As the first-base merry-go-around turns, the Orioles again are targeting Derrek Lee, according to major-league sources.
The question is whether the Orioles can satisfy Lee competitively, financially and geographically — and how strongly the Nationals remain in the mix for the 14-year veteran, who is coming off surgery on his right thumb.
The Padres offered Lee a one-year deal for more than $8 million before signing free agent Brad Hawpe to play first, sources say. Lee, 35, presumably would want similar money from the Orioles or Nationals, if not more.
His preference, according to a source with knowledge of his thinking, is to play for a contender and/or play out west. Lee, who is from Sacramento, Calif., now has a home in southern California.
The Padres might have been his best chance to go west. No other club in that part of the country currently has an opening at first. The Angels, who could use Lee and Kendry Morales in a first-base/DH rotation, are cool on Lee, a source said. Lee turned down a trade to join the Angels last summer.
The Orioles, prior to focusing on Lee, were pursuing Adam LaRoche, another free-agent first baseman. Those talks failed to progress, however, in part due to LaRoche’s desire for a three-year deal. The O’s are more comfortable with signing Lee for one year, sources said.
LaRoche also appeals to the Nationals, but few other teams appear to be looking for first basemen — and Jorge Cantu, Russell Branyan, Troy Glaus and Casey Kotchman are among those who remain on the open market.
The Orioles could play Luke Scott at first and sign a designated hitter, but prefer a stronger defensive alignment. Lee would help in that regard, and also provide leadership.
— Ken Rosenthal