SARASOTA, Fla. - If the Orioles don’t sign another free agent, it could rival Super Bowl III or Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas for biggest upset in sports. It just seems inevitable. With all that smoke, there’s got to be fire.
It also could mean that a new pope has been elected, but I’m going with fire.
The Orioles are in on any combination of Kendrys Morales, Nelson Cruz and Ervin Santana, depending on who’s doing the reporting. The only certainty is that the club has held discussions with representatives for all three free agents.
Until last night, I was convinced that Morales rated ahead of Cruz on the Orioles’ wish list. As I’ve written many times, there’s a divide within the organization, with some folks preferring Morales and others preferring Cruz. However, I’ve had people suggest that any dialogue with Cruz is being initiated by his camp.
Well, one person told me last night that Cruz actually rates ahead of Morales. It sounded as though the chances of signing Morales were extremely thin.
Update: CBSSports.com is reporting that the Orioles are closing in on a deal with Cruz. I heard last night that Morales was a “definite no,” and that now appears to be true. We’ll see. The rumors change hourly.
As for Santana, I’ve had three sources completely dismiss the idea that the Orioles are trying to sign him. It was shot down with gusto.
The only way it makes sense is if the Orioles are trying to package starters in a trade for a hitter. But again, I’m told they’re not in on Santana, which conflicts with various reports.
I’m done trying to predict the outcome. I just sense that the Orioles will be holding another press conference at the Ed Smith Stadium complex before breaking camp.
Before last night, I would have bet the ranch on Morales. Now I’m not as confident.
All three free agents would cost the Orioles their second-round pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. While it’s easy to dismiss the importance of that pick compared to getting a proven major league talent, I’m reminded of the 2007 draft and how the Orioles desperately wanted high school outfielder Mike Stanton.
The Orioles took Matt Wieters in the first round, but they didn’t choose again until the fourth, having lost their second- and third-rounders by signing free-agent relievers Danys Baez and Chad Bradford. They tried to figure out a way to get Stanton - at least two-thirds of the teams in baseball didn’t seem to have any interest, if you can believe it - but the Marlins nabbed him in the second round.
He’s now known as Giancarlo Stanton, and he’s a constant reminder that teams can hit the jackpot in the second round. And that the Orioles regret not having that pick.
The Orioles’ next four selections were pitchers Tim Bascom and Jake Arrieta, first baseman Joe Mahoney and outfielder Matt Angle.
As for today’s camp schedule, there’s no clubhouse access for the media until after the workout due to a meeting. Pitchers will throw batting practice, with hitters given the green light to swing.
Steve Johnson will get to gauge the effectiveness of his splitter by the reaction of the hitters who chase it.
Johnson had better results with the pitch during his last bullpen session, when hitters were only tracking.
“From the tracking thing, if finally came back,” he said. “It had been a while. It had been a couple ‘pens where I was still struggling to find it. I had a better feel for it.
“It will be a real test when I get some hitters swinging at it, so I’m excited about that, and hopefully it’s good enough to where I can throw it more than a couple times and it will actually do something with them in there. We’ll see.
“I’ll know more in the next week or so, I bet, doing live BP and hopefully a scrimmage.”
I saw Liam Hendriks in the hotel lobby last night. He’s headed to Dunedin today to join the Blue Jays, who claimed him off waivers yesterday.
Hendriks, who was grabbing a couple of sodas to take back to his room, expressed his disappointment at leaving an organization that he grew to love in a short amount of time. However, he’s also hopeful that the Jays will present a better opportunity to pitch in the majors.
Hendriks had no shot at breaking camp with the Orioles unless a series of injuries opened up a spot for him.
His wife, who’s staying in Fort Myers, was relieved that Hendriks caught on with a team that also trains in Florida.
The New York Post reported the breakdown of Ubaldo Jimenez’s four-year contract.
Jimenez will earn $11.25 million in 2014, $12.25 million in 2015, $13 million in 2016 and $13.5 million in 2017. He also will receive $2.25 million in deferred salary each season, and he can earn up to $3.2 million in incentives, including $400,000 per season for starting 32 games and working at least 200 innings.
As I approached Suk-min Yoon yesterday morning to get an update on his first bullpen session, reliever Evan Meek looked up from his locker and said, “Did you bench press a refrigerator?” He moved over one seat and said, “Here, I’ll give you more room.”
Teammates broke out in laughter. I was left speechless - and wondering whether I need to bump up the size of my shirts.
Meeks gets high marks for his sense of humor.