Orioles still conducting business as World Series approaches

Most teams lay low during the World Series. They’re not really supposed to make news and distract from the big event.

I’m not sure that there’s an actual law against it. I don’t believe that executive vice president Dan Duquette would be led out in handcuffs.

Duquette and manager Buck Showalter already met since the Game 4 loss in Kansas City and will huddle again on Monday and Tuesday. It’s never too soon to check on potential minor league free agents and non-tenders.

This is right up Duquette’s alley. He’s always searching for depth moves, the kind that could return infielder Omar Quintanilla and catcher Taylor Teagarden to the organization.

Let’s not forget that Duquette signed Travis Ishikawa to a minor league contract on Dec. 19, 2012 and brought him to spring training as insurance in case Chris Davis continued to struggle at first base. Davis was fine, Ishikawa received only 17 at-bats in the majors and the Yankees claimed in off waivers during that summer.

I was reminded of this transaction as Ishikawa hit his walk-off home run Thursday night to propel the Giants into the World Series.

Ishikawa, Jason Pridie, Edgmer Escalona, Brock Huntzinger, Adam Russell, Francisco Peguero, Ivan DeJesus, Xavier Paul, Chris Marrero. I could go on for days.

The media goes nuts every winter compiling these lists and conducting interviews in spring training. We never see most of these players again, but a few come up and fill a particular need on the Orioles’ roster.

Throw a bunch against a wall and hope at least a few of them stick.

The Orioles want to sign a slick-fielding shortstop to a minor league contract, someone who could come up during the summer if J.J. Hardy is injured. Triple-A Norfolk had plenty of second basemen and corner infielders, but they were hurting at shortstop. In fact, the overall defense was an issue.

Ryan Flaherty is valuable as a utility infielder and he can back up at shortstop, but the Orioles still need a plus-defender at Triple-A.

Buck Showalter and Dan Duqette.jpgThe meetings between Duquette and Showalter also include discussions about their own arbitration-eligibles and players with options for 2015.

The Orioles will pick up the options on pitchers Darren O’Day and Wei-Yin Chen, but they will decline Nick Markakis’ $17.5 million option. They’re not expected to pick up catcher Nick Hundley’s $5 million option. They could let him become a free agent and attempt to re-sign him.

The Orioles always seem to sign at least one catcher in the offseason. Anyone remember Johnny Monell? But they’ve got more depth than previous years.

They know that Caleb Joseph can give them the required defense behind the plate. He may have worn down a little by the end - he’s used to the minor league season concluding around Sept. 1 - but he would be perfectly fine backing up Matt Wieters next season.

Steve Clevenger remains in the organization, and Triple-A Norfolk’s Brian Ward may be the best defensive catcher in the farm system. He’s definitely on the radar again despite his offensive limitations.

As for the arbitration-eligible Orioles, here’s the list that a team official confirmed for me:

Zach Britton
Chris Davis
Alejandro De Aza
Ryan Flaherty
Miguel Gonzalez
Tommy Hunter
Brian Matusz
Evan Meek
Bud Norris
Steve Pearce
Chris Tillman
Matt Wieters

I checked on Steve Lombardozzi and he’s not eligible. It may not matter, since he’s a strong candidate to come off the 40-man roster. I’m sure he’d like an opportunity somewhere else and the Orioles’ failure to recall him in September or place him on the taxi squad spoke volumes.

Meek also is a likely non-tender, though he certainly has his supporters in the organization.

Three of the more intriguing decisions center on Davis, Hunter and Matusz.

Davis made $10.3 million and is due another raise simply because he’s still arb-eligible. It seemed like a no-brainer last winter after he hit 53 home runs, but what about now? Hunter made $3 million and Matusz made $2.4 million. Will their projected raises be deemed excessive given their roles?

Also, De Aza made $4.25 million this season and will exceed $5 million in arbitration. He batted .293/.341/.537 with five doubles, three triples, three home runs and 10 RBIs in 20 games with the Orioles. Another tough call.

The Orioles must clear some payroll to afford all those raises and to negotiate a multi-year deal with Markakis. And what if they want to make a run at re-signing Andrew Miller, who’s going to get big bucks on the free-agent market?

Meanwhile, Baseball America reported yesterday that right-hander Julio DePaula, left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz and second baseman Cord Phelps elected free agency. They weren’t in the Orioles’ plans.

Depth moves.

blog comments powered by Disqus