The Winter Meetings officially start on Monday, though everyone rolls into town the previous day to get settled and soak up the atmosphere. And I’m bringing the sarcasm hard on that last part.
I sat down yesterday with Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette to touch on a few topics, including tonight’s 8 p.m. deadline to tender contracts to the 10 arbitration-eligible players.
“We’ve got a good idea what we’re going to do,” Duquette said. “I think last year we went down to the deadline. We don’t have to go down to the deadline (tonight). We should be able to finish our work by close of business. We’re going to have this done.”
Duquette said it’s “possible” that the Orioles could sign some players today to contracts for next season, agreeing to terms right away instead of exchanging figures down the road.
“We’re talking to a couple players about 2017 contracts,” he said. “We’ve been working on that for about a week.”
Duquette repeated the shopping list, though he downplayed the need for a designated hitter.
“We’re still looking for catching depth,” he said. “We’re looking for left-handed hitters, we’re looking for outfielders and we’re looking for pitching depth. And potential DH. We’ve got a good candidate in Trey Mancini in-house. Mancini should be able to hit. He’s got a proven hitting record in the minors. He’s got good fundamentals. I don’t know that we’re spending a lot of time on the DH position.
“We like some of our catchers, too. We like (Caleb) Joseph to rebound from a subpar season. We like what we saw of (Francisco) Pena last year. The other clubs tell us we should like Chance Sisco because they keep asking for him in trade.”
Did negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement impact Duquette’s attempts to upgrade the roster?
“It’s certainly a factor because clubs are trying to decide and weigh the value of their players,” Duquette said. “When some of the macrostructures aren’t really determined, it slows things down. But this is the end of the calendar year, if you will, for baseball. After (yesterday), you start a new season.
“We were aware of what was being discussed between the owners and the players, but you never know how it’s going to resolve, right? What the actual structure is going to be going forward. So it’s generally prudent to wait and see exactly what the terms of the working conditions are before going full-speed ahead.”
The Orioles made a minor move yesterday by signing outfielder Logan Schafer to a minor league deal with a spring training invitation.
“He can play a couple different outfield positions and he’s got a decent bat, and he has some major league experience,” Duquette said. “We’re looking for left-handed hitting outfielders. He has some experience.”
Manager Buck Showalter, appearing last night on the “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan, said he hasn’t given up on the Orioles re-signing designated hitter Pedro Alvarez, outfielder Mark Trumbo or catcher Matt Wieters.
“A lot of this stuff, (Duquette) is very astute at judging the market and knowing where it’s going to fall,” Showalter said. “There’s going to be people out there without chairs when this is over, because at some point somebody’s going to run out of opportunities for these guys.
“We’d like to keep them all, but it just doesn’t work for us and how we have to do it. We had one of the highest payrolls in Orioles history. Our ownership has been steadfast since I’ve been here, at every turn. The onus is on us to surround ourselves with people.”
The Orioles are prepared again to let the market play out on certain players and find out whether they can get a more favorable deal later in the winter.
“I don’t want to call it bottom-fishing. I call it kind of late fishing. Dan is really good at that,” Showalter said.
“A lot of these guys are going to be sitting around there in January or February. I don’t think these guys will be, but they’re good players. I know all three of those guys would like to come back, which makes me feel good about the atmosphere we’ve created here in Baltimore. But at some point they have to make a decision on their lives and what kind of ticket they want to cash.”
Showalter also said he’s checked with Chris Davis about moving to other positions, but he wants to keep the slugger at first base.
Showalter also confirmed that free agent outfielder Angel Pagan is on his “board,” though it may be little more than a player who intrigues him and not something that’s currently hot. He called Pagan “a good name” when it was floated past him last night.
“He’s on the list,” Showalter said. “I like him because he’s a baseball player, but so do a lot of other people. We’re not the only ones who know how to evaluate good people.”
As for the bullpen, Showalter said left-hander Donnie Hart would have to pitch his way off the team in spring training. He’s got a spot as long as he’s able to hold onto it.
Showalter is braced for teams to come after his relievers in trade talks, especially later in the winter after some big-name closers are off the board.