably a little further down the track. But we've got some good people to add, and we have time to do it.”

The truth is there are plenty of players -- via free agency and the trade market -- who are still available. But the question that can't be answered yet is whether other teams are much further ahead in their negotiations and will simply wrap things up this week.

There is a bad precedent here for the Orioles. In December 2002, Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan were hired essentially as co-GMs and basically went right to the winter meetings with hopes they could land a quality starting pitcher. Three weeks later, they signed left-hander Omar Daal to a two-year, $7.5 million contract.

Daal pitched in just 19 games for the Orioles, winning four times, before injuries ended his career. That signing will always be viewed as a panic move by a tandem that was thrust into a quick turnaround and was left with few options.

Duquette has had more time to prepare, and the market seems to have slowed some in the past decade.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 7:00 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Top questions for O's heading into winter meetings

In his brief tenure as the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations, Dan Duquette has executed a number of firsts.

He made his first trade (acquiring catcher Taylor Teagarden), signed his first free agent to a 40-man roster spot (infielder Matt Antonelli), hired his first important lieutenant (amateur scouting director Gary Rajsich) and rubbed elbows with other top executives at his first general manager meetings since being fired by the Boston Red Sox in 2002.

Now the training wheels -- or, perhaps more appropriately in Duquette's case, the rust -- will officially vanish this week as he represents the Orioles at baseball's annual winter meetings in Dallas. He'll be catching up with old friends and contacts and hoping to make new ones as he attempts to improve an Orioles club that has had a losing record for a franchise-worst 14 straight seasons.

“The winter meetings are fun,” Duquette said. “You are on the hunt. You are trying to get players that will help your team.”

The fun begins in earnest Monday and runs through Thursday. The hunt will be expansive and exhaustive; the club has a number of holes but is unlikely to compete for top-tier free agents. So there likely will be plenty of trade talk with other teams as well as a parade of agents representing mid-level players visiting the Orioles' suite at the Hilton Anatole.

Here are some questions -- and attempts at answers -- heading into the winter meetings, broken down into five installments.

Who will be in the Orioles' contingent?

Duquette is still formalizing his staff, so it's a partial list. Orioles manager Buck Showalter will be there, as will Rajsich and John Stockstill, entering his third season as the club's player development director.

Pro scouts Dave Engle and Bruce Kison are expected to attend, but Lee MacPhail IV, who was reassigned last week from pro scouting director to a regular scouting role, will not. Four men prominent in the Orioles' suite at the past few meetings -- MacPhail; his uncle, former club president Andy MacPhail; former baseball operations director Matt Klentak; and former amateur scouting director Joe Jordan -- will be elsewhere this year.

Because the winter meetings are also part trade show, there will be plenty of support staff and Orioles minor league officials in attendance. And perhaps one or more new hires that have not been announced will be part of the Orioles' brain trust in Dallas.

That could include former Philadelphia Phillies GM Lee Thomas, who reportedly has been hired as a special assistant to Duquette, who has not confirmed the move. By the end of Thursday, there could be a few more additions to Duquette's front office.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 3:57 PM | | Comments (20)
        

Some random Orioles/baseball thoughts

I have the sense the Orioles will make more than one move during next week’s winter meetings. I think one will be a trade of some note. And I think Orioles’ fans will be, for the most part, underwhelmed by the moves. I just don’t see a splash in Dallas or at all this winter, for that matter. But I have been wrong plenty of times.

There are still plenty of huge names out there in free agency. It’s going to make for a wild week of speculation. My guess is the Orioles may be tossed in the mix once or twice, but I don’t think they’ll be a focal point of rumors. And many years they are. Trust me, I’ve lost days off my life proving that an Orioles’ winter meetings’ rumor was untrue.

Here’s another prediction: I’m pretty sure at some point I’ll be in a scrum of reporters attempting to hear what agent Scott Boras has to say. And I’m pretty sure you’ll see a picture of that scrum in a newspaper or sports web site at some point during the next week.

The Orioles’ athletic training staff – Richie Bancells and Brian Ebel – have been named the Major League Athletic Training Staff of the Year by their peers. It’s funny. Bancells and Ebel have received their share of criticism from fans in the past year or two for the number of injuries the Orioles have endured. That’s sort of like blaming your mechanic when your 10-year-old car blows up. Bancells and Ebel have tireless work ethics and are often heralded by the players. Nice to see them get recognized.

