Some more free-agent thoughts
The first part of this blog isn’t going to make many Orioles fans happy. I spoke to several agents Tuesday afternoon who represent free agents whom I believe the Orioles’ covet.
None has had substantial conversations with the Orioles so far this offseason. Most hadn’t talked to the Orioles at all yet. One agent I spoke to explained it this way: “I think they are still trying to figure out a plan and, frankly, they are a little behind the 8 ball right now with how long they went without a general manager.”
That said, new executive vice president Dan Duquette told me last night that he talked to several agents in Milwaukee on Tuesday and that the focus was adding depth to the bench.
Since some of those types are floating off the board, you can assume the larger-ticket items are not a top priority since that ilk isn’t typically signed until the winter meetings or later.
But I offer this caution: I don’t expect the Orioles to be particularly aggressive in free agency this offseason. Duquette has gone on record saying that he’ll look at all available avenues to acquire players and he believes free agency is the riskiest path.
That’s not to say they won’t land a free agent or two – they always do – but they don’t appear to be as active right now as some other teams.
One area I think that’s worth mentioning, however, is backup catcher. There have been suggestions from at least one national baseball writer that the Orioles are a fit for Jorge Posada and Ivan Rodriguez.
And I am sure that suggestions of Jason Varitek can’t be far behind, since Duquette once traded for him and because Orioles starter Matt Wieters has plenty in common with Varitek: Georgia Tech backstops and Scott Boras clients.
But those three are not what the Orioles are looking for – at least not now. What the Orioles want is a true backup, not a falling star who still thinks he should start.
The Orioles would like to have a veteran who embraces the role of backup and mentor and, when he is called upon once or twice a week to start, can provide good defense.
The previously mentioned trio wants to play – certainly more than the Orioles can provide an opportunity. And in the cases of Posada and Varitek, their days of being average catchers are in the rear-view mirror. So it would make it difficult for manager Buck Showalter to pinch-run for Wieters in the eighth inning of a tight game, because the drop-off behind the plate would be too severe.
One fit could have been Henry Blanco, the well-regarded 40-year-old Venezuelan, but he re-signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks (several teams inquired about Blanco but not the Orioles). Matt Treanor is also off the board, and Brian Schneider soon could be.
The list is thinning, which means that if a Pudge or a Varitek or a Posada is still standing around in January and the Orioles still have only one catcher on their 40-man roster, well, there could be a marriage. But not right now.
Speaking of drying-up markets, two potential second base targets, Aaron Hill and Mark Ellis, have signed elsewhere. The Orioles weren’t in on them, making me believe that their second base situation is cloudy given the uncertain health of Brian Roberts.
It’s going to be hard to lure a starting second base type to Baltimore if there’s a chance Roberts will be healthy. But the Orioles don’t want to make that assumption and then have no Plan B if he again struggles with his concussion symptoms. The Orioles ideally would like Robert Andino to be a super-sub instead of being stuck at one position.
When I asked Duquette about that situation, he said, “Second base is something to keep an eye on.”