By Jim Henneman
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It was hardly the barnburner some might have wanted, but, if nothing else, the signing of left fielder Nate McLouth took all other front-line outfielders off the Orioles' shopping list.
"It takes us out of that market," general manager Dan Duquette said after announcing that McLouth had agreed to a one-year contract worth $2 million, with incentives that could add another $500,000 to the total package.
The signing gives the Orioles the outfield depth Duquette wanted going into spring training. But it does not mean McLouth will be the everyday leftfielder. The person with the best chance of filling that role remains Nolan Reimold, who, according to reports, has passed all tests and is ready to go full bore.
The Orioles are hoping Reimold can play every day, even though they can't count on that any more than they can count on second baseman Brian Roberts playing on a daily basis. But both will get the opportunity, starting with spring training.
Reimold also figures prominently in the designated hitter role, especially against left-handed pitching. The status of Wilson Betemit, a switch hitter who had poor numbers from the right side last year, will also figure prominently in the DH spot.
Like Chris Davis last year, McLouth will get the opportunity to play regularly if he performs as he did the last two months of the 2011 season.
But his signing doesn't diminish the Orioles' need for a power bat. Adam LaRoche is still a possibility, but it will take a three-year commitment to get him.
Kansas City's Billy Butler is at the top of the wish list, but it would be hard to work out a trade with the Royals unless it included Orioles starter Chris Tillman and another significant prospect. There is talk the Royals might use minor league pitching phenom Wil Myers in an effort to lure in Rays starter James Shields, which is exactly the kind of trade -- a lot of upside and low financial risk -- Tampa thrives on.
The winter meetings will wrap up Dec. 6 with the Rule V draft, and the chances are good the Orioles will be involved. They have 39 players on the 40-man roster, so there is a spot open, and Duquette has indicated it will be used. There is also a good possibility the Orioles' minor league system will lose some players.
Posted Dec. 6, 2012