Day Three of the Winter Meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Here we are, three days into the Winter Meetings, and the Orioles have outrighted infielder Cord Phelps to Triple-A Norfolk and officially signed reliever Ryan Webb to a two-year, $4.50 million contract after he passed a physical yesterday in Baltimore.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette has met with several agents and executives. He's gotten a firmer grip on the market for pitching. The groundwork has been laid to acquire players.

So ...

Rumors will continue to swirl around the team until it makes a deal. They're linked to a handful of closers, including Grant Balfour, who remains on the free-agent market despite false reports that the Orioles signed him.

First, they need to make an official offer. Talking parameters isn't the same thing.

That offer was expected to come yesterday, but Duquette and manager Buck Showalter insisted that it didn't happen. I felt strongly about it. Doesn't mean I was waiting for Duquette to step to the podium, but all signs pointed to an offer.

As for other revelations to come out of yesterday's meetings, I found it interesting that the Orioles aren't as strongly tied to outfielder Nelson Cruz as previously reported. Proceed with caution if you're going down that road.

I never felt that he made sense, other than giving the Orioles another bat. Duquette is stressing the need for a left-handed hitter or two. And the Orioles value defense.

As I explained yesterday, the Orioles met with Cruz's agent, Adam Katz, but he also represents Bartolo Colon. The club is more interested in the veteran pitcher.

Showalter was asked during yesterday's media session whether it's become harder for him to say goodbye to players leaving the organization.

"Yes," he replied. "I miss the guys. I miss our players. We say goodbye at the end of the year, that's a tough conversation, boy. I ain't very good at it. I'm not good at goodbyes, and especially when a guy's leaving your organization.

"The things you ask them to do and the things you ask them to commit to, and you get it from them and they get a return from it and the team gets a return from it and their teammates get a return from it, and then the business part of it takes over and it's 'bye.' It's tough. Talking to Dylan Bundy the other day was tough. I miss the players. I look forward to seeing them in the spring. And there are some guys I won't see, but I will see them again."

Showalter will see Jim Johnson again - in an Oakland Athletics uniform. Shield your eyes.

"I've talked to Jimmy a couple times," Showalter said. "The first one didn't last too long. The second one was better."

Showalter fielded numerous texts and calls after the trade from players who wanted confirmation and an explanation.

"That's part of my job and they care," he said. "I like to think I do, too, and they deserve to hear from me about those things. So, it's not pleasant, but you have to. You have to.

"When we can replace those guys somewhat... Well, you're not going to try to replace it. You're going to try to fill that void. We'll see if we can replace it. That's two different things."

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