Leftovers from the Winter Meetings

I left the Swan and Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., yesterday and realized that the temperature had been in the 80s during my entire stay. I never ventured outside the hotel until hailing a cab for the return trip to the Orlando airport.

Quite a shock to the ol’ system when I stepped off the plane at BWI.

The Orioles announced their acquisition of minor league catcher David Freitas as the PTBN in the Jim Johnson-Jemile Weeks trade a few minutes before I boarded my flight. Timing is everything.

I nervously scrolled Twitter after landing, waiting to find breaking news regarding closer Grant Balfour or another Orioles target. Alas, executive vice president Dan Duquette headed back home this morning without an agreement in place.

There isn’t much to update with Balfour. He’s still got a two-year offer from the Orioles and would prefer three guaranteed years. Other teams are in on him - I wanted to use that expression one more time before shelving it until next year’s Winter Meetings - but the Orioles were regarded as the favorites over the last few days.

Of all the rumored names to come out of the meetings, it appears that the most time was wasted on Nelson Cruz and Raul Ibanez. Way too much chasing for such a small return.

The Orioles never made an offer to Cruz. I was told earlier in the week that he wanted “Curtis Granderson money,” and sure enough, the Orioles balked at the idea of paying him $60 million over four years.

Ibanez was never really in play. Just a name that was kicked around on the first day.

The Winter Meetings are home to every rumor imaginable, often born from an agent’s attempts to drum up a market for his client or to pressure another team into reacting. Also, teams meet with plenty of other teams and agents, but that doesn’t mean anything is hot.

Even internal discussions in a suite can take on a life of their own. You can bet that the Orioles talked about the Mets’ Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy. (The Mets reportedly want a young, controllable pitcher.) Word leaks out, and suddenly the Orioles are pushing to make a deal.

The Orioles have reached out to A.J. Burnett’s agent, according to an industry source, and it makes sense. Get him for a year and get him closer to his Monkton home.

That is, as long as he wants to pitch in 2014.

Getting Burnett and Balfour might actually change the perception of the Orioles’ work at the Winter Meetings. The groundwork was laid. But this team must find a left-handed bat and figure out who’s playing second base.

If they really are open to re-signing Brian Roberts, it might be a good idea to call him and start negotiations. As of a few days ago, I got the impression that it hadn’t been done. Meanwhile, the Yankees are sniffing around.

Lots of folks think the Orioles got a better player in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft than the major league phase. Outfielder Julio Borbon has intrigued them for a few years and will be worth a look in spring training. Third baseman Michael Almanzar has a power and a plus-arm, but other tools aren’t graded as favorably.

Almanzar is a career .250/.302/.373 hitter in six minor league seasons. He has limited range and mobility. He plays two positions, third and first base, that are in good hands with the Orioles.

It will be a challenge for the Orioles to carry him on the 25-man roster all season, especially with Danny Valencia able to handle the infield corners and serve as a right-handed designated hitter.

I can’t remember the last time that I covered a Rule 5 draft when the Orioles didn’t lose a single player in the major league, Triple-A or Double-A phases. Always seems to happen.

Caleb Joseph remains in the organization, and now he’s got another catcher to compete against with the acquisition of Freitas.

How many catchers will the Norfolk Tides roster hold?

I heard a week before the meetings that the Orioles probably would get a catcher as the PTBN. Yeah, they’re serious about improving the quality of backstops in the system.

Meanwhile, doesn’t Pigtown’s own Steve Clevenger still rate as the favorite to back up Matt Wieters on opening day?

If Weeks and Jonathan Schoop don’t make the team in spring training, who’s playing second base for Norfolk? And isn’t that also Cord Phelps’ position?

The Orioles outrighted Phelps this week. I’m sure the talks were Cord-ial.


I was stunned to learn that former Red Sox pitcher Tomo Ohka signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays. A Japanese pitcher with ties to Duquette who is learning to throw a knuckleball? I had already prepared my questions for him in spring training.

Sure wish I had seen the fight between two agents that broke out Wednesday night in the parking lot outside the hotel. The video posted on YouTube is hazy, but rumors swirled that former players Dave Stewart and Gary Sheffield were throwing hands.

If true, who you got?

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