Orioles 'working on' possible trades, free-agent additions at winter meetings

The frenzy of transactions that previewed this year's winter meetings gave way to a slow opening day Monday, and along with that, the Orioles resumed a methodical plan of improving their club for next season.

The Orioles reopened talks with prospective free agents and possible trade partners during the winter meetings Monday, and executive vice president Dan Duquette remains confident he will return to Baltimore with a new acquisition.

“We've had a lot of conversations,” Duquette said. “We should be adding new players by the end of the week.”

Duquette said he had not made any additional free-agent offers as of Monday evening.

The Orioles reportedly have shown interest in a pair of free agents — outfielder Nelson Cruz and right-hander Bartolo Colon — who have a history of performance-enhancing drug use.

Duquette would not comment specifically on the club's interest in either player, saying it would be inappropriate to do so, but added that the Orioles would be thorough in researching any player before offering a contract.

“The club has to do its due diligence on all the players, and the performance-enhancing drugs are just another area that the clubs need to look closely at,” Duquette said. ”So we have a systematic way to approach it. It's really a fact of life now. But as far as doing our due diligence, we do our due diligence on all the players.”

At first blush, neither nether Cruz nor or Colon seem like ideal fits for the Orioles. Colon served a 50-game suspension in 2012 after testing positive for synthetic testosterone. Cruz was suspended for 50 games last year as part of the BioGenesis investigation.

It's unclear whether the Orioles are simply checking in on the players or have targeted them as serious options. But neither one will likely come cheap. Contracts given to past PED poster boys such as Melky Cabrera (two-years, $16 million from the Toronto Blue Jays following a 50-game suspension after the 2012 season) and Jhonny Peralta (four years, $53 million from the St. Louis Cardinals two weeks ago) indicate that teams have short memories and deep pockets.

So investing in Cruz, who has been posturing for a three-year deal with the Texas Rangers, and Colon, who will likely receive an eight-digit, one-year deal, comes at a risk.

In attempting to add a free-agent starting pitcher to bolster the rotation, Duquette said he will not be limited to offering a one-year deal. Duquette added he will consider signing a pitcher returning from injury who might not be ready for Opening Day.

“There's a lot of pitchers under rehab and they are under consideration too,” Duquette said.

According to an industry source, the Orioles are still monitoring and have interest in Mount St. Joseph graduate Gavin Floyd, who had Tommy John surgery in May. The team also has interest in former Boston Red Sox relievers Joel Hanrahan (elbow surgery) and Andrew Bailey (torn labrum), as it has requested medical information on both players.

As previously reported, Duquette said the club is open to losing the draft pick it would take to sign a starting pitcher who has turned down a $14.1-million qualifying offer. That group includes Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana.

The Orioles took more steps toward acquiring a left-handed batter who can contribute in left field and designated hitter. That acquisition will still likely come via trade, and Duquette said that could take some time. Duquette indicated he wouldn't characterize any trade talk as any more than “lukewarm.”

“It's easier to go out and sign players,” Duquette said. “Trades are a little bit more complicated, but we've been working on both.”

One day into the meetings, there are still many discussions to come, and Duquette said he has faith he will add a player other than the one they will likely add in Thursday's Rule 5 draft.

“There's going to be a lot more moves made, but there were a lot made going into the winter meetings,” Duquette said. “There's only so many players changing teams but there will be a few more between now and the end of the week. But so many teams went out and signed players and made transactions.”

eencina@baltsun.com

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