The questions were familiar, the answers recited as if memorized at some point long ago. MacPhail discussed his team and his intentions for next Thursday's Trade Deadline, which could see a few popular faces leaving town.
"There's certainly been a measure of phone activity, which isn't surprising," he said. "You have some teams that are just doing their normal check-ins, and then you have other teams that have specific needs that they're targeting. There's been a fair amount of activity, which, like I've said, isn't unusual for this time, but nothing that I'd deem as close."
The Orioles are believed to be a team with several attainable commodities for the stretch run, chief among them being second baseman Brian Roberts, designated hitter Aubrey Huff and All-Star closer George Sherrill. None of those three are really classified as a "rental player," though, in that all of them are under contract or under team control for 2009.
Baltimore also has veteran players like Jay Payton and Chad Bradford that could be attractive to a team that needs one final piece, and MacPhail has said that he will consider moving virtually any veteran that another team asks about. And even if he can't reach a deal by this deadline, he knows that he may be able to slide some of his players through waivers.
If they get through, they're eligible to be traded all the way through the end of August. MacPhail took advantage of that loophole last season, when he sent Steve Trachsel to the Cubs for Scott Moore and Rocky Cherry.
"Historically, of the 750 active players, you'll have a fair amount that will not clear," he said. "Maybe a quarter to a third of players subjected to waivers will clear, based on historical levels. And after that, there's generally some activity. I'd imagine there would still be calls in that process. The second deadline which is meaningful is Aug. 31, and players would have to be on somebody's roster [by that point] to be active for the postseason. Generally, that's the last opportunity for contending teams to manipulate their roster in a certain way, and I wouldn't be surprised if we had some activity at that point."
MacPhail got the rebuilding movement rolling by trading Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada in the offseason and seems poised to continue the trend either at the deadline or over the winter. And to do so, he'll have to clear out some veteran players that won't be around the next time the Orioles are ready to contend -- either by trade or letting them leave as free agents.
One such player, Payton, told MLB.com earlier in the week that he understood his exact place.
"I know it's a possibility," Payton said of possibly being traded. "Obviously, the role that I have on this team isn't the one I wanted at the start of the season. If I knew this was going to be the role I'd have, I probably would've gone somewhere to a team that I thought had a better chance to make the playoffs and compete. I'd obviously welcome a trade to a contender, but if I stay here, I'm going to do everything I can to help this team win games for the rest of the season."
MacPhail was told of those comments on Saturday and nodded, acknowledging the essential truth. He fell short of saying that he'd accomodate Payton if he could, but he did say that he wouldn't reject the concept out of hand.
"You look at things on a case-by-case basis, and you don't just look at the club's best interests," he said. "Sometimes you look at what's in the player's best interests. We try to stay fairly open-minded in that respect to try to discern what is best for all parties concerned. We certainly aren't in the business of denying players an opportunity to participate in the postseason."
Manager Dave Trembley said Saturday that he hasn't noticed any of his players getting distracted as the deadline draws near, and he also said that he didn't plan on sitting any of them down and speaking about the trade rumor du jour.
"I think it just comes with the territory every year. It's part of the game and they know it coming in," said Trembley of the trade season. "You deal with it as best as you possibly can. To be honest with you, I see that as one area under Andy's [domain]. ... I think you can let yourself get carried away with it -- one way or the other -- if you allow your mind to wander. Focus on what you have to do and treat every day as a great opportunity. Don't worry about things you can't control."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.