Orioles sign Alex Gonzalez to minor league deal

The Orioles have signed veteran shortstop Alex Gonzalez to a minor league deal that includes an invitation to spring training, according to a team official.

This is not the big announcement for FanFest. I repeat, this is not the big announcement for FanFest.

It's also not an indication that the Orioles are trying to trade shortstop J.J. Hardy. They've expressed a desire to sign him to an extension before he hits the free agent market next winter.

Gonzalez, who turns 37 next month, batted .177/.203/.433 in 41 games with the Brewers last season. He's a career .246/.290/.396 hitter in 15 major league seasons, the first eight with the Marlins.

Gonzalez made the National League All-Star team in '99. He's played for six major league teams, including the Red Sox twice.

Gonzalez, nicknamed "Sea Bass" for reasons that I can't explain, is primarily a shortstop, but he's also played 11 games at third base and 22 at first.

The Orioles still haven't announced their camp roster, including the invites, but Gonzalez has been added to it.

Alexi Casilla is the current favorite to back up Hardy if Ryan Flaherty starts at second base. Flaherty will have to beat out Jemile Weeks for the job. Gonzalez will join the fray in Sarasota.

To avoid any confusion, this is not the same Alex Gonzalez who committed the crucial fielding error at Wrigley Field in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series following the foul ball that deflected off the hands of Cubs fan Steve Bartman. Different guy.

FOXSports.com first reported that the Orioles signed Gonzalez.

Here are a few more tweets from Ken Rosenthal:

"Sources: #Orioles remain in contact with agents for N. Cruz, Burnett, Rodney. Also could play on Santana or Jimenez if they fail on Burnett"

"According to one source, #Orioles' payroll currently in $85M range. Plan to be over $100M. Question is by how much"

Burnett clearly is their first choice - this is me talking, by the way - but other starters come into play if he signs elsewhere and the price drops significantly on Santana and Jimenez.

Cruz would be a shocker, considering that the Orioles had little interest at the Winter Meetings.

Here's another reminder that third baseman Manny Machado is undergoing a final exam on his left knee this afternoon in Los Angeles. Dr. Neal ElAttrache will clear him for baseball activities, and Machado is expected to be ready for the March 31 opener against the Red Sox at Camden Yards.

Also, CBSSports.com reported earlier today that former Oriole Wilson Betemit signed a minor league deal with the Rays.

And now, FOXSports.com is reporting that the Cubs have reached agreement with former Oriole Jason Hammel. The Orioles had interest, but Hammel reportedly was seeking a three-year deal at the Winter Meetings.

The Cubs continue to collect Orioles pitchers.

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