I have been told Chong Tae-Hyun, the South Korean submariner, is still considering the Orioles’ offer as well as a lucrative one from a team in the Korean Baseball Organization. The Orioles’ offer is rumored to be two years and in the $3-plus million range. So the team in the KBO must really want him to stick around Korea.


Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (4)
        

December 2, 2011

Orioles hosting '20 in 20' giveaway

According to an Orioles’ press release, the club is sponsoring a “20 prizes in 20 days” sweepstakes this January to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Camden Yards.

To be eligible for the prizes, which will be given away daily from Jan. 6 to 25, visit www.orioles.com/20in20 between now and Jan. 19. No purchase is necessary, but those who renew their season ticket plans or buy new ones before Jan. 19 will be automatically entered in the contest. Purchases do not increase odds of winning.

Here are some of the prizes, according to the press release.


• Your season tickets are free for the 2012 season
• Opportunity to throw out a ceremonial first pitch
• Spring Training getaway for two to Sarasota
• Personalized jersey and cartoon bird cap
• $250 gift card to use at Oriole Park
• Private catered suite for 14 people
• Free parking for the season
• Autographed memorabilia

Posted by Dan Connolly at 2:54 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Prediction Friday: Ravens-Browns and biggest splash at baseball's meetings

For the first time all football season at the bar, beers are on me after being the closest to last week’s 16-6 Ravens’ win over the San Francisco 49ers.

I predicted it would be 16-14, and I said Billy Cundiff would have three field goals. So give me credit for at least being close. I’ll send several drink chips DSC’s way for a 10-7 prediction, however.

A couple of you tried to sneak in on Friday and give me the exact score a day late. Hope the bouncers didn’t hurt you on your way out.

This week, the Ravens have to go to Cleveland, and we know how bad they’ve been on the road against inferior opponents. But I’m not buying it this week.

Ravens win, 30-10. Ray Rice gets three TDs and 150 yards rushing against a porous run defense.

Now it is your turn. Predict the score, the winner and the player of the game.

Let’s switch to baseball. Next week, the sport’s annual meetings are held in Dallas. I’ll be there. And I’m taking two chargers for my phone. It’s the toughest assignment for a baseball writer – without question.

There’s just so many media members there – all trying to be the first to break a story. And let’s just say a lot of non-stories get almost broken.

At the end, though, there always seem to be a team or two that end up being the most active, that get on the podium several times in four days.

I want you to predict which team it will be that makes the biggest splash next week in Dallas. Heck, have a little fun and predict the moves.

Daily Think Special: Prediction Friday: Ravens-Browns

Bonus Think Special: Which baseball team makes the most noise next week in Dallas?

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Connolly's Corner Sports Bar
        

December 1, 2011

FanFest set for Saturday, Jan. 21

The Orioles will hold their annual FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center on Saturday, Jan. 21.

The event -- featuring appearances by Orioles players and coaches past and present, Q&A sessions, interactive games, youth clinics, memorabilia sales and exhibits -- will be from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Season-ticket holders may enter at 10 a.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for those ages 14 and under and 55 and over.

The team's autograph policy will be the same as last year's: Children ages 4-14 can visit a free, "Kids Only" autograph station throughout the day. Vouchers must be purchased in advance at orioles.com for all other autograph stations.

Additional details regarding the sale of autograph vouchers will be announced at a later date. All proceeds will benefit children's charities through OriolesREACH. Last year's vouchers were $15 each.

Tickets for FanFest can be purchased at orioles.com/fanfest, via phone at 888-848-2473 or at the team's official store at the York Galleria in York, Pa. Season-ticket holders receive complimentary tickets.

In conjunction with FanFest, individual game tickets for the 2012 season will go on sale at 10 a.m. Jan. 21. They may be purchased at the Convention Center or the Orioles' box office at the north end of the Warehouse, via phone at 888-848-2473, at orioles.com or at the team store in York.

Posted by Steve Gould at 4:19 PM | | Comments (4)
        

Orioles get Teagarden for minor leaguer Henry and a player to be named (Viola designated)

The Orioles have acquired catcher Taylor Teagarden from the Texas Rangers for minor league pitcher Randy Henry and a player to be named, who is also expected to be a low-level minor leaguer.

