Lopez a hot topic at Winter Meetings
Veteran right-hander drawing significant interest in trade talks
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Rodrigo Lopez has been Baltimore's Opening Day pitcher three times in the last five years, but on Monday, he became part of the team's opening gambit at the Winter Meetings. The Orioles met with at least five teams that are interested in adding a starting pitcher, and Lopez was a popular topic of discussion.
Jim Duquette, Baltimore's vice president of baseball operations, said that all of his starters came up at various points of the day and that Lopez was mentioned by almost everybody. Two of the teams -- Milwaukee and Seattle -- were confirmed by Duquette, but the O's were expected to meet with a few more suitors as the night progressed.
"Actually, we've had considerable interest on him," Duquette said. "We got a few accolades on our acquisitions. A couple teams we met with said they were competing for the same relievers. But primarily, most of the teams that we spoke with today were conversations regarding Rodrigo -- [teams] expressing interest in him."
Lopez bottomed out in 2006, when he lost a league-high 18 games and allowed the second-highest earned-run total (124) of any big-league pitcher. The right-hander lost his rotation slot toward the end of the season and appears to be frozen out in Baltimore, where youngsters like Daniel Cabrera and Adam Loewen have emerged.
There's no such logjam in Seattle, where the Mariners have at least two holes in their rotation. And they may have good reason to be interested: Lopez went 2-0 against the Mariners last year and didn't allow any earned runs in 15 innings. For his career, he has a 17-12 record and a 2.72 ERA against American League West teams.
Still, at this point, Seattle is just one of several teams involved in the process.
"There are several teams -- by design -- that we tried to meet with today that we knew were short on pitching. We'll see if there's a fit there," Duquette said. "We've felt all along that we're dealing from a position of strength with him. He gives us the versatility to start and relieve.
"We know it's not his preference to relieve, but if we don't find the right deal for the club, we're not going to trade him."
In the past, the Orioles have reportedly talked about sending Lopez to Milwaukee for left fielder Kevin Mench. Those talks may or may not be revived, but the Brewers are definitely interested in moving either Mench or right fielder Geoff Jenkins. Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin said the O's were one of two teams he met Monday.
"We talked about names, but I can't say it's anything interesting at this point," he said. "I don't want to get into specifics, but the clubs we met with today were looking at outfielders. A lot of the free agents are still holding that up."
Baltimore does indeed have interest in some of those free agents -- namely Luis Gonzalez, Jay Payton and Cliff Floyd. The Orioles plan on making one-year offers to those players, though, which could be a problem in the long run. Duquette came close to ruling out Payton and Floyd, but the Gonzalez negotiations are at a critical point.
"I don't think he's going to wait," Duquette said. "If he gets the right deal that he's looking for, then he'll sign. But it's nothing that's close at this point. ... If everything's equal and there's a one-year deal on the table from us and a West Coast team, there's a good chance he'd stay out west."
The outfielder's agent, Gregg Clifton, said Baltimore's location and one-year offer won't be an impediment in making a deal. He also said the running is down to about four teams and that he expects to know more Tuesday.
"They're a major player. They fit everything Luis is looking for," said Clifton about the Orioles. "It's a situation where he could play every day, and for a team that's improving. ... And obviously, they play in a very competitive division."
Another high-profile left fielder -- Barry Bonds, who ranks second on the all-time home-run list -- won't be coming to Baltimore. The Orioles aren't interested in the 42-year-old slugger for a variety of reasons, which include but aren't limited to the paycheck he'd potentially receive and his age.
And even if the O's miss out on all their other targets, that situation isn't likely to change.
"I don't think we've considered it," said Mike Flanagan, the team's executive vice president of baseball operations. "I just don't see us getting to that end result at this point."
Baltimore may have interest in first baseman Chris Shelton, who's been unseated in Detroit by Sean Casey. That might not be the easiest acquisition, though. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said he thinks some teams are trying to pick up Shelton for pennies on the dollar.
"I've actually had three clubs call me on him since we've been here," Dombrowski said. "But what I find with a guy like Chris is with us signing Casey back ... normally when they inquire about him, they're thinking that they're just going to get him for very little. Because they think that it's a good time to try to get him.
"And we like him. I'm not saying we wouldn't necessarily trade him or anybody else. But we're not just going to be in a spot where somebody comes by and gets him for an A-ball fringe guy."
Simply put, Baltimore's market has turned toward trades -- or at least trade discussions. The Orioles spent most of Monday laying groundwork, and they'll spend the rest of the week trying to get things done.
"That's the one thing we said this morning," Duquette said. "The only limitation is our own creativity when it comes to considering deals. We'll keep an open mind right now."
"With our board, anyway, we're still mixing and matching," added Flanagan. "We could still do somebody via trade and somebody [that's] a free agent. It hasn't settled down to, 'This is it.'
"We just hopefully know the game a little bit better about the potential possibilities than before yesterday."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.