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Orioles' 2017 Winter Meetings Preview

December 7, 2017
Baseball's annual Winter Meetings take place in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Dec. 10-14. Here are five things to look for as the Orioles begin to make plans for next season.

1. The Orioles will be "in on" nearly every free-agent starting pitcher.

Everyone knows the Orioles need starting pitching, and by the time the Winter Meetings begin, some of the top names could already be committed to new teams.

If a starter is available, you can bet they'll be linked with the Orioles -- even if that pitcher is also linked with a dozen other teams.

During executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette's tenure (he's beginning his seventh season), the Orioles haven't announced a single agreement on a free agent -- pitcher or position player -- during the meetings.

In 2012, word leaked that outfielder Nate McLouth would re-sign with the team, but that deal wasn't made official until after the Winter Meetings concluded.

Right-hander Darren O'Day reportedly reached agreement on a four-year extension as the meetings began in 2015. O'Day's deal, which required some alterations after the original reports, didn't become official until a few days after the meetings.

In 2015, there was plenty of talk about a return of first baseman Chris Davis, and last year, chatter focused on designated hitter Mark Trumbo's possible re-signing.

It took more than a month and countless more rumors for those reunions to occur.

2. The Orioles will be heavily involved in trade talks.

Duquette has been an active trader during his time with the team, but only one of his deals has been executed during the meetings.

In December 2011, as the meetings were ending, Duquette traded for left-handed pitcher Dana Eveland from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Eveland pitched 14 times for the Orioles in 2012.

During the 2014 Winter Meetings there were some early rumors about the Orioles being interested in Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Travis Snider as a replacement for departed free-agent Nick Markakis. Snider became an Oriole in late January.

Should the Orioles put third baseman Manny Machado or closer Zach Britton on the market, then the Orioles will become a hot team in the hotel lobby discussions. However, Duquette has said neither player is available now.

Late each afternoon during the festivities, Duquette meets with Baltimore reporters to brief them on the day's events. Invariably, he'll mention meeting with agents and a few teams about prospective deals, but he won't get specific.

3. The Orioles' 2018 free-agent class will be heavily talked about.

A year from now, Britton, Machado, center fielder Adam Jones and right-handed reliever Brad Brach could all be free agents. For now, Britton and Machado are off the table, and Jones, who has more than 10 years of major league service including five with the Orioles, can't be traded without his approval.

A trade of Brach is certainly possible, but the club has two other looming free agents: Duquette and manager Buck Showalter.

Duquette was the subject of rumors in 2014 when the Toronto Blue Jays had interest in him as their team president. Duquette ended up staying with the Orioles.

He could be on the market again next year. So could Showalter, who will begin his eighth full season and has the second-longest managerial tenure in team history.

While Duquette will generally be available only to Baltimore reporters and on national TV and radio, Showalter could be questioned about his future during a session open to all media that each manager holds during the meetings.

Duquette and Showalter were each given multi-year extensions in January 2013.

4. Scott Boras will proclaim how valuable each of his clients is.

One of the most entertaining parts of the Winter Meetings is when uber-agent Scott Boras holds court. Boras' availability, which is unannounced but will be told to a handful of writers who spread the word, is held on the next-to-last day of the meetings.

Boras selects a location and a scrum ensues. He'll stay as long as there are questions, and he occasionally drops some news about his Orioles clients.

Last year, he mentioned designated hitter Pedro Alvarez was transitioning to the outfield, an experiment that lasted just several weeks. He also predicted that catcher Matt Wieters wouldn't sign until January. Wieters didn't reach agreement on a contract with the Washington Nationals until spring training began in February.

Boras represents Davis and Britton. Another Boras client is Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who the Orioles reportedly have some interest in. When questioned about Gonzalez, Boras may compare him with Barry Bonds. He's not shy about boosting his players.

Boras also represents right-handed pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, who had a disastrous two months with the Orioles. There won't be much interesting news there.

During his 2013 session, Boras talked about the good relationship he has with Duquette. "He's got good hair, too," Boras joked.

5. The Orioles will make at least one selection in the Rule 5 draft.

In Duquette's first six Winter Meetings, the Orioles took eight players in the Rule 5 draft. Five of them (infielder Ryan Flaherty, 2011; left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland, 2012; right-handed pitcher Jason Garcia, 2014; outfielder Joey Rickard, 2015; and outfielder Anthony Santander, 2016) played for the Orioles the season they were drafted.

Another pick, Logan Verrett, a right-hander selected along with Garcia in 2014, ended up pitching for the Orioles last season after he failed to make the team and was lost on waivers to the Texas Rangers at the end of spring training. Verrett went from Texas to the New York Mets, who traded him to the Orioles. 

The two Duquette Rule 5 picks who never played for the Orioles are third baseman Michael Almanzar, the 2013 selection, and outfielder Aneury Tavarez, who returned to the Boston Red Sox late in last season's spring training.

Who might the Orioles choose this year? Possibly another utility infielder. Flaherty lasted six seasons with the Orioles and is now a free agent. The team may try to replace his versatility with a younger, cheaper version.

Currently, Steve Wilkerson, who played for Double-A Bowie and Single-A Frederick last season, is the favorite to replace Flaherty. Luis Sardinas, a shortstop obtained on waivers from the San Diego Padres in May could challenge, too.

Each year, a team is said to have won the meetings with an avalanche of activity. It would be a surprise if the Orioles were that team in 2017.

Issue 239: November 2017

Originally published Nov. 15, 2017