The 27-year-old Teagarden is a former third-round pick who has batted .220 in 350 major league at-bats spread over four seasons with the Rangers. He will be added to the 40-man roster and is expected to be the club’s backup catcher to begin the season. He is out of options.

The Orioles had no other catcher on the 40-man roster behind Matt Wieters.

Teagarden was drafted by Texas in 2005 while Orioles manager Buck Showalter managed the Rangers, and he is quite familiar with the defensive-minded backstop who played in just 14 games in the big leagues last year.

Teagarden, once a Rangers top prospect, is known as a good defensive catcher with strong makeup and a good arm, but scouts question whether he’ll ever hit in the majors. He is a career .262 hitter with a .376 on-base percentage in six minor league seasons.

Henry was 5-5 with a 3.33 ERA in 40 games, all in relief, in two seasons in the Orioles’ organization, but he was limited by injuries. An Oklahoman, he was the club’s fourth-round pick in 2009 out of an Arizona junior college.

The Orioles likely will not name the other player involved until after next week's Rule 5 draft.

The team designated left-hander Pedro Viola for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Teagarden.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 2:40 PM | | Comments (8)
        

Orioles talk with Rangers about Teagarden; Mathis could fit backup plan

One of the main priorities you can expect the Orioles to soon address – whether it is this week, during the winter meetings or shortly thereafter – is getting a backup catcher.

The Orioles are looking for someone who is solid defensively and understands his limited role behind starter Matt Wieters -- and right now they have no one since they lost reserve Craig Tatum to the Houston Astros on waivers earlier this offseason.

Therefore, when Dan Duquette was hired as executive vice president, he inherited a team with only one catcher on its 40-man roster and no big-league-ready veterans in the farm system.

That should be taken care of soon.

According to an industry source, the club is having ongoing talks with the Texas Rangers about 27-year-old backstop Taylor Teagarden, a former third-round pick who has batted.220 in 350 major-league at-bats spread over four seasons with the Rangers.

Teagarden was drafted by Texas in 2005 while Orioles manager Buck Showalter managed the Rangers, and he is quite familiar with the defensive-minded backstop who played in just 14 games in the big leagues last year.

Teagarden would probably cost the Orioles a low-level minor leaguer or two. Apparently the teams don’t have a match yet, although names have been tossed out.

Teagarden, once a Rangers’ top prospect, is known as a good defensive catcher with strong makeup and a good arm, but scouts question whether he’ll ever hit in the majors. He is a career .262 hitter with a .376 on-base percentage in six minor league seasons.

Another potential fit could be Los Angeles Angels’ catcher Jeff Mathis, a 28-year-old former first round pick who has hit just .194 in 1,201 big-league at-bats in parts of seven seasons. With the Angels’ acquiring Chris Iannetta from Colorado on Wednesday it appears that Mathis could be the odd man out in Anaheim. Mathis could be non-tendered a contract or traded away.

The Orioles likely would have some interest in Mathis, also considered a good defensive catcher, if he were available at the right price. Especially if they can’t get a deal done to acquire Teagarden or another reserve.

Mathis is probably pretty far down on the list, but the list is getting thinner. The club is also still looking at six-year free agents who can catch, but those likely wouldn't be signed until after the Rule 5 draft.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 12:18 PM | | Comments (4)
        

Who gets your vote for the Hall of Fame class of 2012?

The 2012 Hall of Fame ballot was sent out Monday, and, frankly, there aren’t any really impressive additions for this year.

Former New York Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams leads the group of 13 new candidates, which also includes former Orioles catcher Javy Lopez and Baltimore native Brian Jordan.

Williams was a good player on a great team, an exceptionally nice guy and a heckuva guitar player. But he isn’t a Hall of Fame baseball player. Neither is any of the new crew, in my opinion.

There are 14 holdovers from last year, including top returning vote-getter Barry Larkin and big-game pitcher Jack Morris, who is always the subject of a healthy debate when this time of year rolls around.

Mark McGwire is on for the third year, and Rafael Palmeiro is on for the second time – he got just 11 percent last year (75 percent is needed for induction; 5 percent to stay on the ballot).

