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O's staying the course in Indianapolis

O's staying the course in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS -- Another day, and another round of discussions designed to lay the groundwork. The Orioles continued to incrementally push the ball forward on the second day of the Winter Meetings, but they have yet to make an official offer to a free agent or progress a trade discussion to the point of imminence.

Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, pronounced Tuesday a success as far as allowing his team to continue gathering information. The Orioles met with a few teams and with a few groups of agents during the day, but they're not necessarily any closer to a deal than they were when they first arrived.

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"I don't think we're at that stage yet," said MacPhail. "We have had some [repeat] conversations, and generally that starts marching you towards what can be a conclusion. Or then you find out that road is a dead end. One or the other. ... We don't have anything I can necessarily identify right now where we're a phone call away."

The Orioles have had multiple discussions with the Rangers about starter Kevin Millwood's availability, but the clubs don't appear to be close to completing a deal. Early reports painted Baltimore as the favorite of seven or eight teams in the Millwood derby, but the Rangers and O's haven't been able to find a middle ground on a potential return.

Baltimore has also been active in the hunt for a third baseman and has been linked to San Diego's Kevin Kouzmanoff and a wide variety of free-agent targets. MacPhail said that the Orioles are still doing their due diligence and trying to ascertain who's available at what price, a process that could continue over the next few weeks.

"We've got our preference list by every need," MacPhail said. "There are some options available to us at third, and not just free agents, [but] potential trades that we've identified. ... It's a reasonably sized list. And again, we're somewhat guided by the fact that we really were very pleased with how Josh Bell's responded since he put on an Oriole uniform.

"We don't want to do anything that is going to hamper his development, but we also have to be realistic that prospects are just that. They're prospects. Nothing's guaranteed in this game, except for the players' salaries."

The Orioles have held initial trade discussions with several teams about several players, and Felix Pie's name came up in conversations with Kansas City. A source with knowledge of the discussions said that the O's asked for a corner infielder in return, and that the two sides never really came close to finding a proper fit.

Baltimore was able to make time to meet with the representatives of SFX Baseball on Tuesday, a group that represents former O's southpaw Erik Bedard and several other prominent players. The Orioles did not meet with super-agent Scott Boras, but MacPhail expects to before the end of the week, time and circumstances permitting.

"We had a pretty full schedule between clubs and player representatives. We were fairly busy," said MacPhail. "To this point, there hasn't been anything that has evolved that has taken us totally by surprise."

The Orioles are well known to covet a closer, and MacPhail said Tuesday that Baltimore could take that pursuit in a variety of directions. The executive referenced the team's handling of George Sherrill, who was acquired as a situational southpaw, grew into the closer's role and then was traded away in exchange for Bell.

And in a few words, the point of MacPhail's digression was that the Orioles don't intend on overpaying for a pedigree. They know that the market has several available closers -- including ex-Astros right-hander Jose Valverde and former Braves lefty Mike Gonzalez -- but they're not afraid to take an alternate path if it means a more cost-effective solution.

"Philosophically, there are debates about how much you should devote to that position unless you have a lead-pipe-cinch guy at the end," MacPhail said. "And if you look at the history of closers, they come from a zillion different places. Some guys take the position that you're overpaying for the guy that got put in that role. Gonzalez was a left-handed setup guy, Pittsburgh put him in that role and then ended up making a good deal [with Atlanta] for him.

"Look at what we were able to do with George. What I'm trying to say is it's not an absolute mandatory thing that we come out of here or come out of the next month or so with a closer, per se. We'll look at the market. We value it. I think it's very important, but let's recognize where they come from and how they evolve."

The Orioles also met with agents Alan and Randy Hendricks in reference to Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman on Tuesday, but MacPhail said that those talks were completely preliminary in nature. Chapman recently switched representatives, which means that the prospective negotiations have to start over again from scratch.

"They're just trying to get their feet on the ground," MacPhail said. "This player's been out there a long time. There's been a lot written and said about him, but as far as the new representatives, they have to get up to speed."

MacPhail was asked multiple times if he was surprised at the slow pace of the Meetings, and he said that's a typical question that always comes up around this time of year. The veteran executive said that the Orioles have things they want to do, but they also know there's no reason to rush into something that could be a mistake.

"We certainly know enough not to think that 100 percent of the guys we like in our system are going to come up and make it. We know that doesn't work," MacPhail said. "I'd like to do something. We all would here. You just don't want to do anything stupid where you're thinking in May, 'What in God's green earth was I thinking?'"

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

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