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December 3, 2010

O's making progress with Koji, talking to other relievers

I'm assuming that this won't silence the masses one bit, but I thought it was worth passing along nonetheless.

The Orioles are maintaining regular dialogue with Mark Pieper, the agent for reliever Koji Uehara. While no deal is imminent and it's certainly possible that a team comes in and makes the 35-year-old a two-year offer, I'm told that some progress has been made and Orioles officials feel pretty good about their chances to sign the reliever.

Uehara saved 13 games for the Orioles in 2010 and pitched to a 2.86 ERA. He set a franchise record by not walking a batter in 32 consecutive appearances and he ended the season with a streak of 44 strikeouts since his last walk allowed.

If the Orioles re-signed Uehara -- they'd like to get him back on a one-year deal low in base salary and heavy in incentives -- he would likely return to the closer role.

The Orioles are also talking to the representatives of several other free-agent relievers and have at least one offer out, and have talked contract parameters with several others. The list of free-agent relievers includes Grant Balfour, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Scott Downs, Brian Fuentes and Kerry Wood.

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Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 3:45 PM | | Comments (27)


Hey Jeff,

Good to see you again.

Anyway, if the Orioles sign Koji to a one year deal, I guess I could get my little squirrel paws around that fact. I do see him more as a middle reliever, more so then a bottom of the ninth with the bases jacked kind of guy and he's in there to put out the fire.

Also, I asked Dan C this the other day, but I will ask you to see what your take is.
If the Dodgers were willing to trade Jonathon Broxton would the O's be interested? I said we could offer David Hernandez and someone else for him.
Dan said the O's would never trade a reliever for another.

As for the rest of the relievers you mentioned, they don't exactly "Inspire" me. To be honest our bullpen as it is if healthy isn't too bad really. It's my opinion that the Orioles really need a true #1 and if we could somehow get Broxton that would be some nice gravy on the Christmas Turkey!

Jeff Z's reply: I don't know specifically if the Dodgers are willing to trade Broxton or if they have any interest in David Hernandez. But I would suspect Broxton would be a guy that would interest the Orioles. One thing to consider is the Orioles aren't exactly as deep in the bullpen as it may appear. Albers was just nontendered. Hernandez's name has come up repeteadly in trade talks and they may have to deal him in order to get Bartlett, Hardy or perhaps Mark Reynolds. Berken has a torn labrum and while he should be ready for spring training, you can't exactly count on him until he proves he can pitch with it. There is also the possibility that the O's could move Johnson/Hernandez/Berken in the rotation. So I think it is pretty important for them to add a reliever or two this offseason.

Jeff or Dan,

Do you feel that there is a decent chance that the O's could complete a trade for SS or 3B by Monday?

The O's don't seem to multi-task very well, so it would be nice to get one of the boxes checked off on their list of needs prior to the winter meetings.

Jeff Z's reply: I was told today that there is very little chance any deal or signing gets done by Monday, but that can change pretty quick.


Why is it that it takes so long for this team to get anything done?

The fact that you were explicitly told that nothing is going to happen for another three days is downright depressing.

Jeff Z"s reply: Doesn't mean it won't. I think at this point, any conversations that O's officials have had will restart at winter meetings Monday. But not at all impossible that something comes up and one of O's offers gets accepted. As for the time everything take, that has largely become the Orioles' way over the last decade or so. I can only speak for when I've been covering the team, but MacPhail admits that he is extremely deliberate. And that's big part of it. Also, I think by nature - and sometimes to a fault - the O's front office has been largely reluctant to get out front and take a big risk.

The more I think about it the more the Orioles MUST get Paul Konerko. I know he wants to play for a winner and he wants to be near his kids in AZ. But Konerko will make everyone in the lineup better around him better. We only need 1 winning season for free agents to seriously consider Baltimore. Andy if your reading here is “the plan”. Offer him a 4 year 60 Million dollar contract. Yes I know he is 35 and not worth that much money, and will tie up money in the out years to resign our own. So get creative, structure his contract this way. 20 million in 2011, 20 million in 2012, then give him the option to walk after 2 years if he is not happy with the direction of the team. Or stay for 11 million in 2013 and 14. He is not Barry Bonds, so we know his skills will diminish with age. So there is a good chance a 37 year old will want that 20 million for 2 years.
Next I would take a page out of the Yankees CC playbook. Leak the offer to the media, act appalled that it got out but leak it. You have a players’ union who wants the salaries to remain high and the public who loves the hot stove drama. He would be crazy not to take a guaranteed 40 million with a chance to walk. I think that would get it done.
Sign Wiggy to play third, tell Synder and Bell, that is your position in 1 year, may the best man win. And please don’t trade any pitching for Reynolds unless is either Hernandez or Berken.

