O's look to fill corner infield vacancies

O's look to fill corner infield vacancies

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles will raise the flame on their Hot Stove season Sunday, when their front office delegation arrives in Indianapolis for the Winter Meetings. Agents and teams alike will be prowling the Indianapolis Convention Center for the better part of four days, and they'll all be in search of the best deal for their party.

For Andy MacPhail and the Orioles, that likely means a thorough investigation of both the free agent and the trade markets. MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, has a solid stable of young players dotting his roster and the financial flexibility to add talent at the infield corners and on the mound.

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And there's plenty of freely available targets at each of those positions, plus the promise of a second wave of newly minted free agents once the non-tender deadline rolls around Dec. 12. The Orioles can even add talent in the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place Dec. 10, the final day of the proceedings in Indianapolis.

The Orioles introduced several high-caliber young prospects to the big leagues last season, including catcher Matt Wieters, outfielder Nolan Reimold and starting pitchers Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz. Now, the task is to compliment that young core and further support Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones.

Baltimore has vacancies at first base and third base due to the midseason trade of Aubrey Huff and the pending free-agent defection of Melvin Mora, but the search for corner help will be made a little more delicate by the fact that upper-level prospects Brandon Snyder and Josh Bell are perhaps a season away from contributing.

The Orioles have been linked to free agent third basemen Adrian Beltre and Pedro Feliz in various reports, and a veteran like Troy Glaus or Joe Crede could become attractive in a short-term deal. The market for first base seems a little more barren, with Carlos Delgado, Nick Johnson and Adam LaRoche standing out.

Baltimore also has Ty Wigginton returning to the fold, which could lessen the need to find two corner infielders. The Orioles will also be looking to add a veteran starting pitcher to help support its youth-filled staff. There are several interesting names available, such as Randy Wolf, Rich Harden, Ben Sheets and Erik Bedard.

Both Sheets and Bedard are coming off significant injuries, and MacPhail has told multiple news outlets that their uncertain prognosis wouldn't necessarily preclude him from investigating whether they'd fit in Baltimore. The Orioles could also look into veterans like Pedro Martinez and Jarrod Washburn if they came at the right price.

Baltimore may also look into adding a late-inning relief ace, a role vacated when the Orioles traded George Sherrill to the Dodgers in exchange for Bell. Billy Wagner, Mike Gonzalez and Jose Valverde could all be attractive to the Orioles under the right circumstances and would allow Jim Johnson to remain as a setup man.

Baltimore has made notable trades in each of the last two winters, and Luke Scott may shape up as the team's most movable commodity. Scott has been moved out of the outfield in favor of youngsters Reimold and Felix Pie, and he may lose his job as the designated hitter over time to the loser of the left-field derby.

The Orioles go into this winter having shed big contracts in Mora and relievers Jamie Walker and Danys Baez, and they find themselves in the position to spend money and have an active offseason. The Winter Meetings is merely the first domino in that plan, and Baltimore may bide its time all the way up to Spring Training in February.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.