O's have free agent shopping list set

Orioles have free agent shopping list set

BALTIMORE -- Mike Flanagan knows what his team wants this winter. Now, the Orioles' new executive vice president of baseball operations must figure out how to get it.

Flanagan said the Orioles are looking for starting pitching, some bats with punch that can go in the middle of the lineup and some more defense. But he also said the team will look at any player -- or any combination of players -- it thinks can help the Orioles.

"We haven't eliminated anybody yet in all positions," Flanagan said Monday from the general managers meetings in Indian Wells, Calif. "It's part of the process of going through what other teams' needs are and what your needs are."

The team's first concern might be to try to re-sign closer B.J. Ryan. The left-hander, who had a breakout year in 2005, going 1-4 with 2.43 ERA and 36 saves, filed for free agency.

"We're certainly going to explore a contract with him," Flanagan said. "I think we are optimistic. I think there's a lot of pluses for him to [stay here]."

Flanagan said he's spoken with Ryan's agent, but it's too soon to tell where everything's headed.

"We've expressed our interest," Flanagan said.

The Orioles would like to add another starting pitcher. They spent part of the summer trying to figure out ways to trade for Florida's A.J. Burnett, but the right-hander's likely high price tag in free agency could make the O's turn away.

They also could have a chance at pitchers like Kevin Millwood and Paul Byrd, who've worked under new pitching coach Leo Mazzone in Atlanta. There are a number of other starters the team could look at, but Flanagan also wants to make sure the Orioles continue to develop the younger pitchers that have slowly begun to emerge in the last few years.

Pitchers like Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrera have caught the attention of most opponents, but they came up early -- a process the Orioles have used for awhile, but one that Flanagan would rather steer away from.

"We'd like to [have it so] when they're ready, they'll come -- as opposed to on-the-job training," Flanagan said.

The big question surrounds what the team would do if it lost Ryan, who expressed some interest in going to the Yankees late last season. The Orioles are looking at Chris Ray as their closer of the future, but they don't think he's quite ready to take the job yet. That would put them in a position of signing someone for a year or two -- maybe someone like Billy Wagner -- until the hard-throwing right-hander can take over.

The Orioles would like to have a strong bat they could plug into the cleanup spot. They used Rafael Palmeiro there for a big part of last season, but when he stopped playing, Baltimore never really found a consistent batter to protect Miguel Tejada in the No. 3 slot. That's when the Orioles shortstop stopped seeing many good pitches to hit and the offense began to sputter.

Since the team also needs a first baseman, a power hitter like Paul Konerko would fill two roles. But, like Burnett, his cost might be too high for the Orioles to pull him away from the World Series champion Chicago White Sox.

The Orioles also have discussed signing a catcher instead and moving starting backstop Javy Lopez to first base. Flanagan said Lopez hasn't played the position in eight or nine years, having done it some during his long stretch in Atlanta and possibly in winter ball.

That could leave the Orioles interested in players like San Diego's Ramon Hernandez and Bengie Molina of the Angels. Signing one of those two would let Baltimore move Lopez to first base and give the club a strong defensive catcher.

"[Lopez] is confident he can [move to first]," Flanagan said. "That would just create more flexibility."

There are other big names in the free agent market, like Boston's Johnny Damon. However, Scott Boras is his agent, and the Orioles don't often deal with him.

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.