IF you get konerko or pena/laroche via FA then really push a trade for reynolds even if you give up a tillman or hearnandez.. DO your best for a SS and another SP and fill out BP. DON'T stop halfway to what Buck needs to make this year a possible difference when we have the money to do it and the interest is rekindling.. NO I don't expect to print playoof tickets yet but with buck respectability is possible I believe..

Any word as to whether there's any interest in Nationals non-tender Joel Peralta?

Jeff Z's reply: Haven't heard his name mentioned, no.

In keeping with the Japanese culture, Koji should do the honorable thing and give the Orioles a discounted year to make up for all the time he spent on the DL during his original two-year deal. As for the other relievers mentioned, I'm sorry but I would never sign a pitcher named Balfour.

Just saw a tweet from Jon Heyman about the Orioles and Mark Reynolds on MLBTR:

#orioles remain most logical landing spot for mark reynolds. heard rhp chris tillman's name has come up in talks.

Can I get some confirmation that I'm not the only one who thinks that Reynolds would be a terrible addition for this team?

Reynolds is butcher of a third baseman who has led MLB in strikeouts three years running and he's coming off a career worst year and would be moving from the NL West to the AL East. And we'd have to give up something significant to get him. And we'd have to pay him $14M guaranteed over the next two seasons. Thanks, but no thanks.

(To those of you who are about to compare Reynolds to Adam Dunn, save it. Dunn's coming off his seventh consecutive season with 38+ homers and he leads Reynolds by 47 points in career OBP and by 85 points in career OPS. Sure, they both strike out a lot and neither of them can field - with Dunn playing a far less critical defensive position - but the similarities end there.)

I know Heyman said today that Tillman's name has come up in talks for Reynolds. Do you think they would possibly consider moving him in a package for Reynolds and Drew? I personally can't see them trading Tillman for Reynolds straight up.

Jeff Z's reply: Me either but not sure. And D'backs reportedly aren't too excited about trading drew.

not brooks,

Reynolds may not be Adam Dunn, but he is a big bat that can go in the middle of the order. His fielding has also steadily improved over the last few years, and most importantly...he kills lefties. I think you may be overestimating what it will take to get this trade done as well. Tillman's name has come up, but I highly doubt Andy would trade him for Reynolds. I imagine Hernandez and another less prospect could get it done.

Not Brooks,

I will gladly give you confirmation.
Mark Reynolds is a "Tomato Can".
I can't say that I have watched him that much for the past two or three seasons that I had the MLB package where I could watch any game that I wanted.
But to get excited about a guy who struck out 200 times is absurd. Add LaRoche as well that tally could get close to 400 strikeouts. That's quite an achievement for all the wrong reasons and clearly would advise the Orioles to just say no to this idea. Also, I see no problem with bringing back Izzy. If B Rob stays healthy that 's a pretty good double play combo. The Orioles needs some continuity here, we can't tear apart the whole infield every year. The Orioles need some stability for once, Also, Jeff maybe you can help out here. I know you like Alex Gordon. I like Alex Gordon. I love Billy Butler and would love to see both of them on the Orioles. The O's might not have enough to get Greinke. I see no reason why we can't offer the Royals something substantial to get Gordon and Bulter.

Lastly, two more things Jeff I will make them quick.
1.) Since I am contrarian, I took a second look at Balfour since someone said they didn't like his name. I like him now because he throws hard. The O's should take a look for sure.

2,) For fans to give you static about your hair is shameful. I don't care if you're a hippie or got the Mr Clean look. What does that have to do with your writing ability or baseball knowledge? The answer is nothing!

Jeff Z"s reply: Thanks for the support Squiirel. There are a couple of things I'm sensitive about but my hair - or lack thereof - is not one of them. I could tell I was going to be bald when I was in high school and I quickly came to grips with that. Plus, the bald or shaved look fits my abrasive personality. As for baseball, I agree with you. The Royals and Orioles seem to make quality trade partners. The Royals have several really good position prospects, but they could use a couple of young pitchers to go with them. They've also had a lot of interest in Felix Pie in the past. So there are elements there to make you believe a deal could get done. I guess the problem is I've never gotten the impression that they are ready to move Butler. Perhaps they will when Hosmer is ready.

I think I heard the offer to Konerko was 2 years $25 million. Again, another in long line of token offers that are there to fools us (and the local media) into thinking they are trying.

In reply to "not brooks," I am not going to "confirm" anything you said because quite frankly, a lot of it is wrong.

