But it didn't take long for president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail to make Baltimore's first move at this year's Winter Meetings, as the Orioles acquired the bat they sorely needed, trading for D-backs infielder Mark Reynolds on Monday.
Reynolds, and either a player to be named later or cash considerations, cost the Orioles relievers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio -- a pair of young arms who will surely help bolster Arizona's depleted bullpen. But for Baltimore, the prospect of getting Reynolds' power bat was too good to turn down.
"We are not as productive as we would like to be against left-handed starters last year, so we wanted to get some right-handed bats in," MacPhail said of an Orioles squad that hit .248 against lefties in 2010.
"Mark has definitely demonstrated he is capable against left-handed pitching. We are buoyed by the fact that he will start next year at 27, somebody that we have in our control for several years. He is a young player who is improving his defense, which is a very important part of the equation for us."
Reynolds' bat beefs up the Orioles against some of the southpaw-heavy American League East rotations. He is a career .257 hitter against left-handed starters, hitting 45 homers in 174 games, and has a career .252 average against lefties in four Major League seasons. Despite a down year, Reynolds' 2010 numbers -- which included 32 homers and 85 RBIs -- would have led Baltimore in numerous offensive categories, including homers, RBIs, slugging percentage and runs scored.
And then there is what manager Buck Showalter calls the "contact-to-damage" ratio, which basically takes into account a hitter's slugging percentage when he makes contact. Reynolds' ratio last season was .737, seventh best in the Majors and behind premier sluggers such as Adam Dunn and Josh Hamilton.
"That's just something we don't have," Showalter said of Reynolds' pure power. "And we were impressed by him improving [his] defense and the [work] the organization in Arizona had done with him."
Showalter and MacPhail also praised Reynolds' toughness and character, pointing both to him playing through several injuries and the positive reports they got concerning his makeup.
"I am definitely going to leave the field dirty," Reynolds said when asked to describe his game. "I am not afraid to dive into the stands, I am not afraid to take on a catcher at home plate. I definitely play the game 100 percent, full board all nine innings, and you'll never see me loafing out there. If I am loafing, it must mean that I am hurt. I am a hard-nosed player, and I'll go out there every day with all I've got."
It's also important to have a slugger like Reynolds because of how he will augment the rest of the O's lineup. Reynolds, who was selected by the D-backs in the 16th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, posted a .433 slugging percentage in 145 games and will help take the pressure off the likes of Nick Markakis, Luke Scott, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones.
But there are caveats, most notably Reynolds' strikeouts -- which includes three consecutive seasons of 200-plus K's -- and a .198 batting average last season, a number that his right thumb injury did little to help.
"It was borderline embarrassing, as far as my average goes," Reynolds said. "I know I am a much better hitter than that. I think I pushed myself a little too hard. I am pretty stubborn when it comes to injuries and things like that. I hate missing games, I hate missing at-bats.
"I think I have learned a lot in that area as far as how to listen to my body and know when I need to maybe take some time off. Looking back, I wish I had done that, but it's past and you move forward and I think I'll have a lot better chance for success knowing what I went through this past year."
"We don't magically think that the strikeouts are going to be halved because he puts on the black and orange," MacPhail said of Reynolds' hitting tendencies. "But clearly, the productivity that he brings to you is, in our view, worth a lot."
So is his defense, an aspect of Reynolds' game he has been working hard at improving. Reynolds said he worked diligently with D-backs coach Matt Williams this past spring, concentrating on footwork and acclimating to a position that he had never played until he reached Double-A.
"The challenge is pretty obvious that we had to improve offensively," Showalter said. "At the same time, we don't feel that we have sacrificed anything defensively, and that was a key component of this deal, is where Mark was as a defender at 27 years old and obviously the health factor.
"And like Andy said, we gave up two young arms that were tough to part with, and obviously Arizona did [its] work in picking the right people. At the end of the day, we feel we are a better offensive club."
Although Reynolds can play both corner-infield spots, he will be used at third base, said MacPhail, who didn't see Monday's trade dramatically changing the Orioles' offseason going forward.
"We've had a lot of conversations on the trade front, as well as the free-agent fronts," said MacPhail, who acknowledged acquiring relievers is on the team's front burner. "You don't know which ones are going to develop or which ones are going to stall somewhere down the line. We'll just have to see how the next couple of weeks play out."
Arizona got what it wanted in Hernandez and Mickolio, two young arms who will help bolster a depleted bullpen. The D-backs have been high on Hernandez for quite some time, and his name had been the most popular in early trade talks involving the Orioles. The 25-year-old Hernandez opened the season in the starting rotation, but was moved to the bullpen out of necessity and what the team thought was in his best interest. He went a combined 8-8 with a 4.31 ERA, including a 3.13 ERA as a reliever. With a fastball that hits the upper 90s, Hernandez was often used in the later innings and was considered by some in the organization to have future closer potential.
Mickolio has even greater upside, although he has had problems repeating his delivery and thus racking up walks. Acquired in the Erik Bedard haul from Seattle, the 6-foot-9 right-hander appeared in three games for the Orioles last season, posting a 7.36 ERA over 3 2/3 innings. Mickolio spent the rest of the season with Triple-A Norfolk and was stalled by several injuries, including a groin strain that likely cost him a spot on Baltimore's Opening Day roster. In 30 appearances with Triple-A Norfolk, Mickolio went 4-3 with a 6.37 ERA.
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.Less