Are Balfour, Burnett this week's Orioles targets?

Are Balfour, Burnett this week's Orioles targets?
December 16, 2013, 8:45 am
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While you were watching football or at holiday parties on Sunday, another possible Orioles closer was taken off the market.

John Axford reportedly agreed to a one-year contract with the Cleveland Indians. Axford wasn’t the Orioles primary choice to replace Jim Johnson.

They’re probably still the frontrunners to sign Grant Balfour, but it isn’t clear who their competition is. While the Orioles hoped to come to an agreement with Balfour at last week’s winter meetings, they didn’t. The hope is that the situation is resolved this week.

Mark Ellis, who the Orioles surprisingly didn’t pursue, reportedly came to an agreement on a one-year contract with St. Louis.

Brian Roberts had been mentioned as a possibility with the Cardinals, and with the number of available second basemen, perhaps he’ll get more attention in the market this week.

[RELATED: Orioles left scrambling for available free agents]

After a quiet winter meetings last week and the holidays next week, this is the time for the Orioles to try and sign a closer and some help for the rotation.

While the position player market has been stripped, there are a number of starting pitchers who could be had. If the Orioles could sign A.J. Burnett, who is supposedly contemplating a return to Pittsburgh or retirement, that could make the winter a little brighter.

Burnett will turn 37 early next month and has won 10 games or more nine straight years. Last year, Burnett led the National League with 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings, and in his career has allowed less than one home run per nine innings. He’s 5-2 with a 5.03 ERA in 10 career starts in Baltimore.

He lives in Monkton, Md., and perhaps could carpool with Nick Markakis.

Balfour, Burnett or another suitable starter. Maybe that’s this week’s wish list.