Paul Blair, one of baseball's all-time greatest defensive players, passed away today at age 69. Blair spent 13 of his 17 Major League seasons with the Orioles, with his superb center field defense playing a key role in Baltimore's success in the late 60's and early 70's. Blair won eight Gold Gloves over his career and accumulated 18.6 defensive WAR over his career (according to Baseball Reference), tied for 58th-best all-time. While he was best known for his glove, Blair also enjoyed a few impressive years at the plate, including hitting .285/.327/.477 with 26 homers for the O's in 1969. Blair won four World Series rings in his career — with the Orioles in 1966 and 1970, and with the Yankees in 1977-78. We at MLBTR express our condolences to Blair's family and loved ones.
Here's the latest from Camden Yards…
- The Orioles will focus on free agent starters like A.J. Burnett or Bronson Arroyo rather than Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, according to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Pitchers like Burnett or Arroyo have "a track record of stability [and] can be signed to shorter-term deals" than Jimenez, Santana and Garza, Encina writes. The Orioles "aren't high" on Garza in general.
- Also from Encina, the O's may put their closer search on hold for now and focus on other needs. For the time being, Tommy Hunter projects as Baltimore's closer.
- Minor league right-hander Mike Wright drew attention at the July deadline and MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko notes that the O's aren't keen to trade Wright. A rival scout isn't high on Wright's potential, telling Kubatko that Wright is "a back-of-the-rotation starter in the majors, at best." Wright, who turns 24 in January, was taken in the third round of the 2011 draft and he posted a 3.26 ERA, 3.54 K/BB rate and 8.3 K/9 in 150 1/3 IP for Double-A Bowie in 2013.
- The Orioles are hesitant to trade young starters like Wright or Eduardo Rodriguez, but Kubatko notes that they might have to make such a move to acquire a rotation upgrade if they won't pursue Tanaka and have doubts about the free agent market. Kubatko says that Jeff Samardzija is still "a potential trade target" for Baltimore, though the Cubs would surely ask for young pitching in return.
- Kubatko and Encina both reiterate Dan Duquette's claim that the Orioles won't be part of the market for Masahiro Tanaka, since Tanaka will be out of the team's price range.