NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Rule 5 draft is over and teams are checking out of the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center and Resort. Any trades or free agent signings will have to be done at home.
It’s never easy to say goodbye. Don’t look back.
Well, executive vice president Dan Duquette looked back at his four days here while meeting with reporters for the final time before boarding his flight.
The Orioles reached agreement with left fielder Nate McLouth on a one-year contract and chose left-hander T.J. McFarland in the Rule 5 draft. They also added a bunch of minor league free agents, including first baseman Conor Jackson, who will be given a chance to make the club out of spring training.
“Things are happening every day for the Orioles,” Duquette said, grinning. “We’re working all the time. As far as some of our trade options, I don’t know if they’re going to come together. We did sign a number of players to minor league deals who will be in camp, and one player in particular that I like is Conor Jackson. He’s got a .271 lifetime batting average in the big leagues and he’s a right-handed hitter. He’s got a lot of time. We think he’ll bounce back and hit effectively with some power. It’s a right-handed power bat that can help us at first base or the outfield. He’s down in the Dominican playing and he’s another option, I think, to help us. And this kid McFarland is pretty good.”
Asked if he’s made any progress in his attempts to find a power bat, Duquette replied, “We made progress in our trade discussions. Some of them develop and you can make a deal and others fall by the wayside. A couple of them have fallen by the wayside, so that’s progress because now we know that’s not an option and we can look someplace else.
“Let’s just take a look at our roster the way it’s currently constituted. We signed an outfielder, McLouth. We have another outfielder in left in (Nolan) Reimold, who we think will be able to come back and play effectively. They’re both qualified major leaguers. We’ve got (Adam) Jones in center, we’ve got (Nick) Markakis in right. Buck (Showalter) has talked about possibly moving Chris Davis to first base. We’ve got some really good second base candidates, we’ve got a Gold Glove shortstop, we’ve got one of the top rookies in the game at third base, we’ve got a Gold Glove catcher.
“We’ve got (Wilson) Betemit, who’s a good DH against right-handed pitching. Got over .500 slugging. And we’ve got (Danny) Valencia, who could be a good DH against left-handed pitching. He’s got a lifetime .316 average. We have a pretty good ballclub today as it’s currently constituted. And we’ve got a bunch of starters and a strong bullpen, so this is a pretty good ballclub with the people we have on it right now.
“We have a full complement of players who can play in the field and we have a good pitching staff that’s returning, so we have a very competitive club as it’s currently constituted. We’re going to continue to look and try to add a couple things to our ballclub, but if we were to break today, we’ve got everybody returning except (Mark) Reynolds and (Joe) Saunders right now. But I think we’ve got some capable people that can do the job that they did for us.”
Duquette is still trying to re-sign Saunders, who reportedly has an offer on the table from the Twins.
“That’s still an option,” Duquette said.
The Orioles will need to add about $22 million in payroll with raises due their nine arbitration-eligible players.
“The players on our roster earned the raises that they’re going to get within the system,” Duquette said. “They had good years. But that money’s got to come out of our payroll. It’s not like our market has expanded. We can field a good, competitive team within the market. And we have a lot more depth to our pitching staff, which to me is the No. 1 key to being competitive. And then we have some young pitchers on the horizon, so we have something to talk about with our team as it’s constituted. It’s still a young, aggressive ballclub. We’ve got good leadership, too. Our manager is tops.”
As for the Rule 5 draft, the Orioles targeted left-handed pitchers and Duquette believes McFarland could be a quality major leaguer in the future. Good sinker, good changeup, keeps the ball down, throws strikes and has a “knack for winning,” Duquette said.
The Orioles wanted to get another lefty in the system, “and this was a cost-effective way of doing that,” Duquette said.
Baseball America rated McFarland as having the best control in the Indians’ system.
Update: Check out this video recap of the Winter Meetings from MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko and Steve Melewski.
Notes: Outfielder Nate McLouth’s physical is scheduled for next week, most likely on Wednesday. His one-year, $2 million deal becomes official when he passes it.
McLouth’s contract includes a $500,000 bonus based on plate appearances.
Also, the Red Sox have reached agreement with reliever Koji Uehara on a one-year deal for a guaranteed $4.25 million, according to reports.
The Orioles were interested in Uehara, but they weren’t going to spend that much on another one-inning reliever. They expected him to sign with another club by the end of the week.
I’m told that reports in Japan had the Orioles offering Uehara a two-year contract, which was false.