Aiming to upgrade offense, Orioles continue talks
Baltimore inquires about Twins' Willingham, Royals' Butler, Hosmer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Orioles furthered their search for a middle-of-the-order bat on Monday's Day 1 of the Winter Meetings, meeting with four teams on potential trades and three or four agents to discuss free-agent possibilities.
The focus remains on adding a position player -- preferably via trade -- which is how they have been directing almost all of their efforts, according to executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette.
"We think we have accumulated some solid pitching depth and there's a surplus of starting pitching and surplus of relievers on the roster," Duquette said. "So that's not an immediate need. But we need to fill out our ballclub. We need to fill out our lineup."
While the Orioles hadn't struck a deal in Nashville as of Monday evening, the organization had a successful day with Fred Ferreira named International Scout of the Year and honored at a luncheon at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. Duquette said the club also spent some time going over next year's contracts and what they anticipate having to pay in arbitration.
"We have to fund an additional $22 million in salary raises," Duquette said. "The good news is those players are going to be on our roster and they earned the money by having good years. So I think it's important for people to focus on, the team is paying the players the money that are producing for the ballclub."
Asked about possible payroll constraints, Duquette declined to discuss a specific payroll number, although it's believed the Orioles will stay in the $85 million-$90 million range.
"We have enough money to field a competitive team," he said. "We have a foundation for a competitive team, and I also know that this past year's team connected with the fans, so people have more interest in the team, which will allow us to be a little bit more aggressive as we put our team together -- be a little bit more aggressive in terms of the amount of money that we can put toward our Major League payroll."
It was mentioned that the Orioles were ranked in the middle in terms of payroll last season, but Duquette corrected that.
"We are closer to the bottom 10," he said, "and I don't think we are going to get in the top 10 anytime soon.
"Our market is our market. Our market hasn't really changed dramatically, but we have connected with the fans so there's more interest in our market. But the market size, and what's available to field the team, that hasn't really changed. What has changed is that our ballclub was good on the field and we've connected with the fans so there's more interest. To focus on a number of where we're at, that is not going to help us meet our goals. And I don't think, frankly, I don't think our fans are that focused on it. We have to compete with teams in the American League East and talking about what we have to put towards it is not going to get that job done."
The club did not meet with the agents of Nate McLouth or Joe Saunders, two free agents they want to bring back, and they've had some discussions about adding a reliever --touching base with both left-handers and right-handers -- although that's clearly secondary to adding a bat.
The Orioles -- who non-tendered Mark Reynolds on Friday night -- have inquired about Kansas City's Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer along with Minnesota's Josh Willingham, but aren't in the race for premier free agent Josh Hamilton. Despite a report to the contrary, they don't have interest in free agent Adam LaRoche and aren't particularly high on Nick Swisher, either.
Duquette has shown optimism that the team will be able to add a hitter relatively soon, as the Orioles' success in 2012 has made them a considerably more popular landing spot than a year ago.
"I think that the feedback we are getting is that players are interested in Baltimore, they are interested in what we did this past year," Duquette said. "So we have players that are interested in the opportunity when it comes up, which I think is a good thing."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.