The ballots are secret – you won’t know who voted for whom.

But this is your chance to have a BBWAA member hear your thoughts about this year’s Hall class. Which of the eligible former players listed below do you feel belong in the National Baseball Hall of Fame? You can vote for as many as 10 or as few as none.

Here is the list in alphabetical order: Jeff Bagwell, Jeromy Burnitz, Vinny Castilla, Juan Gonzalez, Brian Jordan, Barry Larkin, Javy Lopez, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Bill Mueller, Terry Mulholland, Dale Murphy, Phil Nevin, Rafael Palmeiro, Brad Radke, Tim Raines, Tim Salmon, Ruben Sierra, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker, Bernie Williams, Tony Womack, Eric Young.

Daily Think Special: Of the eligible players, who gets your vote for the Hall of Fame?

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (23)
Categories: Connolly's Corner Sports Bar
        

November 30, 2011

The Hall of Fame -- and old Orioles on the ballot

The 2012 Hall of Fame ballot has been mailed out to roughly 600 eligible members of the Baseball Writer Association of America. Among the 13 new candidates on this year’s ballot are former Orioles catcher Javy Lopez and Baltimore native and Milford Mill graduate Brian Jordan, who was an outfielder for four teams in a 15-season career.

There are no slam-dunk Hall of Famers in the new group that is led by former outfielders Bernie Williams, Tim Salmon and Ruben Sierra and infielder Vinny Castilla.

Also on the ballot are 14 holdovers, including longtime Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who received just 11 percent of the vote last year, his first on the ballot.

Palmeiro amassed than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs in his 20-season career (seven with the Orioles), but a positive test for the banned substance stanozolol in 2005 adversely affected his Hall chances. To stay on the ballot, a player must receive at least 5 percent of the vote submitted by BBWAA members who have at least 10 years in the association.

For election, a player must receive at least 75 percent of the vote. Former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin is the returnee with the most support from last year, when he was named on 62.1 percent of submitted ballots.

Former Orioles Tim Raines and Lee Smith also return to the ballot this year.

Results of the voting will be announced Jan. 9.

Here is the complete ballot: Jeff Bagwell, Jeromy Burnitz, Vinny Castilla, Juan Gonzalez, Brian Jordan, Barry Larkin, Javy Lopez, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Bill Mueller, Terry Mulholland, Dale Murphy, Phil Nevin, Rafael Palmeiro, Brad Radke, Tim Raines, Tim Salmon, Ruben Sierra, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker, Bernie Williams, Tony Womack, Eric Young.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:10 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Chong deciding between Korea and Orioles -- not a medical holdup

South Korean right-hander Chong Tae-Hyon is deciding between staying in his native country to continue to play baseball or accept the Orioles’ offer to join their 40-man roster.

The holdup in signing the 33-year-old submariner is not medical but instead is based on whether he wants to leave Korea for the United States.

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said he hopes to have a decision in a week or so. This is the first time Chong has been a free agent, and the eight-time Korean Baseball Organization All-Star is being pursued heavily in his own country.

If Chong chooses the Orioles – who likely would be offering a multiyear deal and a 40-man roster spot – he would be the first player to go directly from the KBO to the majors. That certainly has its allure.

The Orioles had hoped that Chong would sign last week. He has been in for a physical, but the sides have not reached an official agreement.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 2:27 PM | | Comments (11)
        

Should the Orioles deal Guthrie this winter?

Baseball’s annual meetings start Monday in Dallas.

There will be tons of agents there hoping to get the best deals for their players. I am sure the Orioles will talk to plenty of them, letting them know there is interest in their clients.

And I will not be surprised if, at some point, the Orioles sign one or two free agents for 2012, likely lesser tier players who won’t get eye-popping deals.

But the sense is that if new executive vice president Dan Duquette makes a splash next week – or within the next month – it will be in the form of a trade.

When you look at the Orioles’ roster, there aren’t a whole lot of valuable trade chips. Their most coveted players – Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Zach Britton – are players that can be built around. J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis are solid players with contracts hefty enough that teams aren’t going to hand over the farm while absorbing those salaries.