First of all, while it is true that Reynolds has been pretty poor with the glove at 3B, the reality is that he's been getting better each and every year and would be much better than Wigginton or Jorge Cantu (I keep seeing his name popping up A LOT and for the life of me I don't know why).

Secondly, your contract information is wrong. He is due $5 million in 2011, and then $7.5 million in 2012. How is that $14 million? He then has a team option for a third year for $11 million, with a $500,000 buyout.

While it is true he strikes out a lot, it is also true that he homers a lot and drives in a lot of runs. It is also true that in each of his years as a full time player, his walk totals have increased each year. His batting average and OBP improved as well until this past season where, guess what, he was dealing with a hand injury for a significant portion of the season. He's also stolen over 20 bases before, he's 27, and he bats RH. You add all of that up for a guy that in a "terrible year" can still hit 32HR and drive in 85 runs (more than any Oriole last season mind you) and that looks like a pretty good option to me.

After all, what else is out there? Answer, nothing.

The only thing I will agree with you on is that I don't want to give up Chris Tillman to get him. But a reliever, no doubt about it. I'd do that in a heartbeat.

lol, not brooks.

Just read the MLBTR snippet, and was all prepared to go loco about it.

I'll pocket the rhetoric between Dunn and Reynolds. (It's killing me to do so, but like squirrel/wayne, I can't help myself sometimes...)

But you are dead on. Tillman, for Reynolds is a horrible, terrible, despicable, unacceptable, wretched idea. Not that Tillman shouldn't be traded, but for *&%$!ing way!!!!!!

Is Bell THAT much worse than Reynolds (

Put Tillman in deals for Zach Grienke or Adrian Gonzales period.

MLBTR also suggests that A-Gon and Red Sox deals are getting closer to a deal. That should be an indication to the FO to get their butts on the phone!!!

Frankly, if Adrian Gonzalez gets moved (and into the AL East on top of that) It hurts to think about. Sigh.

not brooks,

I don't think they would actually have to give up Tillman to get Reynolds.

And assuming they don't have to give up Tillman, I don't think he would be that bad of an addition. Considering that they aren't getting Beltre, the only other options are Reynolds for sure and possibly Kouz (but only if the A's land Beltre themselves).

Last year, Reynolds dealt with some hand injuries as well as the team apparently tinkering with his swing to avoid strikeouts (this I can't remember where I read... but it didn't work). If he's healthy and he goes back to his normal swing, yeah, he'll still strike out a ton, but he'd probably get back his acceptable BA and crank out anywhere from 35-40 HRs. He doesn't seem like an Atkins case. Plus, he's actually got decent speed...

And it's not like the NL West is short on quality pitching...

I seem to remember people clamoring for Reynolds only a year ago. My how times change...

I forgot to mention that Reynolds' BABIP was an insanely low .258 last year.

That has to improve.

It's not like he was declining for years in a row either. He had a .260 BA the year before... plus, he still managed to knock 32 HRs in a horrible down year. Again... not a Garrett Atkins situation.

Tillman for Reynolds? Please tell me this is a joke?!?!?!

Why aren't we looking harder at Vlad Guerero if we are serious about Konerko? Vlad has been been so much more consistent and would be cheaper.

I think Reynolds is a mistake, especially if he costs Tillman. A 40 HR 200 strikeout guy with a low .200's avg is an act of desperation - trading a 22 pitching prospect for is just crazy.

I will agree Dunn is better than Reynolds, but I will post same questions I have before -1. has any team on which Dunn has played ever gotten better? 2. If he is so awesome why did 3 former teams, all with some resources, have no interest in keeping him when his contract expired?

He can't play the field, is a poor base runner, adds nothing to your club house, so for $50 million, the O's would have gotten, not a 1B solution, but an expensive replacement for Luke Scott. He may have been an upgrade at DH, although I'm not sure, but he clearly did not fill a hole at 1B.

For those of you who want to compare Josh Bell to Reynolds chew on these 2010 stats:

They both strike out 1 in 3 plate appearances, but Reynolds works a walk every 7 at bats while Bell manages a walk every 80 at bats (no misprint there).

And Reynolds hits a HR every 18 plate appearances to Bell's 1 every 53 PA.

Plus Reynolds can play first base or DH. I consider Bell better defensibly at 3B.

Good to hear that talks with Uehara are progressing. I hope this incompetent FO can manage to sign him. Koji pitched very well at the end of the year and could be a big piece in next year's pen.

Now, back to offense. Let's put the Dunn fiasco behind us, and let's also stop wasting time and energy fantasizing about Konerko, A. Gonzalez, Fielder, Crawford or Beltre. None of these players is likely to consider signing with a losing organization (at least two have already indicated as much), AM and PA will, as usual, run from the huge contracts that would be involved, and nobody thinks trading away several of the team's best young pitchers is a good idea. At the same time, things can't stay the way they are. Another season like the last one could seriously endanger this team's viability. So, what to do?

