Orioles notes: LaRoche, Blanton, Thames
I’m as sick of providing incremental updates on the Orioles’ search for a first baseman as you are of reading them. However, I’m still getting daily questions about it, so I feel compelled to address them. Here is what I feel comfortable in saying: The Orioles have been negotiating daily with Mike Milchin, the agent for Adam LaRoche. They clearly are focused on getting a deal done with him, so much so that Derrek Lee appears to be on the back burner. LaRoche also maintains interest in playing for the Orioles, though they aren’t his only option. Despite the daily negotiations and the mutual interest, a deal wasn’t imminent as of last night, according to people on both sides. I wish I had more information for you as to why. LaRoche reportedly wants a three-year deal, so perhaps that’s the big holdup. I cannot say for sure, as neither side is returning calls.
At this point, the Orioles are not in on veteran pitcher Joe Blanton, who is expected to be traded by the Philadelphia Phillies after their signing of ace lefty Cliff Lee. The Orioles are still looking for a veteran pitcher, but they’re not all that high on Blanton and don’t necessarily think he is a great fit in the American League East. He’s also still due $17 million, and while the Phillies would undoubtedly absorb a chunk of that money, the Orioles would also have to give up something to get him. It’s possible that after acquiring a first baseman and one or two relievers, the Orioles could decide that a veteran starting pitcher is the final piece of the puzzle for a solid offseason, and they could make a play for Blanton. However, that appears unlikely at this point.
While the Orioles’ focus is elsewhere, they are acutely aware that they could use another bat off the bench. There are still moves to be made, but as of now, their three- or four-man bench would include some combination of Craig Tatum, Jake Fox, Cesar Izturis, Felix Pie, Nolan Reimold, Robert Andino and Brendan Harris. One player to keep an eye on is free-agent outfielder Marcus Thames. The Orioles have spoken to Thames’ agent, but it’s nothing serious at this point because the club is trying to figure out what it's going to do at first base and designated hitter. I also read earlier this offseason that Thames might be headed to Japan, so perhaps this is a moot point. I do think Thames would be a nice fit. Orioles manager Buck Showalter likes Thames, who came up with the New York Yankees and also played one year in Texas, both as a player and a person. Thames handles left-handed pitching, long a problem area for the club. His power -- he had 12 homers in 212 at-bats last year -- and his ability to play both the outfield and first base would really give Showalter some flexibility and some pop off the bench.
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