If you woke up feeling a little different today, perhaps a little more energized, it's because free agency has officially started. It's not too late to rush out and buy a cake. You should have gone to sleep earlier so today would arrive faster. Sort of like Christmas. I'm not quite as pumped about it. The rumor mill spins out of control and the Orioles will be linked to just about every player on the market. I find it more annoying than anything else, and I'm not alone. The Orioles' needs are well-documented: A big bat for the middle of the lineup, a first and third baseman, a veteran starting pitcher for the top of the rotation, a closer. I'd probably classify the starting pitcher as more of a "want" than a "need." They could, conceivably, go with Jeremy Guthrie and the kids, perhaps creating a T-shirt slogan along the way. But I'd like to see an innings-eater anchor the staff, someone with a track record, someone who isn't living off one decent season. This would be an Adam Eaton-free zone. The Orioles could lower Guthrie in the rotation while hoping that Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman rise to the next level. And if Jake Arrieta, Troy Patton or someone else starts banging on the door, they'll fling it open. We'll continue to analyze the corner infield possibilities in a thin free-agent market. I'd like to start with Adrian Beltre, who reportedly is high on the Orioles' wish list as Melvin Mora's replacement at third. I'm groping for the logic here. You could argue that he's an upgrade over Mora. He hit 25, 26 and 25 homers in the three seasons before 2009, when injuries (and surgery on his left shoulder) limited him to 111 games and eight bombs. He's also a two-time Gold Glove winner. But he's going to want a multi-year deal - speculation starts at two years with an option, and broadens to three years. The Orioles don't want to block Josh Bell, which means Beltre would have to vacate third base at some point - perhaps later in the summer. Unless they keep first base open for him, and that's supposed to be Brandon Snyder's territory if they don't acquire somebody else, it could be a tricky maneuver. And he's never played the position. Beltre takes great pride in his defense, so suggesting that he serve as the full-time DH would probably be viewed as an insult. He filled the role 10 times during his five years in Seattle. Keep in mind, this guy doesn't wear a protective cup because it's too uncomfortable and might affect him in the field. Then again, he might wear two after taking a shot off his groin during an Aug. 13 game against the White Sox. The phrase "severely contused right testicle" does more than make you wince. It also makes you re-think your wardrobe. (Ken Griffey Jr. reportedly arranged for the Mariners to change Beltre's at-bat intro music to the waltz from The Nutcracker Suite). Beltre is a curious player in that he hit 48 homers with the Dodgers in 2004, earning him a five-year, $64 million contract from the Mariners, but he's never topped 26 in any other season. He also collected 121 RBIs, the only time he's cracked 100 (he finished with 99 in 2007). He batted .334 that year, only the second time he's exceeded the .276 mark. Beltre would provide some pop in the middle of the order, and he'd give you solid defense at the hot corner. But will he get the multi-year deal that he desires? And will the Orioles fork it over? Would you?
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