-- Though many teams have called to inquire about pitcher Jorge Julio, the Baltimore Orioles are not looking to trade the reliever.
"We've had a lot of hits on Julio," Orioles Executive Vice President Mike Flanagan said. "We're not actively shopping him."
The most public of rumors surfaced on Thursday, when the New York Post reported the Orioles were close to trading Julio to the New York Mets for starter Kris Benson. Flanagan said that though there have been discussions with the Mets, the team is not close to making the deal. One Orioles official said it appeared the Mets were walking away from the discussions.
"It is overblown," the official said of the rumors.
Speculation has the Mets looking to clear Benson's $7.5 million salary to make a run at Boston Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez. But the Orioles appear unwilling to take on all of Benson's salary and certainly not for Julio.
Though Julio struggled through his worst season as an Oriole in 2005 (3-5, 5.90 ERA), most in the Baltimore organization prefer to keep the talented reliever.
"We're not trading this guy unless it's something pretty good," one team official said.
The team official said he believed former manager Lee Mazzilli had treated Julio too harshly last season, which may have hurt his confidence. The team believes new pitching coach Leo Mazzone could be a positive influence and could turn Julio back into a formidable reliever.
"He could be our closer," one official said. "I think he's going to have a good year with Leo here."
Baltimore does not appear in a position to make a move at this point and the increasingly buyers' market has likely priced them out of any big-name acquisitions through free agency.
According to the Orioles official, pitcher Paul Byrd, an Orioles target, has received a three-year deal approximately worth $20 million from another team. Baltimore does not appear willing to match that offer. When asked how the talks were going with Byrd, the official said, "Not well."
If the Orioles are to make a big splash at next week's winter meetings, it appears it will have to be through trades.