Orioles meet with reps for Saunders and McLouth (updated)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It appears that the Orioles are having their busiest day of the Winter Meetings today, though they are waiting to make their first trade or sign a free agent.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette had met with about five teams and six agents by the time he sat down with reporters in his suite around 5:30 p.m. Central time. The agents included representatives for left-hander Joe Saunders and outfielder Nate McLouth, who ended the 2012 season with the Orioles.

“We’ve had discussions with Nate, along with some other free agents, and hopefully we’ll be able to conclude those by the end of the week,” Duquette said. “I don’t know that we’ll be able to conclude them by the end of the meetings, but hopefully, we’ll be able to conclude them by the end of the week.

“We’ve talked to a couple of free agents, along with Nate McLouth, who we’d like to have come back. But we want to be prepared in the event that we can’t reach an agreement with Nate. We want to make sure while there are other people on the market that we avail ourselves to the whole market. And hopefully, we’ll come home with a signed player.

“I think Nate liked Baltimore. He played very well there. We liked him in Baltimore. He did a good job for us when he came up. He did a good job baserunning and he did a good job defensively. He hit the ball. He made the plays in the field. There’s a natural interest in re-signing him to the team.”

McLouth is thought to be looking for a club that will let him play every day. Can the Orioles offer him that chance?

“There’s opportunity for another outfielder,” Duquette said. “How much they’re going to play, that really depends on how well they play. We’re not in the business of talking about playing time as much as we talk about opportunity. But there’s an opportunity for another hitter in our lineup.

“McLouth, when he was with us, did a good job up at the front of the lineup, right? And when Nick (Markakis) got hurt, he did a good job when he went to leadoff. So that has some value to us.”

Is McLouth the Orioles’ Plan A in left field?

“We’re going to come home with a signed player, hopefully by the end of the week,” Duquette said. “I wouldn’t say there’s Plan A and Plan B and Plan C, except that we’re going to try to get it done so we have another contributing player for our team.”

Duquette doesn’t know whether McLouth will settle for a one-year deal or receive two years. “I’m not sure where that’s going to shake out,” he said. “We’ll have to see how that goes.”

The talks with Saunders’ agent today were “preliminary,” according to Duquette.

“That’s going to take some time,” he said.

The Orioles still haven’t contacted the agent for first baseman Mark Reynolds.

“We’ll have to see where that shakes out,” Duquette said. “I think that needs a little time to see where the market is.”

Duquette couldn’t comment specifically on interest in outfielder Nate Schierholtz, who split the 2012 season between the Giants and Phillies. Schierholtz plays all three outfield positions, but has limited experience in left.

“I can’t really comment about a player we don’t really have on a position he’s not familiar with. That wouldn’t be a good idea,” Duquette said. “But we’re looking at some other qualified options because we want to make sure we have somebody on our team.”

Teams continue to inquire about the Orioles’ collection of young arms.

“People like our young pitching. I can tell you that. And we like our young pitching, too,” Duquette said.

“We’ve gotten considerable interest in a number of our young pitchers.”

Asked if he would be comfortable trading more than one of those arms, Duquette replied, “I like to add pitchers more than I like to trade them away. But I can tell you, there’s more interest in them now.

“It was a little slow, but today and yesterday it kind of picked up, so I was heartened by the fact that people do like our pitchers, because we do have some good ones and they’re young and we can bring them back.”

The five teams that met with Duquette included a few that also met with him yesterday, suggesting that some talks could be advancing.

Duquette also said he has no issue with making a trade with a team in the same region. In other words, he wouldn’t avoid negotiating a deal with the Washington Nationals.

“I can see the advantage of trading for a player who’s already established in your market, right? That a lot of your fans are familiar with,” Duquette said. “I would see that as more of an opportunity.”

As the media waited outside Duquette’s door, four Asian gentlemen walked out of his suite and headed down the hallway. They were soon followed by Derrick White, who played for the Montreal Expos in 1993 when Duquette was general manager.

Duquette explained that they’re representatives from the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japan Pacific League. The Orioles are working on a player training cooperative agreement with the club.

The Orioles also had a preparation meeting today in advance of Thursday’s Rule 5 draft.

“There’s a chance that we’ll be active in that,” Duquette said.

Like I said, it was a busy day despite the lack of a trade or signing.

The market “seems to be coming around,” Duquette said. “Players are looking to make decisions and clubs are looking to add players.”

Duquette also said he doesn’t really like the mid-level market because “teams pay a lot of money for mediocre talent. That’s not the market we want to be in.”

As for third baseman Manny Machado coming down with meningitis a month ago, Duquette said, “He was in good hands and he dealt with it swiftly and directly. Our medical staff was apprised. They were aware of it.”

Update: ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting that the Orioles met today with Nick Swisher’s agent.

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