Baltimore Orioles' president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail entered this offseason with a lengthy to-do list.
The club, which lost 96 games in 2010, needed to boost the power production from its corner infielders, find more offense from its shortstop, deepen the bullpen and bench, and add a veteran starter to take some pressure off its young rotation.
Including two moves he has made since Sunday night, MacPhail has, at least theoretically, filled each of the roster's gaping holes that loomed in October. On Monday, he re-signed reliever Mark Hendrickson to a minor league contract, immediately making the 36-year-old the favorite to serve as the club's second left-hander in the bullpen. Hendrickson is a York resident.
And, late Sunday night, the Orioles agreed to terms with oft-injured starting pitcher Justin Duchscherer on a one-year major league deal that is worth $700,000 initially, $1.1 million when he makes the team and as much as $4.5 million if he starts 30 games in 2011.
Duchscherer's deal is pending a physical and, as is his policy, MacPhail won't talk about the acquisition until the contract is signed. Once it is, Duchscherer will fill the last open spot on the club's 40-man roster, indicating that the Orioles are, for the most part, finished shopping this offseason.
An exception, of course, remains for designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, whom the Orioles offered a one-year deal worth $3 million to $5 million last week. According to an industry source, the Orioles have had "no significant conversations" with Guerrero's side since MacPhail told a curious crowd at Saturday's FanFest that the team wants the power hitter but does not know when he'll make a decision.
If Guerrero, whose market has seemingly dried up, signs with the Orioles, it will put an exclamation point on a busy offseason that has included the acquisitions of first baseman Derrek Lee, shortstop J.J. Hardy, third baseman Mark Reynolds, infielder Brendan Harris and pitchers Kevin Gregg, Jeremy Accardo and Duchscherer, as well as the re-signing of pitchers Koji Uehara and Hendrickson and infielder Cesar Izturis.
The Orioles would make room on their 40-man roster for Guerrero, but otherwise any additions made before spring training are likely to be minor league commitments with a chance to make the team in spring training.
"We still have some conversations going with some other players with the idea of trying to get as well-rounded a group going into spring training as we can," MacPhail said. "How those conversations unfold, we will have to see."
It's possible the Orioles would add one or two more pitchers to bolster the spring competition. So long as Duchscherer is healthy, however, one of the Orioles' starters at the end of 2010 will be in the minors this April.
Jeremy Guthrie, Duchscherer and Brian Matusz are penciled into the big league rotation, and Brad Bergesen is expected to gain one of the other spots. That would leave Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman fighting for the fifth slot with top prospect Zach Britton and perhaps Rick VandenHurk in the mix as well.
Barring a major surprise, Britton will start the season at Triple-A Norfolk and VandenHurk, who is out of options, will battle for a long-relief role. Tillman, 22, was 2-5 with a 5.87 ERA in 11 starts for the Orioles last year and would be the most likely candidate of the holdovers to be sent to Triple-A before spring camp breaks.
On Saturday, before the Orioles signed Duchscherer, Tillman acknowledged that he had heard about the club's interest in adding a starter -- which could make him the odd man out. But the easygoing Tillman said he hasn't let the talk bother him.
"You won't find me in front of a TV in the offseason. I'm always outside hunting or fishing, doing that kind of stuff. I don't really keep up with (the rumors)," Tillman said. "I think this was a great offseason for us. We made a lot of good pickups. I'm real excited going into the spring."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter has said numerous times that he would like multiple starting options heading into spring training because, inevitably, pitchers get hurt or struggle with effectiveness.
Duchscherer, for one, is no lock to make it to Opening Day in one piece. He made just five starts last season because of a left hip injury that required surgery in June. He missed all of 2009 because of an elbow injury incurred in the spring and a subsequent bout with depression. He has also had two surgeries on his right hip. His checkered injury history is the reason the Orioles were able to sign him to such an incentive-laden deal.
However, when healthy, Duchscherer, a control artist with four big league pitches, has proven to be a productive major leaguer. He was a two-time All-Star for the Oakland Athletics and is 33-25 with a 3.13 ERA in parts of eight major league seasons.
As a starter, he is 14-11 with a 3.01 ERA in 32 games. Most of his career was spent as a late-innings reliever, but Duchscherer would strictly be a starter with the Orioles.