Orioles Want A One-Year Deal With Koji Uehara

The Orioles are looking to re-sign reliever Koji Uehara to a one-year, incentive-laden contract, reports Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun.  Andy MacPhail "very much wants Uehara back on the [2011] Orioles, probably even to serve as the team’s closer," but Zrebiec writes that the club didn't offer arbitration to the Type B free agent due to concerns about Uehara's health. 

The 35-year-old has made four trips to the DL during his two years in Baltimore, but is coming off a season in which he posted a 2.86 ERA and a whopping 11.00 K/BB ratio in 43 relief appearances.  Those numbers would've earned Uehara a salary of roughly $6-$7MM in 2011 (up from $5MM in 2010) had he accepted the team's arbitration offer.

Zrebiec thinks that despite it all, "there is also a sense that Uehara’s first choice is return to the club," citing the fact that Uehara enjoys Baltimore and his son is enrolled in school in the city.  It's a calculated risk on the Orioles' part:

"Had they felt Uehara would get a multi-year deal elsewhere, I assume offering him arbitration would have been a slam dunk," Zrebiec says.  "But MacPhail has certainly put added pressure on himself to resign Uehara. If he can’t, the Orioles will not only be without their closer, but they won’t get a draft pick either.'

None of the five MLBTR writers polled thought Uehara would re-sign with the Orioles, though it's interesting to note that all five of us saw Uehara going to teams (the Mets, Red Sox, Tigers and Twins) where he would be a set-up man or an emergency closer, not the main ninth inning option.  Zrebiec notes that Uehara "loves the responsibility of closing," so he could choose to stay in Baltimore simply because the Orioles would install him as the closer on Opening Day.  Closer-needy teams like the Rays or Diamondbacks could also be contenders to sign Uehara if he prioritizes being a stopper and wants more than just one guaranteed year.

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