BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Orioles have already surpassed their projected budget for the 2011 season, so what's the harm in coughing up a few million bucks for free agent designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero?
That's the approach being taken by president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, who has dramatically changed Baltimore's roster this offseason in an effort to end the team's franchise-record run of 13 consecutive losing seasons.
MacPhail confirmed Saturday that the Orioles have submitted an offer to Guerrero, who last season hit .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBIs for the AL champion Texas Rangers.
When told that fans and the local media were wondering about the possibility of adding Guerrero, MacPhail replied, "We're wondering, too, to some degree."
It's already been a hectic offseason for MacPhail, who decided against playing a pat hand despite Baltimore's 34-23 finish in 2010 under new manager Buck Showalter.
First, MacPhail obtained third baseman Mark Reynolds from Arizona for right-handed relievers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio. Then he got shortstop J.J. Hardy and infielder Brendan Harris from Minnesota for minor league right-handers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson.
MacPhail followed those deals by signing free agent first baseman Derreck Lee and closer Kevin Gregg.
"We're happy with where we are," MacPhail said, "but we still have some active conversations and we'll just see where those go."
Which means he isn't done spending on behalf of owner Peter Angelos.
"I've already exceeded the number that Peter and I focused on at the end of last year by several million, and he's continued to encourage me to continue to look and see what's available out there," MacPhail said.
MacPhail never expected Lee or Guerrero to be available this late in the offseason. Lee signed a one-year deal for $7.25 million on Jan. 6 and Guerrero still hasn't decided where he will spend the 2011 season.
"We've had conversations that maybe we would not have anticipated this time of year, but you're trying to take advantage of those things that the market offers you," MacPhail said.
When second baseman Brian Roberts comes to spring training camp next month, he will be the only incumbent in the starting infield.
"I've been through a lot of infielders the last nine years ... but I've never had a transition where nobody was left," Roberts said. "For the most part it's an all new infield."
An all new lineup, too. Luke Scott led the Orioles with 27 homers last season, but the addition of Reynolds and Lee gives Baltimore much-needed power behind Roberts, the leadoff hitter, and projected No. 2 batter Nick Markakis.
"Reynolds, I've always felt like we needed that 30- to 40-homer guy in the middle of our lineup. We haven't had that," Roberts said. "That, to me, was as exciting as anything. To put somebody like that in the middle of your lineup, that can change 1 to 9 really."
Having Guerrero would be even better.
"You're adding probably a Hall of Fame offensive player, somebody I think last year really transformed that Texas lineup," Roberts said. "Adding Vlad, you can't really match that kind of dynamic, somebody who's done it for so long and has that kind of experience."
Even if Guerrero opts to go elsewhere, Showalter proclaimed this to be a productive winter for the Orioles.
"Take a look where we were and where we are now," he said. "The things we wanted to attack this offseason, Andy and the front office and Mr. Angelos have really put us in a good position. I'm sure a lot will happen between now and when we break camp that might impact our club, too. But we like where we are. We identified four or five areas we really wanted to be diligent about, and with the exception of maybe one area, we're right where we want to be."
Showalter was referring to starting pitching. The Orioles desperately need to add at least two more starters, or they will be forced to count on a young staff that currently includes four pitchers (Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta) with fewer than 50 games of big league experience.
"You can never have too much pitching," said starter Jeremy Guthrie, the veteran of the staff. "You always have injuries, you have guys that struggle with performance, there's a lot of shuffling going on. So, to expect five pitchers to handle the load for a full season is a bit much of an expectation for any club, ours included. I'm sure they're working on something."