Mark Reynolds would attract some interest, but remember the going price for him last year was two relievers, so you have to be realistic in what would come back in return. Much of the rest of the roster is filled with marginal big leaguers or inexperienced players who are young enough to have an upside but have not established themselves as future mainstays.

There is one guy, however, who seems utterly tradeable – so much so that we mention his name every winter and every July. And yet right-hander Jeremy Guthrie remains an Oriole.

There is a reason for that. Guthrie is solid and dependable. He will make 30-plus starts, he will throw 200-plus innings and he’ll keep you in most games in the AL East. That can’t be said – at least not yet – for the rest of the Orioles’ projected staff.

So it’s tough to consider trading your one dependable starter from a rotation of question marks.

The flip side is that Guthrie will be 33 in April and a free agent at season’s end. He’ll likely cost $7 million or more in his final year of arbitration considering he’s now thrown 200 innings in three consecutive seasons.

And he has trade value. Not as an ace, the role he is forced to fill in Baltimore, but as a middle-of-the-rotation innings eater on a good team.

And, frankly, the Orioles can lose 90-plus games with or without Guthrie in 2012, so why not deal him for a potential future part or two?

But there is a contingent out there that gasps at the idea of dealing Guthrie, simply because of what his absence would do to the rotation. There’s also the thought of extending Guthrie for another few years since dependable starting pitching is always a commodity.

Which camp are you in?

Daily Think Special: Should Jeremy Guthrie be dealt this winter?

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (39)
Categories: Connolly's Corner Sports Bar
        

November 29, 2011

Orioles unveil 2012 spring training schedule

The Orioles on Tuesday announced their 2012 Grapefruit League schedule. The O's spring-training slate beings March 5 with an afternoon split-squad game against Tampa Bay in Port Charlotte and a night game against Pittsburgh at Ed Smith Stadium.

The O's will host 10 different teams during the spring campaign, including the Boston Red Sox three times, and the Minnesota Twins, Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays two times apiece. The Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals will each make one visit to Ed Smith Stadium.

The Orioles will play 15 games on the road during the 2012 Grapefruit League schedule. They will make two trips to play the Blue Jays, Phillies, Rays, Red Sox, Twins and Pirates and one trip to face the Braves, Tigers and Yankees.

For more information on Orioles spring training, click here. Check out the complete schedule below.

Continue reading "Orioles unveil 2012 spring training schedule" »

Posted by Baltimore Sun sports at 5:22 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Duquette believes Orioles staffing levels are sufficient

One of the things that interested me the most during Monday’s teleconference with Dan Duquette and new amateur scouting director Gary Rajsich was Duquette’s reaction when asked about the organization’s number of scouts.

This has been a bone of contention with many in the organization throughout the years. The Orioles trail many of their AL counterparts, especially East rivals the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox, in resources and employees in their respective scouting departments. International, especially, is a comparative joke.

Duquette and Rajsich both said that one of their priorities is to fill some of the holes that were created this offseason when certain scouts left or were dismissed (as part of normal attrition). Beyond that, though, Duquette said he is comfortable with the numbers.

“In regards to the staffing and the staffing levels, we have appropriate staffing levels and we are going to be making some other changes to the staff to make sure that we are strong, not just in amateur scouting, but in professional and international scouting as well,” Duquette said.

So it seems like it will be more of a change in how the current personnel is utilized than a big spike in staffing numbers. Interesting development.

Truth is, some people within the past regime felt that was one of the things Andy MacPhail didn’t do well. He didn’t fully utilize those at his disposal, from his top assistants down to his area scouts. He was somewhat hands off when it came to that aspect of managing.

The Duquette regime, at least in this matter, looks like it will be different.


Posted by Dan Connolly at 10:00 AM | | Comments (2)
        

November 28, 2011

Orioles coaching staff nearing completion: Castro, Hale

Looks like the Orioles 2012 coaching staff is just about set.

The club is expected to hire former Milwaukee Brewers coach Bill Castro to be bullpen coach and would like to hire Boston Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale to be third base coach, according to an industry source.

Hale’s situation is a little tricky since he is still under contract with the Red Sox, who don’t currently have a manager and therefore cannot commit to whether Hale will be retained. The Orioles hope to know this week whether Hale will join them and manager Buck Showalter, who worked with Hale for three seasons in Texas.

