Orioles produce ripples but no waves at Winter Meetings

The all-but-inevitable non-tender of Mark Reynolds last Friday, coupled with the loss of Triple A first baseman Joe Mahoney in a waiver move, led the Baltimore Orioles to Nashville’s Winter Meetings with first base as a targeted need. It wasn’t necessarily news that they needed to improve at the position. But those two moves made a new first baseman a concrete need.

The Winter Meetings have now come and gone, and were little more than a rumor-fest if major Oriole trades are your thing, with Billy Butler and Michael Morse – the latter mentioned in Domenic Vedala’s Birds Watcher column the other day – two of the floated names since the beginning of the week. There’s been no advancement on that front except for Executive Vice-President Dan Duquette talking trade with several teams he says have an eye on the Orioles’ young pitching.

Wednesday’s re-signing of Nate McLouth was one of those important-even-though-not-huge deals the Orioles have specialized in for a long time. McLouth moved into the leadoff spot and kept the Orioles afloat last season when Nick Markakis went down on September 8. Did I say afloat? The team was 17-8 after Nick got hurt. In the playoffs, McLouth was the only hitter on the team who remembered how to hit a baseball.  The terms are $2 million for the 2013 season, plus another $500,000 if he gets 500 plate appearances.

It is a textbook case of reward for performance. McLouth, Nolan Reimold, Xavier Avery, recently acquired Trayon Robinson, and L.J. Hoes now constitute the depth chart in left field.

We’ll just have to stay tuned for Duquette to make a splash via trade. There is now a surplus of pitching from which to deal, and it’s been some time since this organization has been able to make that statement. Sometimes the Winter Meetings are for more noteworthy splashes, and sometimes a feeling-out process is all that gets accomplished this week.

Wednesday brought Duquette what could be termed a serviceable first baseman, when he signed Conor Jackson to a minor league deal. He is a candidate to play first base or serve as a DH and can play left field if needed.

The Diamondbacks selected Jackson with the 19th pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. He hit .291/.368/.441 with 15 homers and 79 RBIs in 2006, and .300/.376/.446 with 12 homers and 75 RBIs in 2008. File him under organizational depth if a power bat comes aboard later.

As has been reported before, the team may make a bid on Reynolds later in the winter, if the market brings his price down enough. Only trouble is, if the market brings his price down enough, wouldn’t that mean no one else wanted him? It’s enough to make you call Jackson Mr. Wonderful.


Tags: Baltimore Orioles Nate McLouth

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