Taillon an Orioles target in free agency (and updated notes)

SAN DIEGO – Justin Verlander is off the Winter Meetings board after reaching agreement with the Mets today on a two-year, $86.66 million deal. The Rangers already secured Jacob deGrom with a five-year, $185 million contract.

Left-hander Carlos Rodón is the top free agent pitcher on the market, and the Orioles have been linked to him based on how they “checked in” – a popular offseason term – their quest for a frontline starter and their willingness to expand payroll.

That’s basically it.  

They aren’t ignoring the top tier, but they’re most aggressive below it.

Rodón is seeking a six-year deal at an annual rate of $30 million or more, according to the New York Post, which is territory that the Orioles aren’t expected to wander into this winter. However, there is legitimate interest in veteran right-hander Jameson Taillon. He’s created the loudest lobby buzz on the first day.

Taillon is a big name in the second tier and could fit at the top of the Orioles rotation while they wait for left-hander John Means to return.

MLBTradeRumors.com projects a four-year, $56 million contract for Taillon, who made 32 starts for the Yankees this season and went 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA and 1.128 WHIP in 177 1/3 innings.

The Pirates made Taillon the second-overall pick in the 2010 draft, one spot before the Orioles chose prep infielder Manny Machado. Everyone knew that Bryce Harper was going first to the Nationals, and the Orioles were prepared to take Machado or Taillon.

They had no regrets with the selection of Machado, and now they might be able to bring Taillon. He’s definitely one of their targeted starters, and a more realistic possibility.

In four years with Mike Elias as executive vice president/general manager, the Orioles haven’t signed a free agent to a guaranteed multi-year deal. This is the winter when it could happen, with the club aiming higher.

Elias is meeting with the local media later this afternoon.

* Former Orioles head athletic trainer Richie Bancells will be inducted into the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) Hall of Fame on Saturday in San Diego.

Bancells informed former manager Buck Showalter of his plans to retire before the final game of the 2017 season, his 41st in the organization and 30th as head athletic trainer. He was one of the franchise’s longest-tenured employees.

The Orioles hired Bancells as an assistant athletic trainer with Single-A Miami in 1977. He became the major league assistant athletic trainer in 1984 under Ralph Salvon, and the head athletic trainer in 1988, just the third in the team’s 64-year history.

Assistant Brian Ebel was promoted as Bancell’s replacement and remains in the role.

Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. thanked Bancells during his 2007 Hall of Fame acceptance speech for maintaining his record-breaking streak. One notable example was how Bancells worked on Ripken’s right knee that was injured in a brawl with the Mariners on June 6, 1993.

Ripken called Bancells the following morning and said he wouldn’t be able to play. The knee was swollen after he twisted it and got caught beneath a pile in a fight that began after Mike Mussina hit Bill Haselman, who charged the mound in retaliation. Ripken completed his 1,790th game in a row and underwent an MRI the next day that revealed a medial collateral ligament sprain.

Bancells treated the knee throughout the day, taped it up and watched Ripken bat third against the Athletics and maintain his streak.

* The Orioles announced that individual tickets to spring training games at Ed Smith Stadium go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. Birdland Members will have the opportunity to purchase tickets in advance on Tuesday.

All tickets must be ordered through Orioles.com/SpringTickets. Information on in-person ticket sales will be announced at a later date.

The Orioles will play 17 games in Sarasota, including 12 that begin at 1:05 p.m. and five at 6:05 p.m.

* This year’s Winters Meetings Auction, which supports the new Boys & Girls Club in Uvalde, Texas, includes Orioles legends autographed baseballs and a behind-the-scenes experience.

The online auction is live now and can be accessed at MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction. Bidding ends Thursday at 8 p.m.

* Baseball America named Brandon Hyde Manager of the Year, with the announcement coming today.

The Sporting News chose Hyde earlier, and he finished second to the Guardians' Terry Francona among American League managers in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Hyde guided the Orioles to a 31-win improvement this season and their first winning record since 2016.

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