J.J. Hardy recently. What's the progress on that and locking up some of our other big guys like Matt Wieters and Chris Davis?
-- Tom S., Elkridge, Md.
Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said at the Winter Meetings that the club would like to lock up Hardy -- who is signed through this season -- for another extension, although no talks have started on that front. Hardy has said before he would be open to discussing another contract with Baltimore, a move that makes sense for the organization and would keep Manny Machado firmly entrenched at third base.
As for the other two guys you asked about, Davis is a much more realistic possibility at this point. Duquette took reporters -- and Davis -- by surprise at this weekend's FanFest when saying that there had been discussions with agent Scott Boras about that and the always-gregarious first baseman joked to reporters that he needed more updates. Is the fact that Davis didn't know about this alarming? Maybe a little, but it also goes to show that there's nothing necessarily heating up, although Boras and the Orioles talking is better than nothing.
Boras also represents Wieters, who is the team's lone arbitration-eligible player, and while there sounds like amicable extension discussions with Davis, the same can't be said for Wieters. Duquette admitted those talks have been tabled for now and the club is just concentrating on avoiding arbitration. That the two sides can't even agree on a 2014 salary doesn't lend much hope to an extension right now.
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Realistically, do you think the Orioles add a pitcher before the season starts?
-- Dan R. Columbia, Md.
Yes. That was easy…
Of the guys still available, who do you think is the most likely for the Orioles to sign?
-- Matt D., Washington
And I thought I was going to get off easy with that last question. In a perfect world, I would take Ervin Santana although I think the Orioles are leaning more in the direction of A.J. Burnett and Bronson Arroyo since Santana -- along with Ubaldo Jimenez -- would require Draft-pick compensation.
Arroyo would have stayed with the Reds but they balked at giving him a longer deal and he's said to still be seeking three years, which can't sit well with the Orioles. Enter Burnett, who recently announced he will pitch next season and can likely be had on a one- or two-year pact. It helps that Burnett lives in Monkton, Md., and wants to stay close to home, making him the frontrunner right now.
What's your early rotation projection as and who would be the Opening Day starter? Chris Tillman?
-- Hank S., Baltimore
Tillman is a lock and looks to be the Opening Day starter as it stands right now. You can also pencil in Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez along with Bud Norris, who was hurt toward the end of last year and spoke this weekend about fans not getting to see the best of him after he was traded to Baltimore.
The fifth spot will be one of spring's bigger stories and once again the O's will have a bunch of guys throw their hat in the ring. It's early and a lot can happen, but my guess is Zach Britton is the guy to break camp. Britton is out of options and this could be his last stand with the O's. Brian Matusz is another candidate, although he may be hurt by the fact that lefty Troy Patton is suspended and Matusz has done so well in the 'pen, and the sense is Kevin Gausman will start the season with Triple-A Norfolk. Steve Johnson is another name to keep watch on, though he has a Minor League option -- meaning he can be sent down without going on waivers -- which could ultimately be the deciding factor.
And that all, of course, doesn't factor in what could happen should the Orioles add a proven starter.
Have the Orioles given up on adding on-base percentage this season? I thought that was something the lineup lacked.
-- Matt R., Baltimore
It appears that way. While one of their goals was to add OBP, particularly with a leadoff hitter, the O's are almost exclusively focused on adding pitching. Given how late it is in the offseason and the guys still available, I think you're looking at Nick Markakis as your leadoff guy and an internal competition for designated hitter. Duquette did say that the club is still looking at bats on the free-agent market, but it's not nearly as likely that they add one, meaning their current crop of guys are going to have to get better at consistently getting on base.