Orioles remain interested in starting pitchers and infielders

The days keep melting away until pitchers and catchers report to the spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla. The Orioles have filled some of their needs, but they aren’t done.

While the media keeps making predictions on the rotation, the guesswork aimed at the back end of it, the club has been negotiating with representatives for starting pitchers who remain on the market.

I’m hearing that the Orioles are discussing major league deals and minor league contracts that would include invitations to spring training. They can go in either direction.

They’d like to bring in another candidate to join a group that includes David Hess, Kohl Stewart, Rule 5 picks Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker, and prospect Keegan Akin. The top three spots should be occupied by John Means, Alex Cobb and Asher Wojciechowski, though the latter could move down.

Rucker came out of the bullpen for 36 of his 37 appearances last season in the Cubs organization and the Orioles could lump him with the relievers.

The Orioles also are interested in finding another infielder for depth purposes, especially with the Diamondbacks claiming Pat Valaika off waivers.

Those negotiations also involve major league and minor league deals.

alberto-hanser-throws-black-away-at-twins-sidebar.jpgJosé Iglesias is the starting shortstop and Hanser Alberto could be the second baseman. Richard Ureña was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays and instantly became the favorite to break camp in a utility role, but the 40-man roster also includes Stevie Wilkerson and Richie Martin, and Dilson Herrera will be a non-roster invite to camp.

The Orioles are willing to hand out one more major league contract this winter, which would require a corresponding move to clear room on the 40-man roster. However, there could be multiple non-roster invitations, which might explain why the list hasn’t been released.

I’ve also heard that the trade front is “quiet,” which leads the Orioles back to the free agent market.

They pulled off two deals in early December, sending infielder Jonathan Villar to the Marlins and starter Dylan Bundy to the Angels. But the rest of their activity has involved signings, waiver claims and Rule 5 selections, with Iglesias the biggest move.

The transactions this month include the signing of right-hander César Valdez, 34, to a minor league contract.

Valdez hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2017 with the Blue Jays and Athletics. The Astros signed him as a free agent in January 2016 and he went 12-1 with a 3.12 ERA and 1.128 WHIP in 30 games with Triple-A Fresno.

The First-Year Player Draft isn’t held until June, but executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias spent the weekend hopping around the country meeting with potential selections and will remain on the road for a few more days.

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