Pre-winter meeting tidbits (Part 1): Konerko, Jenks, Koji and Reynolds
I hate to be the bearer of bad news for some, but the more I hear, the clearer it becomes that the Orioles’ interest in free agent slugging first baseman Paul Konerko is largely overblown. Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail has had conversations with Konerko’s agent, Craig Landis. They have talked about the parameters of a deal and Konerko’s interest in playing in Baltimore. But to say Konerko’s camp is weighing this huge offer from the Orioles -- as has been reported -- isn’t really accurate. The Orioles, like everyone else in the big leagues, are convinced that Konerko is re-signing with the Chicago White Sox. The next person I speak to in the organization who feels the O’s have a shot at Konerko would be the first.
Speaking of the White Sox, I’m told the Orioles contacted the agent for burly closer Bobby Jenks shortly after learning that Jenks had been non-tendered by Chicago. Perhaps they aren’t as confident that they’ll be able to re-sign Koji Uehara as they are acting. Or perhaps they want to sign both to strengthen the back end of a bullpen and give themselves more flexibility to trade David Hernandez or move Hernandez, Jason Berken or Jim Johnson into the rotation. Either way, the Orioles are interested in Jenks and should have more conversations with his agent at the coming winter meetings.
Speaking of Uehara, I’m told by veteran scribe Hideki Okuda, a great resource for American beat guys on all things Japanese baseball, that the reliever posted a message on his personal website saying he just moved to a new place in Baltimore. Perhaps this means nothing, or perhaps it’s the latest sign that Uehara is comfortable in Baltimore and wants to remain here in 2011. I’ve written all this before: Uehara’s young son goes to school in Baltimore and is making great progress in learning the language and the culture. That’s something Uehara would probably prefer not to disrupt. Uehara has been seen at at least two Ravens games wearing a Ray Lewis jersey and a wide smile. He also loves closing games, an opportunity he won’t necessarily get elsewhere. The Orioles have made progress on contract talks with him, and if I’m a betting man on something that gets done at the winter meetings, I’d put my money on re-signing Uehara. Then again, with the way things are going with the Orioles this offseason, another team will probably swoop in and offer him a two-year deal.
With Adrian Beltre mostly out of the picture, the Orioles have few other third base options besides Ty Wigginton or Mark Reynolds, who appears on his way out of Arizona. SI’s Jon Heyman reported that Chris Tillman’s name has been discussed. I’ve heard the names Josh Bell and David Hernandez mentioned, and that Arizona is really looking to bolster its bullpen with a couple of young arms. I don’t know this for sure, but my gut is that the Orioles would rather trade Tillman in a deal that would land them less risky of a slugger than Reynolds who will hit his homers but also strike out at a dizzying pace. Either way, the Orioles aren’t completely sold on Reynolds -- for good reason -- and still aren’t budging on the Diamondbacks’ asking price, but the sense is that the deal is out there if they want it. The same holds true for potential deals involving shortstops J.J. Hardy and Jason Bartlett. The teams are waiting for one another to blink and get desperate, and it hasn’t happened yet.
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