Carlos Beltran on Orioles’ Radar
We knew the Red Sox and Yankees were among the teams vying for the services of one of the best active postseason hitters. Now it appears we can add a third American League East team to the mix.

According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Orioles would like to bolster their corner-outfield and designated-hitter slots, and the 36-year-old Beltran would fit well near the top of manager Buck Showalter’s order. However, as Rosenthal’s source pointed out, in order to land the former Cardinals right fielder, Dan Duquette would need to create wiggle room in his budget.

The Orioles are currently slated to play some combination of Mike Morse, Steve Pearce, and Danny Valencia in left field and at designated hitter. They have Cuban import Henry Urrutia—who tore the cover off the ball in the Arizona Fall League—waiting in the wings and Nolan Reimold on the mend, but none of those players carries the upside that Beltran would bring.

One option for Duquette is to bring back Nate McLouth, whose free agency created the void in left, though that, too, is likely to be pricey. As Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun wrote, McLouth, a 2.1-win player who earned just $2 million last season, could use David DeJesus’ two-year, $10.5 million contract with the Rays as a starting point in negotiations. Re-signing McLouth would hike the O’s payroll without improving a team that finished 12 games out of first place in the East; in other words, it would not be enough.

In order to do more, though, the Orioles need to unload one of their hefty existing contracts. Nick Markakis is one trade candidate, but the same drawbacks that put the homegrown right fielder on the block could limit Duquette’s return. Markakis, who celebrated his 30th birthday yesterday, has not exceeded 15 home runs since 2009, and he was worth less than one win in 2013. To make matters worse, he is also due $15 million in the last guaranteed year of a six-year, $66.1 million extension that seemed like a bargain when he inked it on January 20, 2009. That pact also includes a $2 million buyout on a $17.5 million club option for the 2015 season, which will be declined unless Markakis suddenly rediscovers his pre-2011 form.

Duquette could also shop Matt Wieters, who boasts hard-to-find power behind the plate but has not realized the star-level ceiling once envisioned for him. The Georgia Tech product forwent arbitration by agreeing to a $5.5 million salary last January, and he is in line for another pay hike this winter, with free agency looming after 2015. Beltran would not replace Wieters directly, as he might supplant Markakis, but the Orioles could invest in one of the second-tier free-agent catchers and use the difference to outbid the competition.

Failing that, Duquette might ponder unloading J.J. Hardy—although he dismissed that possibility at the GM Meetings in Orlando last week. Hardy is another power source and forms an excellent left-side-of-the-infield tandem with Manny Machado. Plus, he is (pending Wieters’ arbitration outcome) likely to be the cheapest of the trio, with a $7 million check due next year.

At this point, the Orioles are the underdogs in the Beltran race, which includes at least six other teams, per Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. Barring a surprise, the trade winds would have to blow through Baltimore for that to change.

Twins Courting Top Free Agent Starters
The Twins have a mountain of prospect talent on the way. What they do not have is any reliable veteran starting pitchers. If the season started today, their top four starting pitchers—per the depth chart on their official website—would be Kevin Correia, Andrew Albers, Liam Hendriks, and Scott Diamond.

So it should come as no surprise that general manager Terry Ryan is in hot pursuit of the top arms on the market this winter. The Twins are one of the few teams with the prospect ammo to pull the trigger on a blockbuster swap for David Price, but they are instead inclined to let the Byron Buxton-led crop pave the way back to contention. A free-agent addition is much more likely.

What is less clear is which of the available right-handers Ryan prefers. A “rival GM” told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that Ricky Nolasco is Ryan’s no. 1 target. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN refuted that claim and suggested instead that ex-Twin Matt Garza is the more-coveted pitcher. Since both were traded midseason, neither would require the Twins to part with their second-round draft pick (their first selection, no. 5 overall, is protected).

The market for Garza, who was shipped from the Cubs to the Rangers, is developing more slowly than the bidding for Nolasco, who went from the Marlins to the Dodgers. Nolasco is already mulling “multiple four-year offers,” one of which is worth $52 million, per Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. No word yet on whether the Twins are one of the clubs that have made their interest in the soon-to-be-31-year-old official.

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