Trade talks, Zumaya, Cespedes, budget, Marlins and more

DALLAS - The Orioles don’t give the outward appearance that they’re busy at the Winter Meetings. They haven’t gone to the podium, though the Marlins are boxing out everyone like Karl Malone, and they haven’t been featured in the hottest rumors unless you count the Prince Fielder stuff that is based on speculation and assumptions. But executive vice president Dan Duquette met with more executives and agents today and is convinced that a trade or two could go down before he boards his flight on Thursday.

I think country singer Charlie Rich said it best when he said, “No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.”

I’ve used that one a few times as an alibi, but I digress...

“We’re just working on a couple of trades that we hope to be able to close before the end of the meetings. There’s a little bit more work to do on them,” Duquette said.

“It’s just a process. It takes a little time. Usually, if you make a trade, you have to assess the physical condition of the players. It takes a little while. There’s a lot at stake in some of these transactions, so it’s just a process.”

That doesn’t mean the Orioles have already reached agreement on the players coming and going.

“We’re working on a couple of deals,” Duquette said. “We’re trying to close a couple of deals between now and the end of the meetings.”

Duquette was asked whether he’s become frustrated by the lack of trades or signings as the Winter Meetings are less than 24 hours from concluding.

“Not yet,” he said.

Is it coming?

“No, no,” he said. “We should be able to add a couple of pieces here.”

Duquette said he wasn’t aware that reliever Joel Zumaya is throwing for teams in Houston next week, so I’ll take that to mean he’s not interested.

The Padres, Red Sox, Mets and Yankees are among the confirmed teams that will be represented. The Tigers are only interested in re-signing him to a minor league deal.

Going back to the Rule 5 draft, the Orioles won’t make a selection unless they firmly believe that the pitcher is far enough advanced to stick in the majors for the entire season.

“If there was somebody there that we thought had a reasonable chance to make the team, then we take a shot at him,” Duquette said.

The Orioles will watch Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes work out Friday, and again privately on Saturday. Manager Buck Showalter, executive director of international recruiting Fred Ferreira, director of international operations David Stockstill and new bullpen coach Bill Castro will attend the sessions.

“We’re just trying to be as active in as many markets as we can be active,” Duquette said. “We said we were going to add resources to the international market, and the addition of Fred Ferreira is that.”

There’s talk in the industry that Cespedes could earn as much as $50 million. Is that figure too rich for the Orioles’ blood?

“I don’t know what the market is for his services, but we’re going to be more active in the international market,” Duquette said.

The Orioles also might check out a second Cuban player, and it would likely be 19-year-old outfielder Jorge Soler.

Duquette was asked whether he has a concrete budget.

“We have a budget for our team for the coming year and we should be able to put together a good team within the budget,” he said.

So the Orioles have a payroll cap?

“There’s appropriate funding to field a competitive team here,” he said, “but we have to make good choices.”

Pressed to state publicly what the range is, Duquette said, “It doesn’t matter what the budget is. It doesn’t matter to the fans. They’re interested in seeing the product, they’re interested in seeing the players, and our job is to put the best team we can within the constraints of the market. You’re not going to hear me talk about the budget or numbers because, to me, it’s not important to the fans. They want to see a good product.”

I’ll let the fans decide if it’s important. I’m out of it.

Duquette chuckled when reminded that the Marlins have spent almost $200 million in less than a week.

When it was suggested that the Marlins are the team of the year, Duquette said, “They’re the team of the winter meetings. Who was the team of the winter meetings last year? Who spent the most money last year?”

The Nationals?

“I’m not sure that’s a terrific distinction, to be the team of the year in December,” Duquette said. “I think it’s more appropriate when you get to October, right?”

The other moves made in these last few days haven’t influenced what the Orioles want to accomplish.

“We still have our plan of what we’re trying to do and we’re still working on trying to fill the holes on our ballclub, so that hasn’t changed. We’re still working on that,” Duquette said.

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