NASHVILLE, Tenn. - I spent the 2011 Winter Meetings stating on a daily basis that the Orioles were going to make a trade. You could count on it. All the signs pointed in that direction.
It finally happened with left-hander Dana Eveland, who was acquired from the Dodgers for two minor leaguers.
I didn't suggest that it would be a blockbuster. I just said "trade."
Well, I'm no longer convinced that the Orioles will pull off a trade here at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. Executive vice president Dan Duquette is committed to finding a hitter for the middle of his lineup, and he's got pitching to offer in return. However, he can't promise that the timing of a deal will coincide with his stay in Nashville. It could be shortly after he returns to Baltimore.
It's going to happen. The question is "when," not "if." Patience is required - or at least recommended.
Duquette noted again last night that he's got a surplus of starters. He also mentioned a surplus of relievers, giving him more options when negotiating with rival executives.
Duquette said pitching isn't an "immediate need," but he continues to seek it from other clubs. It's not a priority - again, he wants a bat first - but he's searching for a veteran starter and insists that the bullpen has room for another reliever.
Day 1 of the Winter Meetings was spent meeting with other clubs and agents regarding position players, but Duquette said, "We've had discussions with a number of agents who represent pitchers."
To fit another reliever in the bullpen, the Orioles would probably have to move one. Duquette didn't necessarily agree with that suggestion, which I floated in his suite last night, but let's do the math.
The Orioles will keep seven relievers. Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop, Luis Ayala, Darren O'Day, Troy Patton and Brian Matusz most likely would occupy six spots. The seventh could go to Tommy Hunter, who's out of options and challenged to crack the rotation. Otherwise, it could be someone like Jake Arrieta or Steve Johnson. Just pick a starter who doesn't get the chance to start.
That seventh spot should be reserved for a long reliever, which the Orioles lacked when they broke camp last spring. Would they really substitute another one-inning guy such as Koji Uehara, who would crawl on his hands and knees to get back to Baltimore?
The bullpen seems pretty set, at least in these eyes, but Duquette doesn't agree and his vote counts a whole lot more than mine. He's had discussions regarding right-handers and left-handers.
If that seventh spot isn't being held for a failed starter, Triple-A Norfolk's rotation is going to be stacked. Or Duquette is prepared to move more than one of his young arms in exchange for a power hitter.
And yes, I was told again last night by an executive with another team that the Orioles' first priority is a power hitter. The position doesn't matter. First base, designated hitter, left field. That's the focus.
Reliever is lower on the list. I'm surprised that it's on there at all.