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?
(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.
Orioles' search for corner infielder could lead to Marlins' Ramirez
Industry source says Miami could be interested in Arrieta, Matusz or Britton, but competition expected to be tough
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