NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. - The Orioles are serious about trying to keep this year’s major league home run leader.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette confirmed today at the Winter Meetings that he’s had ongoing discussions with Mark Trumbo over the past few weeks and the club has made two offers to the slugger. He didn’t provide specifics.
“We’ve had several conversations with Mark Trumbo, but we haven’t been able to cinch a deal with him,” Duquette told a group of local beat writers. “In the past, we’ve made a couple offers to him. We’ve had a dialogue going with them for several weeks.”
The Orioles are still trying to determine Trumbo’s market with a draft pick attached to him. The Rockies reportedly are interested in him.
“I’m not sure,” Duquette said. “He has a qualifying offer, so that’s certainly a consideration. And that’s a consideration for the club, too, because we’d get a draft pick and be able to add to our prospect value. So that’s a consideration. And it will be interesting to see how the free agent market plays out for the qualifying offer players, because in the new basic agreement you can’t be offered the qualifying offer consecutively.
“It will be interesting to see what impact that has on the free agent market for the players who have a qualifying offer this year.”
It will be interesting to find out how the new labor agreement impacts Duquette as he tries again to sign free agents late in the winter, a trademark since he came to Baltimore. In the future, teams no longer will be surrendering their first-round pick for free agent signings.
“It’s a little tweak on the system. It’s a new system,” he said. “That should have some impact on free agency, the values that players sign for and how clubs evaluate the value of their picks, because compensation has been diluted under the new basic agreement.”
Duquette is mainly focused this week on improving the Orioles in two areas.
“We’re going to be looking to help ourselves in the outfield and also catching,” Duquette said. “That’s probably where we’ll be focused on this week, and then we’re looking at that Rule 5 draft. That’s kind of what we’re going to be working on this week.
“I don’t know if some of those deals will come together, but that’s where we’re going to be spending our time.”
Improving the outfield defense remains a priority.
“That’s one of our offseason projects and we think we can do that in a couple of ways,” Duquette said. “That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
“We have an opening in right field. That’s clear,” Duquette said.
Chris Davis is more likely to stay at first base than move to right.
“The team isn’t really thinking about that right now. We’re trying to add a right fielder,” Duquette said.
“We have a good stable infield and good stable infield defense, so we’d like to find a couple of outfielders that could help us.”
The Orioles’ desire to find a veteran catcher, with Welington Castillo and Nick Hundley high on their list, could indicate that they’ve given up on retaining free agent Matt Wieters.
“Well, my cousin Jim (Duquette) told me the asking price was high on Wieters,” Duquette quipped after appearing on MLB Network Radio. “So I guess we’re going to see if it remains high.”
Duquette said he’s spoken to agent Scott Boras, though he didn’t indicate that Wieters was the subject.
“We always talk to Scott. He always has a number of players who are interesting,” Duquette said.
The cost of making a Rule 5 selection has risen from $50,000 to $100,000, which isn’t going to deter the Orioles from bringing back a player.
“We’ve got a couple spots on our roster that we could take a look at some guys for the Rule 5,” Duquette said.
Could the Orioles make bigger headlines in the next four days besides the usual Rule 5 selection?
“Like, we could sign somebody who would be a recognizable player to our fans? Or trade?” Duquette asked. “Yeah, that’s possible. But we’re trying to upgrade our outfield defense and we need a catcher. We need a right fielder.”
No mention again of a designated hitter. The Orioles are prepared to move forward with rookie Trey Mancini if they can’t re-sign Trumbo.
“We think we have a hitter in Trey Mancini,” Duquette said. “He’s got a good record and he did well in September in his debut. He did pretty good.”
As I’ve written in the past, the Orioles aren’t worried about having Mancini on their bench and not getting regular at-bats in the minors.
“He can hit,” Duquette said. “That’s one of his core skills. That’s what he does best.”
Duquette also confirmed that the Orioles haven’t engaged in extension talks with third baseman Manny Machado, and he laughed off a rumor that the sides had reached agreement.