NASHVILLE - Would the Orioles part with the 14th pick in the draft? If they signed a free agent who had turned down a qualifying offer, they would have to. While the first 10 picks in next June's First-Year Player Draft are protected, the O's No. 14 pick is not.
Players that turned down the qualifying offer who could be sought by the Orioles include outfielders Alex Gordon, Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, and pitchers Yovani Gallardo and Ian Kennedy.
During his Winter Meetings press conference today, I asked O's manager Buck Showalter if it would be tough for the O's to part with that draft pick.
"We talked about something the other day that would require that," Showalter said. "It would have to be something that really fits. But we would if we had to.
"One of our big days is going to be in June when we have (five) picks in the first 100 of the draft. I don't know if we've ever had that. This is big for us. We can solidify an already strong system. That is who we are. We have to hit this draft, like we have.
"Because we are not drafting (among) the first three or four (picks), like when we got Matt (Wieters) and we got Manny (Machado). (Kevin) Gausman was, what, fifth or something? Those kind of jump out at you. We're going to have to be good at it."
Does having a lot of picks make it easier for the Orioles to part with a draft pick?
"We are not just going to give it away because it's there," Showalter said. "The 14th pick is a pretty good player. Sure our guys will be looking at a lot of those Friday night (college) pitchers around the country. Lot of people are looking forward to the draft."
Showalter also discussed today the Orioles' desire to add a left-handed hitter. It seems the Orioles understand they need hitters that can hit well versus both left- and right-handed pitchers. - meaning they don't necessarily need to add a lefty bat. Some hitters that bat from the right side hit right-handed pitching better.
"I know what it looks like aesthetically on paper," Showalter said. "I don't think Toronto had much trouble with the right-handed hitters they had in the lineup last year. We're looking for quality offensive performers and if they happen to hit left-handed, so be it.
"You see some of those splits kind of reverse as we go forward. Strikeouts are at an all-time high and walks an all-time low. Think you are going to see certain skill sets evolve as the game goes forward."
Upton, for instance, has a career batting average of .273 with an OPS of .886 against lefties, while those numbers are .271 and .805 for him against right-handed pitchers.
Last year, the Orioles actually hit much better against right-handed pitching. As a team, the club hit .240 with an OPS of .664 against lefties to rank 14th in the American League. They hit .253 (sixth in the AL) with an OPS of .752 (second in the AL) versus right-handers.