Orioles manager Buck Showalter has a pretty good idea of which player will bat leadoff next season if all the candidates are healthy, but he'll allow the process to play itself out in spring training.
Showalter doesn't think he can go wrong with Brian Roberts, Nate McLouth or Nick Markakis sitting atop the order.
"I feel comfortable that we have people who are capable of doing it," he said. "One guy (Roberts) has a great track record if he's healthy. I hope all three do well and are healthy. That means we're going to end up with a good leadoff hitter. That's the way to look at it.
"You know me. I don't place a lot of importance on having a prototypical leadoff hitter. I'm sure a lot of people rolled their eyes when I hit Nicky first, but I didn't think it was all that complicated."
McLouth agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal on Wednesday that includes a possible $500,000 in bonuses. It's a bargain, considering some of the other contracts being handed out.
Four years and $40 million for Angel Pagan? Three years and $39 million for Shane Victorino? Two years and $10 million for Jonny Gomes?
The Orioles were interested in Gomes, but not at that price. Not anywhere close to it. They also were intrigued by Victorino, but ... you get the picture.
Marco Scutaro got a three-year, $20 million deal from the Giants. He's 37. Do the math.
The Orioles met with the representatives for outfielders Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney during the Winter Meetings, and talks with both were advancing. McLouth's return was beginning to look doubtful. But his first choice was to remain in Baltimore, and executive vice president Dan Duquette got him to agree to terms.
Schierholtz signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the Cubs. The Orioles preferred McLouth, who batted .268/.342/.435 with 12 doubles, a triple, seven home runs, 18 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 55 games after the Orioles purchased his contract from Triple-A Norfolk in early August.
McLouth's contract will become official once he passes his physical later this week.
"I know his teammates are excited about it," said Showalter, who called McLouth from Nashville in an attempt to speed up negotiations.
"He fits us. He's a defender at three outfield positions, he's a plus runner and he's a good teammate. He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played.
"He was a Gold Glove winner and All-Star at one time and he knows that we get what he brings. And he likes the way we do things. It's a good fit. I was just afraid that somebody was going to sneak in and get him."
Showalter said he can find ways to get regular at-bats for McLouth and Nolan Reimold. They can be in the lineup at the same time, though as I warned yesterday, it's too early to start projecting batting orders. Duquette may be able to add another hitter.
Plenty of teams were expressing interest in Reimold at the Winter Meetings, and it figures to continue as spring training approaches. He's arbitration-eligible and made only $490,500 this year.
Note: Mark Reynolds has agreed to terms with the Cleveland Indians on a one-year deal worth $6 million guaranteed, according to multiple reports.
The Orioles declined Reynolds' $11 million option for 2013. They didn't tender him a contract at the Nov. 30 deadline. They never made him an offer during free agency.
He was destined to play elsewhere next year.
The Indians want Reynolds to play first base. The Yankees made a push for him, with the intention of putting him at third.
Reynolds can earn another $1.5 million in incentives, according to MLB.com. He made $7.5 million this year with the Orioles, so he has a chance to equal the value of his last contract.
Reynolds wanted to sign with a team that trained in Arizona so he could spend more time at home. The Indians' spring training facility is located in Goodyear, AZ.