Orioles may not look far to fill two spots

Unless Fernando Rodney lowers his price, the Orioles apparently will stay in-house for their next closer.

With Brian Roberts no longer on the market, the Orioles apparently will stay in-house for their next second baseman.

Everything is subject to change, but they seem to be pointed in that direction.

Tommy Hunter is the clear favorite to replace Jim Johnson if the Orioles don’t sign Rodney. He made a career-high 68 appearances this season and notched his first four saves. His upper-90s fastball plays in the late innings.

On the flip side, he’s never been a closer. The Orioles can only speculate how he’d handle the role. Left-handers hit .294 with all 11 home runs off him this season. And he’d need to demonstrate that he could pitch on back-to-back-to-back nights.

Flipping back, they also experimented with Johnson and he saved 101 games in two seasons.

Hunter already has spoken to manager Buck Showalter about the possibility of closing. He wants to be a starter, but if you’re going to stay in the bullpen, you may as well be the last guy holding the ball.

It tends to pay pretty well, too. Just ask Johnson and Rodney.

Grant Balfour would have made $15 million over two years if the Orioles hadn’t backed away following his physical. Now, he could end up with the Rays, who are shopping Heath Bell, according to multiple industry sources.

No, he’s not a closing option for the Orioles.

The Rays acquired Bell from the Diamondbacks on Dec. 3 in a three-team trade with the Reds. Now they’re gauging the market for him.

What do you think about the Orioles signing Joel Hanrahan or Andrew Bailey, let him begin the season on the disabled list while recovering from surgery and perhaps insert him as the closer later in the summer if Hunter isn’t up to the task?

Just know that the MRI isn’t going to look real good.

The Orioles are intrigued by the idea of having Kevin Gausman close, but they still view him as a starter and don’t want to go through the process of stretching him out later after having him work in one-inning intervals.

Making Hunter the closer would open up a spot in the bullpen, which may put the Orioles in the market for another set-up man to go with Darren O’Day and Ryan Webb.

Cross one item off the shopping list and create another one. Not exactly how you map out the offseason.

Ryan Flaherty is the most likely starter at second base. The Orioles haven’t been linked to any free agents this winter beyond a little media speculation that proved false. He’d just need to beat out Jemile Weeks for the job.

Without Balfour next season, the Orioles have $7.5 million to put toward reallocating those resources. And if they do stay in-house at closer and second base, well, it’s time to pony up for a starter or another bat.

Note: The Nationals signed former Orioles catcher Chris Snyder to a minor league deal.

Snyder went 2-for-20 in nine games with the Orioles this year.

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