O's first choice at first remains LaRoche
Sides continue to negotiate while free agent weighs his options
BALTIMORE -- While the Winter Meetings provided a frenzy of activity for the Orioles, who made a pair of trades and re-signed closer Koji Uehara, the subsequent December weeks have been quiet, particularly in filling the organization's biggest hole: first base.
The Orioles' first choice remains Adam LaRoche, and the two sides have been heavily involved in negotiations that would bring the free agent to Baltimore in what would most likely be a multi-year deal. A source close to the situation told MLB.com on Monday afternoon that LaRoche -- who is also said to be coveted by the Nationals and Padres -- remains undecided and is "waiting on a few things" to fall into place.
Widely believed to be one of the best remaining first-base options, along with Derrek Lee, LaRoche has played for five different teams, and stability could be a major factor. ESPN.com's Buster Olney reported that LaRoche is seeking a three-year deal, while the speculation surrounding Lee is he would be more amicable to a one-year agreement. Separate sources told MLB.com last week that the Nationals are focused on Lee first, and trading away Josh Willingham has helped Washington free up some payroll to pay the free agent.
A left-handed hitter, LaRoche batted .261 with a .320 on-base percentage and a .468 slugging percentage with the D-backs last season, and his 25 homers and career-high 100 RBIs make him an enticing fit at the O's hitter-friendly Camden Yards. Lee, who is a right-handed hitter, was traded to the Braves in August after six-plus seasons with the Cubs. He played a total of 148 games between Chicago and Atlanta, and hit .260 with 19 home runs and 80 RBIs -- down from his 35 homers and 111 RBIs in 2009. The 35-year-old had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb in November, but is expected to be fully recovered for next season.
The Nationals inked former Oriole Michael Aubrey to a Minor League deal Monday, with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. The 28-year-old first baseman spent the majority of the last two seasons at Triple-A Norfolk, and hit just .235 in 102 games for the Tides in 2010. Despite the Orioles' lack of positional depth at first base, Aubrey was slowed by several injuries and never showcased the power that the organization needs at the corner-infield spot.
Should the Orioles not land LaRoche or Lee, one of their backup plans is putting designated hitter Luke Scott at first base and signing another DH-type to help augment the lineup. Scott, who has been used as a platoon player in the past, is coming off a career year and figures to be an everyday bat in manager Buck Showalter's lineup. The pair has discussed Scott avoiding only specific lefties, and ideally for the O's, Scott is their DH, albeit a versatile one.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.