NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette began tonight’s media session by talking about the one-year contract that outfielder Nate McLouth agreed to this afternoon.
“We’ve been looking to sign an outfielder for our club, and pending a physical, which is always very important to the Orioles, it looks like we’re going to be able to agree to a deal with Nate McLouth,” Duquette said.
“He did a great job for us last year when we brought him up. He helped solidify the team defensively and he hit with some power. He got on base. He was an excellent base stealer, and he did a terrific job when Nick Markakis went down, moving into that leadoff slot. And he was one of our leading players during our playoff run. He’s a real gritty player and our fans connected with him. And he really liked the football atmosphere, he termed it, at the ballpark. It looks like it’s going to be a good thing for the team to bring him back.
“I wasn’t clear that it was going to happen because we started our discussions with him quite a while back, but I thought it needed to happen this week because there were some other outfielders that we had some interest in, and in fairness to the team, we really needed to get some certainty about who was going to fill that job.”
The Orioles are done scouring the trade and free agent markets for outfielders.
“I think we have enough outfielders,” Duquette said, mentioning McLouth, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold, Xavier Avery, LJ Hoes and Trayvon Robinson. He also noted that Chris Davis has played the outfield.
“We have some outfield depth and some variety.”
Duquette isn’t ready to proclaim that McLouth is the everyday left fielder.
“That’s a question for another day, but Nate, over the course of his career, has done very well against right-handed pitching and that’s been a staple for him his whole career,” Duquette said.
“It was clear that Nate enjoyed playing for Buck (Showalter) from every indication that we got and we’re glad that he gave us consideration to come back.”
Duquette said he’s still looking for a power bat, whether it’s first base or designated hitter, but he isn’t going to sign free-agent Nick Swisher.
Many fans objected to the idea of Swisher wearing an Orioles uniform once news broke that Duquette met with his representatives.
“Somebody said that Nick Swisher is the kind of player you hate when he’s on the other team, and when they said it, I didn’t say anything.” Duquette said. “I can understand that reaction because we just played the Yankees in a very tough series, several tough series during the year, so I can understand why people feel that way.
“I think we have enough outfielders on our ballclub. We can take a look at the guys we have on the spring.”
You won’t find Swisher at first base, either.
“I don’t think we need to worry about that for Baltimore fans,” he said.
Conor Jackson, signed to a minor league deal earlier today, is a candidate to play first base or serve as a DH. He also can play left field if needed.
The Diamondbacks selected Jackson with the 19th pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. He hit .291/.368/.441 with 15 homers and 79 RBIs in 2006, and .300/.376/.446 with 12 homers and 75 RBIs in 2008.
Jackson could replace Joe Mahoney as the first baseman at Triple-A Norfolk if he doesn’t make the club.
“He’s had a couple good years and we’ll see if he can recapture the top form that made him a potential power hitter,” Duquette said.
Duquette met with four or five teams today and three or four agents.
“I don’t know about these trades,” Duquette said. “Sometimes they come together, sometimes they take a little while to percolate after the meetings. But we still have our eye on a couple other things.
“So far we’ve been able to sign several players for our club. They’re not high-level free agents, but the core of our ballclub is essentially coming back from this year where we had a good year. I’m heartened by the fact that teams like our pitching and our pitching depth, and that should be very helpful for us to have a good year.”
The Orioles made their first foray into Europe by signing left-hander Jan Novak, 18, from the Czech Republic. They scouted him at the 18-under World Championships.
“That’s a new development. That’s a good development for our international scouting operation,” Duquette said.
“He’s a good-looking kid. He’s got a good curve and a nice delivery. Our interest has been on our international scouting efforts. That’s been going on all year. But to sign a young left-handed pitcher shows that our guys are out working. That’s progress.”