During my second conversation yesterday with Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette, I mentioned how fans are growing impatient with the lack of a big move. How they get the impression that nothing is happening in the warehouse beyond a few small signings and trades. How the offseason is moving along without the club.
Duquette chuckled and said, "There's always things going on around the Orioles."
We just aren't privy to every conversation. Trust me, I've tried to tap the phones but I lack the necessary skills and equipment.
And if I had a nickel for every time ... never mind.
Cord Phelps, claimed on waivers yesterday from the Indians, is out of minor league options and will be given a long look in spring training. It's tough to project roles for every player in November, and I'll use Trayvon Robinson again as the perfect example.
Acquired from the Mariners on Nov. 20, 2012, expected to compete for the fourth outfielder's job, then squeezed out of the picture by other moves made later in the winter.
We never saw infielder Matt Antonelli in Baltimore. Wasn't he the first player signed by Duquette?
We did see Nate McLouth after the Orioles picked him off the scrap heap. Also, Lew Ford and Jason Pridie. Travis Ishikawa stopped by for a cup of coffee. Conor Jackson stopped wanting to play baseball.
You just never know.
Triple-A Norfolk manager Ron Johnson gave the Orioles a positive scouting report on Phelps, which led to yesterday's signing.
"He's primarily a second baseman and he's got a good bat," Duquette said. "We like him. He played a lot of games against our Triple-A ballclub, so Ron Johnson likes him and recommended him to us."
Now, take a few deep breaths before reading this next part.
OK, so I asked Duquette if Phelps would compete for a utility job in spring training.
"Possibly. We'll see," he replied. "As a switch-hitter and with his capability to get on base, it's conceivable that he could develop into an everyday ballplayer. We'll see.
"He had issues with his right wrist, which ended his season early, but he's got good skills. He has a good college background (Stanford). And he's hit 15 home runs twice."
Phelps actually hit 14 and 16 home runs in consecutive seasons at Triple-A Columbus in 2011 and 2012. He has a career .370 on-base percentage in 582 minor league games. But it hasn't carried over to the majors.
Antonelli also was touted as a solid OBP guy. The Orioles need these guys to make it happen in the bigs.
Phelps is worth a look. If he isn't good enough, he'll be designated for assignment.
When I brought up how Phelps is out of options, Duquette said, "We'll give him a chance to make the team before we worry about that."
Second base is still a riddle wrapped in a mystery. Or maybe it's the other way around.
Mark Ellis is viewed as an option, but the Orioles haven't reached out to him. Any talks have been confined to the warehouse.
Brian Roberts could be re-signed at a reduced rate, but I haven't heard anything new on that front. Again, I'm not privy to every conversation, and Roberts maintains a low profile in the offseason.
I'm just going to assume that Phelps competes for a utility job and someone else is the starting second baseman when the Orioles break camp. For all we know, Ryan Flaherty could win the job in spring training, which would open up competition for a bench spot.
If nothing else, Cord Phelps will be the coolest name in the clubhouse. His first name is actually "Robert," but he goes by his middle name.
A few fans here noticed yesterday that the Pirates designated Garrett Jones for assignment. Jones, 32, is a left-handed hitter who can play first base and the corner outfield positions. He hit 21 homers in 2009 and 2010, and 27 in 2012. The Orioles were linked to him at last year's Winter Meetings, though their level of interest was unclear.
I can say that the Orioles didn't have immediate interest in Jones yesterday after he became available. He slumped to a .233/.289/.419 line this season with 15 homers and 51 RBIs in 144 games. He made $4.5 million and is arbitration-eligible, so he's due another raise.
Jones has a career .316 on-base percentage, which won't appeal to Duquette. He's a career .271/.337/.489 hitter against right-handers, and a .193/.234/.344 hitter against left-handers.
Screams platoon left fielder or designated hitter. We'll find out whether the Orioles decide to listen.
I wrote yesterday about the Orioles deciding to tender all nine of their arbitration-eligible players. Here's MLBTradeRumor's Matt Swartz with their projected raises:
Catcher Matt Wieters ($7.9MM); first baseman Chris Davis ($10MM); outfielders Nolan Reimold ($1.2MM) and Steve Pearce ($1.1MM); relievers Troy Patton ($1.2MM), Brian Matusz ($2.1MM), Tommy Hunter ($3.1MM), and Jim Johnson ($10.8MM); and starter Bud Norris ($5MM). In total, Swartz projects a $42.4MM tab for the group.
In case you missed it, the Braves hired former Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee as their minor league pitching coordinator.
The Orioles interviewed Dubee for their pitching coach job before hiring Dave Wallace, formerly the Braves minor league pitching coordinator.
Funny how things work out.