What to expect at next week’s Winter Meetings

The Winter Meetings officially begin on Sunday, though it’s also a travel day, and they will take up more than 90 hours of my life that I’ll never get back. But chasing rumors is a good way to add steps to the Fitbit. I’ve never been much of a cardio guy.

Lobby buzz creates rumors that become reports. Some of them prove to be accurate, many others bogus and a royal waste of time, whether it’s interest in a player or his contract demands. And old news will be reheated to appear fresh.

Fans are advised, as always, to go into them with lowered expectations. The Orioles aren’t known for making a big splash, whether in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Las Vegas, San Diego, Nashville, Dallas, Indianapolis, D.C. or any other host site. Unless you count left-hander Dana Eveland in 2011.

The last significant wave came in 2010 with trades that brought shortstop J.J. Hardy from the Twins and infielder Mark Reynolds from the Rockies. The Orioles also signed pitcher Koji Uehara in December; shortstop Cesar Izturis, first baseman Derrek Lee and reliever Kevin Gregg in January; and designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero and pitchers Justin Duchescherer and Mark Worrell in February.

They didn’t all work out.

The Orioles reached agreement with reliever Darren O’Day on his four-year extension during the 2015 meetings, though the official announcement came later. And after he tweeted a denial of a report that surfaced on the travel day - which I read while checking into the hotel. That was fun.

Outfielder Nate McLouth’s decision to re-sign with the Orioles became public at the 2012 meetings, and after manager Buck Showalter intervened to speed up negotiations, but the announcement also came after everyone returned home.

There are tons of meetings with rival executives and agents that run from early in the morning until late at night. Executive vice president Dan Duquette and the rest of the contingent are going to be busy. Take my word for it. They aren’t waiting in line next week at Epcot.

The only players brought back usually come from the Rule 5 draft, but you’ll hear lots of talk about “laying the groundwork” for future deals. They could come next week or before Christmas or in January or after the first full-squad workout in Sarasota. They’ve been known to happen after the first exhibition game as the market plays out.

Pedro Álvarez probably doesn’t check his phone before March.

With so many teams searching for starters, the Orioles may need to get aggressive to fill their needs. They’ve got three openings in their rotation and concerns about their depth. Can they really afford to be deliberate?

Can they really afford the rising cost of pitchers? Miles Mikolas got $15.5 million over two years from the Cardinals. Mike Minor got $28 million over three years from the Rangers and Tyler Chatwood got $38 million over three years from the Cubs. It’s a gamble and they’re not showing aces.

Duquette said at last count there were “28 teams” looking for starters, though the list might be shrinking over the past few days. He knows what he’s up against, especially with his desire to add a left-hander, and he could go the trade route if there’s a match. But as always, the other side wants young controllable pitching in return.

tillman-white-2017-side.jpgThere’s going to be lots of talk about Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta being out of the Orioles’ price range and whether Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn also moved beyond their financial reach. CC Sabathia, Chris Tillman, Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas, Miguel González and R.A. Dickey will be counted among the pitchers linked to the Orioles. Some are going to make more sense than others.

Tillman and González are most definitely in play to return to the team that brought them to the majors.

You’ll also hear from the media about various pitchers from outside the organization and their career stats at Camden Yards, which conveniently ignore how they were facing the Orioles. Take those numbers with a grain of salt. There’s some relevance, but not as much as advertised.

I bet a lot of pitchers had impressive stats in Baltimore while the Orioles were posting losing records for 14 consecutive seasons.

The search also continues for left-handed bats. The Orioles aren’t going to just settle for outfielder Jaycob Brugman. They want another left-handed hitter for an outfield spot or as a designated hitter.

Jon Jay and Carlos González are two names already attached to the Orioles via predictions, reports or connected dots. Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce came up last winter in trade talks with the Mets and both players are on the market, which means someone in the media will assume that the Orioles are “in on” both of them.

The Orioles were interested in outfielder Michael Saunders last winter - he was on their board - and he’s also available again after a disappointing 2017 season that included a combined .202/.256/.344 slash line in 73 games with the Phillies and Blue Jays.

The bullpen and bench won’t be ignored, especially with an opening for a utility player, but the rotation and need to provide more balance to the lineup definitely are the priorities.

Duquette will sit down with more executives who are gauging the availability of his pending free agents. He indicated again this week during an interview on “The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report” on MASN that he expects to hold onto closer Zach Britton.

“I’m looking forward to him pitching for us,” Duquette said.

And yes, the Orioles will “listen on” any player. Duquette doesn’t have special ring tones to alert him if an executive wants to talk about Manny Machado or Britton, allowing him to screen the calls. Teams will check on availability and whether Duquette has softened his stance. It’s known as due diligence.

Don’t read too much into it. “Listen on” and “taking calls on” isn’t the same as “actively shopping.”

Duquette laid out the same shopping list last week on 105.7 The Fan and during Wednesday afternoon’s interview on MLB Network. You’re going to hear more about it at the Winter Meetings and long after they’re done. Enjoy the repetition.

I’ll get in my steps next week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., but I don’t anticipate a lot of heavy lifting. Someone prove me wrong.

Shameless plug alert: I’m appearing on “Wall to Wall Baseball” from noon-2 p.m. on MASN.

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