Still waiting for news

Still nothing to report on the Orioles, as we've moved into a new week and the Winter Meetings begin to disappear in the rearview mirror.

John Axford, a fallback option as closer if the Orioles failed to sign Grant Balfour, reportedly has reached agreement with the Indians. The news will come as a relief - so to speak - for fans who didn't think he was a suitable replacement for Jim Johnson. It will disturb others who wonder if the Orioles are going to sign anyone before opening day.

Mark Ellis reportedly is set to sign a one-year deal with the Cardinals. The Orioles haven't settled on a second baseman, but they never made a run at Ellis. Their lack of interest comes as a big surprise to me.

The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo noted how there doesn't appear to be a "robust" market for free agent Kendrys Morales, who will cost a team its first-round pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. Cafardo wrote that the Orioles might be one possibility, "but not at Morales' price."

According to multiple reports, the Pirates still hope to re-sign starter A.J. Burnett and question whether he would pitch for another team. The Orioles are trying to find out.

It wouldn't matter as much if the Orioles had been able to sign Bartolo Colon, who agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with the Mets. He's definitely one that got away at the Winter Meetings. I sensed the disappointment as word spread of Colon's agreement with the Mets.

Not making you feel any better, am I?

The Orioles are hosting 80 kindergarten through fifth-grade students today from Alexander Hamilton Elementary School in Baltimore as part of the 35th annual OriolesREACH Holiday Party for Kids at Dave & Busters at Arundel Mills Mall.

Current Orioles Nick Markakis, Steve Johnson and Steve Clevenger will be joined by former Orioles Al Bumbry and Dave Johnson for the event.

Players will serve lunch, and play games with and sign autographs for the students, who get to play for free in the arcade room.

Markakis and his wife, Christina, made a financial contribution for the party and will provide a new baseball glove for each child.

This year's event marks the 35th year that the Orioles have held a holiday party for children from economically disadvantaged areas in Baltimore. A different school is selected each year.

Markakis has been working out and, from what I've heard, is in outstanding condition. The broken thumb and sports hernia surgery the past two winters limited his offseason activity.

The Orioles need Markakis to rebound from an extremely disappointing 2013 season, when he had a career-low 24 doubles, 10 home runs and .685 OPS in 160 games. It also was the first time in eight seasons that he didn't collect a triple.

Markakis will make $15 million next year, and the Orioles hold a $17.5 million option with a $2 million buyout in 2015. Needless to say, the upcoming season is huge for him as free agency approaches.

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