A small stack of trade chips

It's nice to begin a blog entry without typing in a dateline. There's no place like home.

I won't lie. I feel a little dumb clicking my heels together.

I didn't shop for souvenirs in Dallas - I worried that the bottle of barbecue sauce would shatter in my luggage - but I returned to Sykesville with dirty clothes and a reminder that executive vice president Dan Duquette really does have his work cut out for him.

He doesn't have much to offer in trades if he isn't going to part with anyone from that core group that he wants to build around.

I had more than one rival scout and executive ask, "What's he got that other teams want?" Or it would be a variation on that theme.

Duquette can play "Let's Make A Deal" until he's blue in the face or he runs out of costumes, but he's working at a supreme disadvantage. The Orioles' lack of depth is glaring, and the reminders at these functions are painful.

Adam Jones could bring in a couple of starters and the type of position prospect that's sorely lacking in this farm system. If Duquette isn't going to open a dialogue on a possible contract extension, he's got to strongly consider moving Jones and filling some holes.

Jeremy Guthrie is an attractive trade chip, but the Orioles need to add pitching, not subtract it. And I shudder to think what would happen without his 200 innings. (Yeah, I know, they might finish in last place.)

Nick Markakis' contract is a tough sell. Mark Reynolds' strikeouts, low batting average and regression at third base are a tough sell.

Actually, it might be easier to move Reynolds if the Orioles don't mind giving up his 37 home runs. Most of you probably would have taken them without complaint during the last Winter Meetings. A corner infielder with that kind of power - not to mention the walks and runs scored. But the last time he was available, the most Arizona could get for him were 1 1/2 relievers (I'm not counting Kam Mickolio as a full reliever, no matter how tall he is.)

Matt Wieters is untouchable. Don't even go there.

Be prepared to live in a world where Robert Andino is a prime trade chip.

You can decide whether the Orioles keep signing infielders with second base on their resumes because they might trade Andino or they want added protection in case Brian Roberts can't play. Or does the new CBA include a clause that allows teams to make the playoffs if they have the most utility players?

The Orioles will benefit greatly from Duquette's passion for the international market and his intense focus on scouting and player development. Unfortunately, that's not a quick fix. As an executive from outside the organization noted, we're talking about a three-to-five year process.

In the meantime, Duquette wants to hold onto his core group and build around it, but I'm not sure how that's done unless the Orioles spend big. Not necessarily Marlins or Angels big, but more than they're inclined to do.

They'll be represented today at Yoenis Cespedes' workout in the Dominican Republic, and he'll work out privately for them on Saturday. He'll run, hit and throw. He might be asked to prepare an appetizer out of secret ingredients in a basket. But it's a wasted trip if the Orioles aren't going to outbid everyone else.

Cespedes isn't giving them a hometown discount because he can find Maryland on a map.

Maybe I shouldn't say "wasted," since the Orioles might check out another Cuban player, but don't get your hopes up.

Duquette really has his work cut out for him. It's time to cut some players a big check until the Orioles can supply their own talent the way Tampa Bay is doing.

Sadly, they're a long way from being self-sufficient. Just ask every other executive and scout in baseball.

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