Wrapping up the Winter Meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Rule 5 draft has ended and baseball executives are racing to the airport as if there’s a treasure chest waiting at curbside check-in.

The Orioles would have settled for a closer, a starting pitcher and a left-handed bat. Keep the trinkets.

Technically, the Orioles obtained a left-handed hitting outfielder by selecting Julio Borbon in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5. And their agreement with reliever Ryan Webb became official this week.

In reality, they failed to make a big strike at the Winter Meetings. Linked to numerous players, they never made it to the podium and didn’t fill the holes in their roster with proven major league talent.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette will attend a banquet tonight honoring Orioles director of player development Brian Graham, who will receive the Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award. They will fly home Friday morning, leaving the Orioles as the last team standing at the Swan and Dolphin Resort.

There’s more work to be done, but it will happen in Baltimore. The Orioles aren’t expected to announce any trades or signings tonight.

“The meetings have been helpful for us to staff our team,” Duquette said after the Orioles chose third baseman Michael Almanzar in the major league phase of the draft and Borbon in the Triple-A phase.

“We’re going to come out of here with the addition of a pitcher (Webb) and these two players we added today, and then we’re going to continue to work on some of the groundwork we laid on trades. Hopefully, that will bear some fruit with players to bring back to Baltimore. And there are a couple players we started negotiations with that we’re hopeful that we will be able to sign.

“We added a player with good tools in Almanzar, we added Webb, who had a very good year last year, to our bullpen, and we’ll be able to add a couple more players based on the work we did here in the next week or so.”

Asked if there’s a chance that he could make a deal later today, Duquette replied, “We’re going to continue to work today, but Brian Graham is being honored tonight with the Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award and we’re going to stay. That’s one of the top honors for player development here at the Winter Meetings, and they’re honoring Brian not only for his longevity, but for the quality of his work in player development. Brian’s a great asset to the organization and we’re very proud of him.

“We’re going to go home tomorrow and continue working to build our roster.”

That includes finding a replacement for closer Jim Johnson. The Orioles have made a two-year offer to Grant Balfour and they retain interest in John Axford.

“We should be able to add a closer to our team,” Duquette said. “There are some good choices available on the market. We’re talking to a lot of people and we hope to be able to fill that job soon.”

Duquette referenced Borbon as a possibility to contribute as a left-handed hitting outfielder - the Orioles considered adding him to the major league roster early in the offseason - but he added, “We’re still working on that.”

Plenty of deals are made after the Winter Meetings, but past history won’t appease fans who wanted the Orioles to be major players in Lake Buena Vista.

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