O's not in rush to make deal
If Bedard, Tejada are traded, MacPhail wants high returns
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Winter Meetings began with a day of discourse for the Orioles, an organization on the potential precipice of a major renovation. Baltimore met with "several" teams on Monday and discussed various trade proposals for franchise linchpins Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard, both of whom could be moved by the end of the week.
Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, said that he'd be disappointed if the Orioles left Nashville without making a major trade. But MacPhail also said he wouldn't be hemmed in by any artificial deadline.
"I don't think you're disadvantaged by waiting -- even if you came out of these Meetings and you wanted to do something but you didn't," MacPhail said on Monday night. "You haven't diminished the value of your player. It's rare when there's just [three] people that want something, two guys sign and the third guy's out of luck. Generally, it doesn't work that way."
Various analysts have speculated that Baltimore's efforts to move Bedard and Tejada have been hampered by the highly publicized availability of similar players -- specifically Minnesota ace Johan Santana and Florida slugger Miguel Cabrera -- on the trade market. One source, however, said that the Santana talks haven't really impacted the Orioles.
There's a perception that the teams in on Santana are in a different "universe" economically than the teams that might be interested in Bedard or the A's Dan Haren, who stand as the next best available alternatives. MacPhail has said that he regards Bedard as similar to Santana -- in that they're both left-handed aces at the top of their respective games.
"It's not surprising that there's been a lot of activity on him," MacPhail said. "One reason there hasn't been more activity -- and even more attention -- is the fact that we've explored extension talks. That's got some people thinking, 'Why should I invest a lot of time here if all they're going to do at the end of the day is extend him?' That's probably impacted it some."
Moments later, MacPhail debunked a recent report in the Washington Post that claimed Bedard has told team officials that he isn't interested in negotiating any further on a contract extension. While the Orioles and Bedard aren't currently in extension talks, MacPhail said that the door remains open and the topic could be revisited in the near future.
"That's not what the agent told me," MacPhail said of the report. "I did characterize the conversations as having cooled. I made some effort to phrase it in the right way, and things can heat up again. But there hasn't been a 'We're off' kind of thing."
The Orioles may be listening to offers for Bedard, but MacPhail said that they really don't have to make a deal at this point. When asked whether Baltimore's leverage would decrease as Bedard gets closer to free agency, MacPhail referenced the Santana phenomenon and said that Minnesota's leverage hasn't been reduced "one iota."
If he trades Bedard, MacPhail said, it will be because he has no doubt that he'll be improving his team.
"If I look at something and think we're better off after the exchange of numbers as an organization than before, then I'm obligated to look at it independent of anything else," he said. "At the same time, I'm not under any economic pressure to do a deal that I don't think at the end of the day makes us better. It's hard to give up your anchor starter, your No. 1 guy, your dominant left-handed starter. It's hard to look at the equation and say to yourself, 'I'm really better off.'
"I think we've been pretty plain about what we think we have to have back and what we value."
And what exactly is that? Baltimore is apparently seeking three or four prospects that either have big league experience or are close to being ready, a haul that most teams in the league have problems even considering.
MacPhail wouldn't detail the teams he met with on Monday, but he did admit that he had discussions with the Mets over the phone and expects to meet with them later in the week. The Orioles also spoke with the Giants on Monday, and all indications are that they discussed Tejada, the Orioles' cleanup hitter and a four-time All-Star.
Tejada is widely regarded around the league as a player who will have to move to third base, and he's privately told team officials that he'd be more receptive to doing that on a team with a shot at playoff contention. In turn, Tejada's been told that if he's still an Oriole by Opening Day, he may have to move to third base whether he likes it or not.
Third base has been an unusually volatile position this offseason, with superstar Alex Rodriguez opting out of his contract and then electing to re-sign with the Yankees and World Series MVP Mike Lowell re-upping with the Red Sox. Once the Cabrera deal gets done, the Orioles may have a much cleaner shot at dealing Tejada to one of the spurned suitors.
"What inevitably happens is when some of these guys start coming off [the market], you'd think that the last guy may not have as many bidders," said MacPhail of baseball's version of supply and demand. "But often, the last guy out has the most interest, because it's the team that didn't get the prized guy that feels more pressure."
The Orioles met with a "few" agents representing free-agent relievers on Monday, a process they'll continue over the next few days. They also signed backup catcher Guillermo Quiroz, formerly of the Jays, Mariners and Rangers, to a Major League deal. Quiroz, who has struggled with various injuries in the past, will likely serve as the backup to Ramon Hernandez.
The 26-year-old has had two bouts with a collapsed lung that delayed his rise to the Majors, and he's played in a grand total of 39 big league games in parts of four seasons. Still, for his potential as well as his current ability, MacPhail felt Quiroz was one of the best available options. Last season, Baltimore had veteran Paul Bako as its backup catcher.
"The state of catching out there," said MacPhail, "is as thin as I've ever seen it."
So what's next? The Orioles don't have any formal meetings planned for Monday night, but they'll likely dissolve into one-man reconnaissance parties at the bar and around the hotel. After that, they'll gather again on Tuesday to share the results of their intelligence gathering and then jump right back into the process of finding the best possible deal.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.