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Orioles lay groundwork for future deals

Other than two Rule 5 Draft picks, Baltimore stays relatively quiet at Winter Meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Major League clubs dispersed from the Winter Meetings, the Orioles planned to stick around on Thursday night, with director of player development Brian Graham being honored for his work as this year's Sheldon "Chief" Bender Award.

Barring any last-minute moves, it was the highlight of an otherwise uneventful week for the Orioles, who made just two picks in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning and head home with no new signings after a quiet Winter Meetings.

The O's were incredibly quiet earlier in the week, before ramping up efforts on Wednesday to extend several offers, at least two of which are for potential ninth-inning options. Heavily rumored to be interested in closers Grant Balfour and John Axford, the Orioles reportedly have offers on the table to both relievers and are also pursuing starting pitching and a left-handed bat.

"We should be able to add a closer to our team," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. "There [are] some good choices that are available on the market. We are talking to a lot of people and we hope to be able to fill that job soon."

As for their left-handed hitter vacancy?

"We just got one in [Julio] Borbon," said Duquette, referring to one of the Orioles' two Rule 5 Draft selections. "We're still working on that."

Baltimore finalized a two-year contract with reliever Ryan Webb, who agreed to terms last week and passed his physical on Tuesday, but the club still has plenty of holes. In addition to a closer, the O's need a designated hitter, left fielder and rotation help.

"The Meetings have been helpful for us to staff our team," Duquette said. "We are going to come out of here with the addition of a pitcher and two players we added today [in Borbon and Michael Almanzar], and we are going to continue to work on some of the groundwork we laid on trades. Hopefully that will bear some fruit with players to bring back to Baltimore, and then there's a couple of players we have started negotiations with that we are hopeful we will be able to sign."

Deals done: None.

Rule 5 Draft activity: The Orioles took outfielder Borbon and corner infielder Almanzar, both of whom Duquette believes could help this year's team.

Borbon is a former first-round Draft pick who is a .272/.318/.347 lifetime hitter in 288 big league games. He played in one game for the Rangers and 72 for the Cubs last season, batting .200/.282/.276.

Almanzar, who has played first and third base, is from the Red Sox's organization and spent last season with Double-A Portland. He played in 131 games and posted a .268/.328/.432 line, including 16 homers and 81 RBIs.

Goals accomplished: The Orioles did add through the Rule 5 Draft, but that was the only thing they checked off their to-do list.

Unfinished business: Pitching is a priority, and the O's will try to add at least one starter and a closer soon. They also have spots to fill in left field and designated hitter, and they could possibly bring back Brian Roberts to help at second base.

Team's bottom line: Manager Buck Showalter preached patience in regards to the team's slow offseason earlier in the week. However, Duquette and the front office have quite a lengthy list to address before Spring Training, and they could start to chip away at that in the next few days based off some of the groundwork laid in Florida.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli.
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