Forget second basemen; why not go after shortstop Jose Reyes?

With Dodgers assistant general manager De Jon Watson interviewing to become the Orioles’ president of baseball operations Wednesday, I’ll continue to play general manager while the position is still vacant.

My colleague Roch Kubatko has posted a list of free agent second basemen. Everyone on the blog is scouring that list for a realistic replacement if Brian Roberts isn’t healthy.

Here’s my advice: Don’t waste your time. With the exception of Brandon Phillips and Robinson Cano, who is expected to resign with the Yankees before hitting the free agent market, this year’s class of free agent second basemen is pretty brutal. Most are over 30 and past their prime.

Aaron Hill is the name that keeps popping up. Hill made $5 million in 2011. Arizona has a club option on his contract for $8 million in 2012. At the very least, Hill’s agent is going to be asking for somewhere in that range. So $5-8 million for a player who hit .246 last season and isn’t the leadoff hitter Buck Showalter will need if Roberts can’t go? Not a good move.

The new GM is going to need every dollar possible to outbid other clubs and bring a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher to Baltimore. Knowing that, I’d stand pat on the second base situation - unless there’s a superstar out there worthy of a major contract.

Based on the available free agents at that position, I think the Orioles are better off hoping Roberts is healthy, and if he’s not, go with Robert Andino or Ryan Adams as the backup plan. Both showed me enough in 2011 to have a chance.

The only problem with that plan is Showalter might still need a legit leadoff hitter in Roberts’ absence.

Remember, I’m the GM here so, here comes the “why not?” of the offseason:

Why not go after Jose Reyes?

Besides adding baseball’s top-ranked free agent shortstop to the roster, the Orioles could erase all their infield question marks. If Roberts is healthy, Reyes can play short. Move J.J. Hardy to third.

If Roberts isn’t healthy, you can play Andino at second. Reyes also plays second, but mostly he’d be at short and Hardy at third. Reyes’ 18 errors in 2011 aren’t anything to be proud of, but adding a switch-hitting leadoff man with a .337 batting average and the eighth-best on-base percentage in the National League can only be a good thing. Plus, at just 28, Reyes would shore up the O’s leadoff spot for years to come.

Plus, Reyes steals bases. It would be nice to see an opposing pitcher have to account for an Orioles baserunner for once.

Reyes is going to cost some money, and the O’s would have to lure the All-Star to Baltimore, which won’t be easy. Baseball analysts predict the O’s won’t make big waves in free agency, and Reyes made $11 million in 2011. That means he’ll command more. Many feel it’s unlikely the Orioles are willing to spend that kind of money.

Just as with a pitcher, the O’s will have to outbid other suitors for Reyes. The club will have to decide how high it’s willing to go for a leadoff hitter.

For comparison, the O’s went as high as $11 million a year for right fielder Nick Markakis. Right now, which player is more worth that kind of money, Reyes or Markakis?

In my opinion, getting a legit starter has to be priority No. 1. Then, if that quest fails, check down to signing a major offensive piece like Reyes, who also fills a hole in the field. The O’s need to make at least one major splash in free agency or they’ll be in the same boat as 2011.

The bottom line is: If the Orioles don’t sure up their rotation, it doesn’t matter if I’m playing second base and Kubatko mans third. The Orioles won’t win many games.