Are the Orioles going to trade J.J. Hardy?
-- Ryan F., Aberdeen, Md.
No. There's a very slim chance Hardy is dealt, with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette saying earlier this week that the club is not shopping the Gold Glove shortstop.
Hearing his name come up in rumors shouldn't surprise anyone. Hardy's combination of power and defense -- plus his contract status, as he enters the final year of a three-year, $22 million deal -- is enticing in trade talks with other clubs. But the Orioles would have to be blown away by a deal to move the All-Star this winter.
The captain of the infield, Hardy is a big part of Baltimore's turnaround and moving him -- particularly with third baseman Manny Machado coming off of knee surgery -- would leave a gaping hole in the infield. The Orioles are also trying to fill a hole at second base. Trading Hardy just doesn't make sense, especially with no immediate solution on the horizon. Even if the organization plans to move Machado to shortstop, which hasn't been decided, there's no heir apparent at third base, leaving another spot to fill this winter.
I know the Orioles aren't going to go out and be big spenders, but what kind of moves do you see them making this winter?
-- Mike P., New York
You're right in that the O's won't be flashing the cash on the open market, although they have been aggressive in the infancy of the Hot Stove season and have already made several offers.
Their chief goal, again, is to upgrade the starting rotation, and they have interest in bringing back right-hander Scott Feldman again as well. In addition to Feldman, there are some interesting names on the open market and Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka top the list. The O's will kick around all three names but with at least a dozen suitors and a lot of clubs ready to be bigger spenders than the O's, I think you're looking more at the next wave of guys. Scott Kazmir, Ricky Nolasco, Tim Hudson and Jason Vargas are all free agents who have attracted interest.
Beyond pitching, left field and designated hitter are also priorities, with the Orioles also interested in retaining Nate McLouth. McLouth, who signed a one-year deal to return last winter, figures to command multiple years and a solid raise.
What is this about wanting to trade Matt Wieters? Why can't the Orioles sign him to an extension instead?
Tim B., Centreville, Va.
They can. It's just not looking likely right now.
"If we were going to pursue an extension with him, it would be between now and the start of the season," Duquette said earlier this week at the General Managers Meetings. "That's something that we can consider, but having tried twice [each of the last two springs] and not come to a long-term agreement, that's not a priority for us right now."
So, while the Orioles don't want to trade Wieters, they are listening to other clubs for the first time regarding their All-Star backstop. Wieters is under team control for two more seasons and the Scott Boras client will have a hefty price tag, and one that the O's -- who don't have a lot of wiggle room with the payroll -- must weigh against potentially signing players like Chris Davis, who is also a Boras client, and Machado long term.
Like Hardy, I'd be surprised if Wieters was moved this winter, but that the Orioles aren't ruling out the possibility shows you that an extension is becoming more and more remote.
Any word on Machado's rehab? Is he going to be ready to start the year?
-- Bill R., Baltimore
Machado sounded upbeat when asked about the progression back from left knee surgery, although it's very, very early in the process.
"It's been going great," Machado, who was carted off the field Sept. 23, said of his second week into rehab. "I'm feeling good. The knee looks great. The rehab is going pretty well. Hopefully, I just have got to continue working hard, and hopefully I'll be ready for spring."
The initial timetable when the 21-year-old had surgery on Oct. 14 was six months, which would push him past Opening Day, although the organization has said it's a conservative estimate.
The bottom line is it's too early to make a prediction on when the All-Star will return to the field and will probably stay that way until the calendar flip. The Orioles won't rush Machado, but given his age and the fact that the procedure was done so early in the offseason, there's certainly a chance he beats that initial estimate.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli.