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Orioles have shown continuing interest in Morales, but gap remains

The Orioles have been in discussions with free agent first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales at different points over the past few weeks, though there's said to remain a fairly significant gap in negotiations to date and the likelihood of a deal is unknown.

Baltimore is said to have scouted Morales multiple times in recent weeks, as it seems to have a clear interest in the switch-hitting slugger, according to sources. However, the diffrence in dollars seems to remain fairly clear, as well.

The sides appeared to be talking about one-year scenarios for the most part, though the dollar amounts aren't known. Baltimore made hay with a nice mid-spring signing of slugger Nelson Cruz for $8 million; like Morales, Cruz's free agency was hampered by the attachment of a draft pick to his signing by virtue of his turning down the former team's qualifying offer.

The Orioles look like they have the potential to have a powerhouse lineup, with Manny Machado now back and Chris Davis expected back in a few weeks. But the switch-htting Morales could be yet another late enhancement for the team that is obviously going for it -- if they can come together on a price.

Some management people suggest they believe Morales is still more likely than not to wait until after the June 5 draft to sign, as that could open up the field to include teams concerned about losing their draft choice. The Orioles would only stand to lose a third-sound pick since they've already lost their first two picks to sign free agents Ubaldo Jimenez and Cruz.

The Mariners have long have an interest in Morales and continued dialogue after he turned down their $14.1-million qualifying offer, but things seemed to cool when Seattle hit a cold patch on the field. It's possble the Mariners' better recent play could convince them that Morales, who had 23 homers, 80 RBI and batted .277 for them last year, could be a differencemaker. Additionally, Mariners people are said to love Morales for his work in the clubhouse as well as on the field. Seattle wouldn't get the draft pick attached to him should Morales wait until after the draft to sign elsewhere.

The Brewers have looked like a possibility for a post-draft deal, but that may depend on the play of their first-base tandem of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, who have been decent so far. Milwaukee has the best record in baseball, and owner Mark Attanasio has had luck lately with surprise deals with Scott Boras clients Kyle Lohse and Francisco Rodriguez.

The Orioles' interest level may ultimately depend to some degree on the play of Delmon Young and David Lough, who are basically splitting time. Young is batting .333 but Lough, a very good defender in the outfield, is off slowly, at .164. Combined they are hitting .233.

While some baseball execs have theorized that Boras could reach some kind of understanding now for a deal following the draft, no such arrangement would be binding, and Boras is said not to believe there is any wisdom in limiting the field with such an early understanding. Once the draft pick issue is alleviated, it's possible teams could start coming out of the woodwork.

 
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