In the long run, put more money, care, thought and imagination into radically improving scouting, player development, and amateur and international recruiting.

In the short run (now!), go hard after D. Lee, Reynolds, Bartlett or Hardy, and, if possible, Upton. Keep Scott at DH and package Pie in trade with Izturis, Hernandez, Tillman, and, if necessary, any other pitcher, except Guthrie, Matusz, Arietta and Britton. The result will be a team with slightly weakened pitching (although Britton's call-up should go some way to balance that out), but enormously strengthened run production. Most of the players named above are available and at reasonable cost. The main exception is Upton, who would be hard to get, but would be a great acquisition, via trade, for the O's to build around for many years to come. There would be no holes in this line-up, the O's vulnerability to LH pitching would be greatly reduced, and I suspect the team would win 85-90 games. That, in turn, would make Baltimore more attractive to front rank free agents in the future.

What matters now is not break-the-bank "star" signings--not possible in any case--but the acquisition of good, above-average, steady players to fill EVERY weak spot. NO line-up holes and NO easy outs are the key, leading to TEAM run production that surpasses the self-cancelling output of a mix of great and bad hitters.

But, to get this ship turned around, the GM and the owner must be commmitted to doing so. And there, who knows....

I wouldn't recommend the O's trading for Adrian Gonzales unless we get a extension done before hand, likewise for the Prince.

Besides keeping Izturiz has anyone considered giving Robert Andino a long term look at SS? He has some pop in the bat, and if I remember correctly even though he had alot of errors last year ironically so did Izturis.

I would also rather die at 3b with bell and have either luke scott or Pena at 1b.

"The Royals have several really good position prospects, but they could use a couple of young pitchers to go with them."

Wait a minute. Mike Montgomery? John Lamb? Chris Dwyer? Danny Duffy? Aaron Crow? The Royals have no ptching prospects? Where are you? These guys blow most systems out of the water. They have more than just a few pitching prospects to go with their position prospects.

Do a little research next time.

Jeff Z's reply: I never said they had no pitching prospects. Their system is stacked, I'm well aware. I was speaking of guys who are a little more Major League ready and have already have some big league experience, like Matusz, Arrieta, etc.

Isn't it amazing? The major talk by Oriole fans now is not some blockbuster free agent that we have all been talking about since June 2010, but the possible resigning of Koji Uehara. That's our big "winter" talk scuttlebutt. How pathetic have we come that resigning a player like Uehara should be a major event. Why the hell didn't we just offer him arbitration and get it over with? How depressing.

I really like the list of relievers the Orioles are interested in. If we can pick up any three of those I believe that most of our pitching issues will be resolved. I really think we have some great home grown pitching talent with the starters we have and the Orioles could most likely make it through the season without adding a starter. That being said Greinke would be the exception. Also a deal for Adrien Gonzalez or Prince Fielder would be significant but I would only trade for one great young player. I wouldn't deplete the system on two deals, one or the other. Since we need the big bat at 1st more than we need Greinke that would be my priority. I truly can say that a deal for a third baseman would probably cost less prospect wise and see no issues with getting someone to fill that spot in addition to a 1st baseman or ace pitcher. What are your thoughts?

Why give up solid prospects if you don't have to? Sign Beltre: We want a power hitter--he is and should be for the next few years. Prefer a RH hitter--he is. Would like a good defensive third baseman to support your young pitching--he's the guy with the glove (which shouldn't diminish even if his power numbers do in 4 years).

Then go sign Laroche--solid player that won't cost you as much as other first-basemen nor will it cost you a prospect. Use the money you saved at first and pay for Beltre.

Remember...the mantra isn't Grow the Pitchers, Trade Them for Hitters and then pay said Hitters.

Just Buck-up and Pay the Hitters!

Sign Uhara, Balfour, and Gregg, plus minor league deals with sherrill types.. Use our current BP to trade for reynolds and the SS you really want, sign Pena/Laroche or trade for fielder or a starter.. I would still like to see Jim Johnson in competition for a starter job if Tillman or was traded.. I hope we can keep bergensen and arrieta. Unless we could get a webb I am not convinced the stares out there are that much better than what we got.. AS for innings eaters if you increase each by 30 innings the starters we have are reaching the point of being that themselves.. Adding Johnson, Britton, Vandenhurk, Patton, trade starter, will be fine if we take care of 1B, 3B, and SS.. The bullpen should be fine with the likes of sarfate, mikolio, hoey, and others down at norfolk..


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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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