By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun
6:43 PM PDT, July 24, 2012
The Orioles are trolling for a corner infielder who can get on base, and the Miami Marlins are apparently considering dealing three-time All-Star Hanley Ramirez, who owns a .374 career on-base percentage and switched from shortstop to third base this year.
So is there a fit between the clubs with Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline approaching?
Well, theoretically, absolutely. Realistically, probably not.
(Note: The Dodgers acquired Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins several hours after this story was posted.)
Especially considering the player that may best fill the Marlins' most pressing need, Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis, isn't likely going anywhere.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette isn't revealing his trade discussions, but he is exploring corner-infield possibilities and that likely includes the Marlins, who began a fire sale Monday with the trade of infielder Omar Infante and right-handed starter Anibal Sanchez to the Detroit Tigers.
The Marlins' oft-injured but talented right-hander Josh Johnson also may be available, but Ramirez is considered the big fish. The 2006 National League Rookie of the Year and 2009 National League Most Valuable Player runner-up is just 28 and, though he is in his second consecutive down season, he still has 14 homers despite a .246 average and .322 on-base percentage through 92 games.
He also has pretty deep ties with Orioles personnel. Duquette was the general manager when the Boston Red Sox signed Ramirez as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2000. And Orioles hitting coach Jim Presley held the same role in Florida from 2006 to 2010, including in 2009 when Ramirez won the National League batting title.
The problem is the Orioles are reluctant to give up their top two prospects, Class-A Frederick pitcher Dylan Bundy and Double-A Bowie shortstop Manny Machado, and the rest of the Orioles' farm system is devoid of legitimate trade centerpieces.
One industry source said the Marlins would have interest in one of the club's young pitchers that hasn't had sustained success in the majors — Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz or Zach Britton — but one of those hurlers and a lesser prospect or two probably wouldn't be good enough to land Ramirez, given the expected competition for his services, the source said.
The Marlins would like to acquire a strong defensive outfielder with a history of producing with runners in scoring position — something that has also plagued the Orioles. Florida's outfield, sans Giancarlo Stanton, is weak both offensively and defensively.
Therefore, Markakis, a 28-year-old Gold Glove outfielder, would be a perfect match — especially considering he and Ramirez have similar contracts (Markakis is guaranteed $32 million in his next two seasons, if a $2 million buyout for 2015 is included; Ramirez is owed $31.5 million total for 2013 and 2014).
But at least one club source suggested that trading Markakis is unlikely given his ties to the organization, popularity in the community, ability to hit leadoff and the fact he leads the team in on-base percentage (.350), a statistic that Duquette deems exceptionally important. The source said subtracting Markakis would create another hole and minimize the benefits of acquiring Ramirez.
Plus, Markakis can refuse a trade to eight to 10 teams each year. It's unknown whether the Marlins are on that list.
There's also a defensive aspect to a Markakis-Ramirez swap. Markakis is considered a plus defender in right field; there's mixed views on Ramirez's ability at third base. And the Orioles already lead the majors in errors. Taking Markakis out of the mix would further weaken an obvious deficiency.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he's not paying attention to the annual July rumor mill.
"Those type of [trade] things, I don't read it. … I know the names that are floating around just like they are every year," Showalter said. "I'd love for everyone to keep a tally sheet on what they're right about. From experience, I keep in mind the 'ol' throw it up against the wall and one sticks and I told you so.'
Orioles announce Urrutia signing
The Orioles officially announced Tuesday that they've signed Cuban defector Henry Urrutia to a minor-league contract and the 25-year-old outfielder will be assigned to Double-A Bowie after reporting to the Orioles' spring training complex in Sarasota.
Urrutia didn't play professionally last season because he was suspended after an unsuccessful defection attempt from Cuba, but he hit .350 (394-for-1127) over five seasons with Las Tunas of the Cuban League from 2006 to 2010.
The first Cuban defector signed as an amateur by the Orioles — they inked big-league free agent reliever Danys Baez before the 2007 season — Urrutia agreed to a $778,500 deal a few weeks ago.
Scott excited for Orioles fans
Former Oriole Luke Scott, who is on the Tampa Bay Rays' disabled list with a strained oblique, was at Camden Yards on Tuesday — his second series back since signing a free-agent deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.
And he said he hopes his old team — and his new one — can stay in playoff contention all season.
"This is such a great baseball town, so I think it is great," said Scott, who played four seasons with the Orioles and was Most Valuable Oriole in 2010. "I'm really happy for them."
Around the horn
Heading into Tuesday night, 56 of the Orioles' remaining 66 games are against clubs currently winning their respective divisions or teams within 4.5 games of the American League wild-card lead. … Infielder Omar Quintanilla made his first Orioles start at second base after starting at shortstop Monday. It also was his first start in front of the home crowd. … Reliever Matt Lindstrom, who hadn't pitched since taking a liner off his left knee on Friday, said some swelling and soreness remain in his upper calf, but was available to pitch.
Baltimore Sun reporter Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this article.
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