The holiday hiatus is history

We’ve moved past the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, also known as baseball’s dead zone.

The Angels signed veteran left-hander Mark Mulder to a minor league contract yesterday, the Astros signed reliever Jesse Crain to a one-year deal on Tuesday and the Pirates acquired first baseman Chris McGuiness from the Rangers for reliever Miles Mikolas on Monday, so there was a slight pulse.

The shelves in the free agent market are far from bare. Still plenty of big-ticket items for sale, including starters Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, infielder Stephen Drew, outfielder Nelson Cruz, designated hitter/first baseman Kendrys Morales, and closers Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney.

Starters Bronson Arroyo and A.J. Burnett, deemed as obtainable on lesser deals, also are unsigned.

What’s the holdup with Balfour? He told MLB Network Radio’s Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden on Dec. 22 that four teams were excited to have him on board and at least one team made an offer.

What’s the market for Morales? The Orioles have expressed interest and the Mets have been linked to him. ESPN’s Buster Olney suggested that Morales “might theoretically be a fit” for the Pirates, but only on a team-friendly deal.

Agent Scott Boras isn’t big on team-friendly deals.

Perhaps Morales should have taken the $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Mariners, though Boras is more inclined to have his clients turn it down. Clubs worry about his defense at first base and are hesitant to surrender a first-round pick.

The Orioles don’t care about his glove and are more willing to surrender that pick than previous years, though it’s still a difficult decision in the warehouse. A little aggression could go a long way. The competition for Morales doesn’t appear to be fierce.

I’ve heard rumblings that executive vice president Dan Duquette is working on a trade and may be at the point where he’s checking medical records. Yeah, pretty vague, but that’s another avenue to acquiring a hitter.

The Mets keep talking to the Orioles about Ike Davis, but they need to move off left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.

As I’ve written many times, the Orioles don’t want to part with Rodriguez. He’s emerged as a top pitching prospect in the organization, and with Dylan Bundy recovering from ligament-reconstructive surgery, Jake Arrieta in Chicago and Josh Hader now in the Astros system, the Orioles are even less inclined to dip into their “surplus” of young arms.

Untouchable? No. Unlikely to be traded? Yes.

I’ve already questioned how the Orioles can make a significant trade while holding onto their pitching prospects. Good luck with that.

I’ll close this entry with a few more fun facts.

The Orioles used 54 players in 2013, tying the club record set in 1955. Twenty-four players made their Orioles debuts, including six who also made their major league debuts.

Can you name the half-dozen? The answer is below. Take a few minutes before continuing and see if you get all six.

The Orioles hit into a triple play in the eighth inning of an April 12 game at Yankee Stadium. I was there. It was pretty bizarre.

Every infielder touched the ball, with the play scored 4-6-5-6-5-3-4. It was the first time that a team turned a triple play with each infielder getting a putout or assist since the Cubs on Aug. 8, 1985. But you probably already knew that.

The Orioles have hit into 17 triple plays in their history.

And now for your trivia answer. Pitchers Mike Belfiore, Zach Clark, Kevin Gausman and T.J. McFarland, infielder Jonathan Schoop and outfielder Henry Urrutia made their major league debuts in 2013. My guess is Belfiore and Clark slipped from a few memories.

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