Duquette on possible Hardy extension talks, the Rule 5 draft and more (O’s offers report and update)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - During his briefing with reporters this afternoon and again later during a one-on-one video interview with MASNsports.com, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said today the club is hopeful of pursuing a contract extension with shortstop J.J. Hardy, who can be a free agent after the 2014 season.

Duquette said no talks have taken place yet, but it could happen later in the winter.

“He had a great year this year,” Duquette said. “He got the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger and made the All-Star team. Very rare does a player get that trifecta.

“We’re very happy with J.J. Hardy and hope J.J is happy with us and we’ll have an opportunity to explore that this winter. We’ve got some time to do that.”

Duquette said the Orioles have offers out to pitchers - both starters and relievers - and position players. He won’t get any more specific than that. Does he feel good about leaving these meetings with one or more players being signed?

“I’d feel a lot better if we had some accepted offers and some players signed, but we’re working hard to staff our pitching staff and we’re still looking for a left-handed hitter,” Duquette said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to cross those items off our list here. I don’t know if we’ll get them all done before the end of the meetings, but we’re in a good position to sign a couple of pitchers and hopefully add a left-handed hitter.”

Duquette keeps getting asked about fan displeasure with the Orioles’ offseason.

“There is no secret we’d like to be able to add players to our club, because there is such an intense interest in the team and we’re going to do everything we can to get a couple of deals done,” he said on that topic.

The Orioles have the 16th pick in the Rule 5 draft tomorrow. Duquette has indicated the club may very well take a player again in this draft.

“We’ll see. We are still talking about a couple of players that might help us,” Duquette said. “We draft down a little further this year. We have a couple of players on our list, but we don’t know if they’ll be there. It’s a good way to supplement your team.”

Does he expect the organization could lose any players to another club, with players like pitchers Oliver Drake and Jason Gurka, and catcher Caleb Joseph not protected on the 40-man roster?

“I’ve heard a couple of names mentioned, but I’m not convinced we are going to lose anyone in the draft,” Duquette said. “We’d like to keep as much depth as we have in our system and we take a hard look at protecting players on the 40-man. If we’ve done our job right, we shouldn’t be losing a lot of ballplayers.”

Duquette noted that Baseball Prospectus today released its list of the Orioles’ top 10 prospects, which is listed below:

1. Right-hander Kevin Gausman
2. Right-hander Dylan Bundy
3. Right-hander Hunter Harvey
4. Left-handerEduardo Rodriguez
5. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop
6. Right-hander Mike Wright
7. Left-hander P Tim Berry
8. Right-hander Zach Davies
9. Catcher Chance Sisco
10. Outfielder Josh Hart

“I thought that was a good list, with seven pitchers, including two left-handers with Eduardo Rodriguez and Tim Berry, showed the depth to our farm system,” Duquette said. “You’re talking about Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Hunter Harvey. They are very talented pitchers. Then you have Mike Wright who was Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. The fact we have seven pitchers on the list close to coming up to help the big league team is very encouraging,” Duquette said.

Heyman report: We may now know two players the O’s have made contract offers to. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com in this story said the club has made offers to free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz and free agent closer Grant Balfour.

The report says the O’s are willing to go four years and $60M for Cruz and that Balfour is their No. 1 choice to replace Jim Johnson as closer. Because Cruz turned down a qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers, the Orioles would lose their first-round pick (the 17th pick overall) for signing him.

Update: MASNSports.com’s Roch Kubatko has confirmed the offer to Balfour and reports the O’s have offered the reliever a two-year deal. It is also believed the O’s have made an offer to reliever John Axford. Kubatko reports club sources are disputing that the O’s have made an offer to Cruz. Here is the link to his story.

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