Who’s next after Valencia?

SARASOTA, Fla. - Don’t expect Danny Valencia to be the last player plucked by the Orioles from the free agent market. Their enthusiasm is gaining momentum as they sort through the bin.

They’re up to their armpits in it.

Players who weren’t a consideration or didn’t fill an identified need early in camp have become more appealing. Pedro Álvarez isn’t a plus defender and the Orioles already have Mark Trumbo as their designated hitter, but he fell to them at a modest price. Valencia isn’t a true super-utility guy because he’s never been used at shortstop, but the Orioles couldn’t resist as he remained unsigned into March.

The “what-ifs” have become more prominent with Chris Davis sidelined by a tender right forearm/elbow. Álvarez and Valencia can play first base. One of them could be the designated hitter if Trumbo moves to first. Trey Mancini could play first with Valencia providing an option in one of the outfield corners.

duquette-at-opacy.jpgThe Orioles are intrigued by Neil Walker, a switch-hitting infielder with a career .341 on-base percentage who made $17.2 million last season and can’t get a job. He doesn’t play shortstop, but his name comes up a lot when various members of the organization talk about potential bargains on the market.

Outfielder Jon Jay remains unsigned and the Orioles could make room despite signing Colby Rasmus and Alex Presley to minor league deals, with the former expected to break camp with the team. Mark Reynolds has been discussed, as well, after hitting 30 home runs and driving in 97 runs last year with the Rockies.

The Orioles appear set at the infield corners and right-handed designated hitter, assuming Davis has avoided a serious injury, but Reynolds intrigues because, well, he’s out there.

Manager Buck Showalter won’t confirm names, but he noted yesterday how there are “two or three other guys that we’re kicking around.” A few minutes later, he referenced seven or eight players.

It could be pitching, an infielder or an outfielder. They could be left-handed or right-handed. The temptations are growing. The risks are lowering.

“We’re trying to wade through some guys we have in the camp and monitor the market and see what’s available to us,” said executive vice president Dan Duquette who’s really in his element right now.

Duquette has been pushing for Valencia’s signing for a while. Vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson also was on board.

“He’s a good platoon bat, very good against left-handed pitching, and he can play a couple of positions in the infield and he can fill in in the outfield,” Duquette said. “He can DH, he has good power and he’s a real asset against left-handed pitching. He’s a middle of the lineup hitter.”

Valencia stated yesterday that he has no interest in a minor league assignment and the Orioles aren’t fighting it. They were able to sign him with the understanding that it’s the majors or free agency.

Hence, the low risk.

“He’s not going to go to the minor leagues with us,” Duquette said. “He made that clear, so he’s in camp to try to make our ballclub. He made it clear that he didn’t want to go to the minors. That’s fine with us. We didn’t sign him for the minors. We signed him to see if he could help our major league club.

“He drove in, what, 66 runs last year? He had a good year. He’s improved the last couple of years against right-handed pitching. And depending on how we configure the ballclub, he’s a capable major league player.

“He has some versatility and he’s a capable major league player. We had him before and we know what he brings to the table in the American League.”

Though Valencia isn’t a shortstop, the Orioles could move Tim Beckham back to his original position if needed. It isn’t ideal. Showalter always has stressed the importance of his utility player excelling at short. But that scenario has been discussed.

The Orioles could pounce on Ryan Flaherty if he doesn’t stick with the Phillies, presenting another obstacle for Valencia. There are so many moving parts that it’s impossible to handicap the field.

Just disregard everything I said and wrote about Valencia as minor league depth and the Chris Johnson comparison. Turns out he’s here only to compete for a job with the Orioles.

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