The Orioles are considering other options if Hale remains in Boston.

Hale, 50, was on Showalter’s coaching staff in Texas from 2003 to 2005. He has spent the past six seasons as a coach for Red Sox, including four as a third base coach. A former first baseman/outfielder in the minors, Hale also would be in charge of infield instruction with the Orioles.

Showalter is looking for an experienced third base coach to replace Willie Randolph and Hale fits that requirement. Long considered a future manager, Hale likely would have been a candidate for the Orioles’ managerial job this offseason if Showalter had moved to the front office.

Castro, 59, spent 10 seasons as a major-league pitcher, almost all as a reliever, with the Brewers, New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals. He spent nearly two decades as a bullpen coach and, at times, a pitching coach with the Brewers.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Castro would be the Orioles’ lone Spanish-speaking coach.

The Orioles other four coaches are: Jim Presley (hitting), Rick Adair (pitching) Wayne Kirby (outfield/first base) and John Russell (bench/catching).

It’s possible the Orioles could also hire a seventh coach, who would be able to suit up before games, but must be out of uniform and out of the dugout by game time.

Former Orioles infielder Mike Bordick could potentially fill that role during home games and then work with minor leaguers when the Orioles are on the road. Or he could continue in a full-time minor league instruction position.

MASNsports.com first reported Castro as a candidate for the bullpen job and mlb.com first reported Castro agreed to the position.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 10:30 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Some extra from Gary Rajsich, new amateur scouting director

Gary Rajsich, the Orioles’ new amateur scouting director had a teleconference with the Baltimore media on Monday afternoon.

Here are some things he said that struck me as worth passing on to you.

Rajsich on being hired by Dan Duquette: “I’m very excited about the new job and the challenges ahead. And I am very grateful to Dan for this opportunity to possibly have an impact on the Baltimore Orioles’ major league club.”

On having no experience on the administrative/director side of scouting: “Administratively, I think I will have a lot of help in place to help me with those things. I do have a lot to learn and I’m looking forward to the challenge. I think once we get people in place and they are all very good at what they do, I think the administrative and technical side of the job will be handled well. And it will be a good blend of evaluation and office skills to maximize our success really in getting the right players.”

On the difference between scouting on the pro and amateur levels: “The last nine years I have been looking at pro players that belong to someone else and now there’s a chance to go out and evaluate and draft and acquire players that you can actually get. In that sense it is very exciting. To me, scouting is scouting no matter what level. Just to recognize talent, bring those kids into a system, watch them develop and watch them peak and win for you at the major-league level is very satisfying.”

On a draft preference between college and high school players: “I really don’t have a preference. I don’t think you can pull yourself off from one segment of draft-eligible players. … I think they are equally important. The philosophy for me is to draft players with talent, great makeup and upside and turn them over to the farm system and develop them into winners.”

On his current scouting staff: “A few of them I know and have a relationship with in the past. There are a few holes to fill, but I think that will be one of our first orders of business to fill those positions and get our staff squared away and then go forward from there.”

On scouting in the AL East: “I do have an understanding of the American League East, I have an idea of the product that needs to be on the field to compete and win. I definitely am going to try and raise the bar here and that we scout and we evaluate talent to do just that.”

On support from ownership and Duquette to be able to sign draftees: “I think that the amateur scouting department has had the support of ownership to sign players over the last several years according to their records so that wasn’t a concern of mine. I know Dan knows the importance of signing good players and signing the right players and that’s where we’ll target our funds.”


Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:50 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Lee MacPhail IV to be reassigned

During his teleconference announcing that Gary Rajsich as the Orioles new amateur scouting director, Orioles' executive vice president Dan Duquette said there has also been another change in his front office.

Pro scouting director Lee MacPhail IV has been reassigned within the scouting department. Duquette wasn't specific about duties, but the assumption is MacPhail will continue to scout for the club without administrative or supervising responsibilities.

"I’ll do whatever is needed. I am an Oriole," MacPhail said. "I'm happy to be here and I'll do whatever is asked."

MacPhail, the nephew of former club president Andy MacPhail, has held the position since October 2007.

Duquette said he was still working on the structure of his front office and it seems likely the club will not have a specific pro scouting director.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 3:28 PM | | Comments (2)
        
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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.


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