Notes on starting pitching market, contract talks and more

As the offseason moves closer toward the date when pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the Orioles haven’t been able to find starters on the free agent market who are within their price range or don’t pose a risk of flunking the physical.

I’ve written that the club expressed concerns over the medicals on multiple starters, further thinning out a crop that doesn’t impress beyond the upper tier. They’re not in on Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta and don’t expect Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn to settle for less than four guaranteed years.

Though Andrew Cashner and left-hander Jason Vargas attracted interest, the Orioles don’t appear to be in the thick of the competition for their services. And this is the point where I float the reminder that anything can change with one phone call. I’m just taking the temperature on Jan. 26.

The internal debate regarding Chris Tillman is ongoing, with the supporters believing that he’s the perfect bounceback candidate and the detractors mindful that the club couldn’t get him on track last summer through 19 starts and five relief opportunities.

chris-tillman-throw-gray.jpgMaybe it was due to the right shoulder denying him a normal offseason and spring training. No one can make the claim with absolute certainty.

This is why you offer a one-year pillow contract loaded with incentives, though the detractors suggest a minor league deal. I don’t think Tillman will have to settle for one.

The Blue Jays reportedly have interest in Tillman. The Orioles are in the picture. It just isn’t clear whether there’s enough support for his return to make it happen.

I’d do it. A one-year deal heavy in incentives. No pressure on him to start on opening day. There are three spots in the rotation that need to be filled and they can’t be strictly in-house.

I get the sense that the Orioles aren’t close enough in free agent negotiations or trade talks to where they might introduce a new player at Saturday’s FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center. However, I’m inserting the above reminder. One phone call is all it takes.

They also aren’t making progress in reaching agreements with second baseman Jonathan Schoop and pitcher Kevin Gausman, their last two unsigned arbitration-eligible players, on contracts for the 2018 season.

While a source indicated that negotiations would continue rather than the club going “file and trial,” the possibility grows that the sides end up in hearings, which would make four in the last two winters.

Schoop filed at $9 million and the Orioles countered at $7.5 million. He made $3.475 million last season. Gausman filed at $6.225 million and the Orioles countered at $5.3 million. He made $3.345 million last season.

Both players are represented by The Legacy Agency.

I’ve heard from multiple sources that there’s been a significant reduction in the gap between the Orioles and Schoop’s agent, but a deal still hasn’t been struck and the level of frustration on both sides is growing.

In case you missed the tweet last night, the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds announced at their annual banquet that hitting coach Buck Britton, the older brother of Orioles closer Zach Britton, will replace Ryan Minor as manager in 2018.

Buck Britton spent one season as hitting coach before his promotion. He was an infielder in the Orioles minor league system.

MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski tweeted that Minor is expected to remain in the organization.

A few nuggets from last night’s “Orioles Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan:

* Third base coach Bobby Dickerson confirmed that Tim Beckham will work out with him in Mississippi before returning home and getting ready for spring training.

Dickerson said Beckham will perform various infield drills that “aren’t position specific,” since there hasn’t been confirmation whether the former No. 1 overall draft pick will stay at shortstop, go to third base or serve in a utility role.

Beckham has been working out in California with vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson.

* Hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh said first baseman Chris Davis has been “diligent in his work” while preparing for spring training and is impressed by the results of their sessions in Texas.

* Left-hander Donnie Hart is tweaking his mechanics in an attempt to lower his arm slot. He noticed that it raised a bit last season and he didn’t get the same results as in 2016.

Left-handers batted .273 against Hart after going 5-for-38 the previous summer.

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