A few Orioles general managers ago, the team was having a hard time attracting free agents. The situation was a lot more dire then. Syd Thrift decried his inability to get players to sign with the team.
“It’s like I’m offering Confederate money,” he said.
That was a long time ago, and the team Dan Duquette has is miles better than the ones Thrift had early in the 2000’s.
But, after watching the Orioles trying to attract players, including ones they’ve had their eyes on for several years, you have to hope that free agents aren’t thinking about the old Confederacy.
It’s no secret that the Orioles have long liked Gavin Floyd. The Anne Arundel, Md. county product had Tommy John surgery, but a report surfaced on Friday that he was about to sign elsewhere.
The Orioles had also liked Jason Kubel for some time, but coming off an awful year, Kubel chose to sign a minor league deal with Minnesota, where he played the first seven years of his career.
Kubel’s signing hurt because he was a left-handed hitting outfielder who could have fit nicely in left or as designated hitter.
Floyd would have been nice insurance, but he’s not going to be ready to start the season.
For weeks, readers have suggested that the Orioles sign A.J. Burnett, who lives in Monkton. Five years ago, the Orioles negotiated with Burnett and Mark Teixeira, a childhood neighbor of Floyd’s. They hoped the allure of playing at home would be attractive.
It wasn’t attractive enough and both Burnett and Teixeira signed with the Yankees.
[RELATED: Winter meetings end with no new signings ]
Burnett would like to stay with the Pittsburgh Pirates. His name hasn’t been a hot one because many teams assumed he’d want to play only for Pittsburgh.
The Pirates don’t seem to be overly eager to bring him back, but perhaps the Orioles can lure him. After all, Monkton isn’t that far from the Mason-Dixon line.
On Friday, there was nothing new on the closer front, the area that preoccupied the Orioles during the winter meetings. Grant Balfour, John Axford and others are still in the running, and with several attractive closers on the market, the Orioles should be able to sign one.
There were lots of names tossed around during the winter meetings, but none signed with the Orioles.
They still need a closer, another starting pitcher, another outfielder and a second baseman.
Perhaps they’re ready to go with Ryan Flaherty, Jonathan Schoop or Jemile Weeks at second, Are they really ready to move on from Brian Roberts?
Despite a little talk about other teams interest in Roberts, he hasn’t been mentioned very often in the last few weeks.
The Orioles drafted Julio Borbon in the low-risk Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft. For now, Borbon, Steve Pearce, Francisco Peguero, Nolan Reimold and Henry Urrutia are candidates for the left field job. There certainly will be others on hand two months from now in Sarasota.
If the Orioles could sign Burnett, he could help. Kevin Gausman’s emergence could help in the rotation, too.
For now, the Orioles still have lots of excellent players, a strong lineup with a hole or two in it. They need a player to boost their on-base percentage.
It’s not going to be Peguero, who has a .300 minor league batting average, but never walked more than 21 times in a season. Borbon has walked more often, but Urrutia didn’t draw a single walk in 58 major league at-bats.
Reimold, who has a good eye, is the best hope to boost OBP from this group.
Duquette will address extensions for Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters in the coming weeks, and Orioles fans will hope he’ll be successful.
The Orioles are still a young team. Hardy is now the team’s oldest at 31, and only five of the 39 players on the 40-man roster will be 30 by Opening Day.
Fans just hope that Duquette isn’t yet finished building the team and that there’ll be at least another player or two to get excited about.