The following won’t surprise anyone, though it is telling that Baltimore GM Mike Flanagan describes this winter’s free agent crop as “weaker, thinner”. From the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly.

The Orioles made the inevitable official yesterday, saying they will not be bringing back outfielder Sammy Sosa or first baseman Rafael Palmeiro.

“At this point, we are heading in a different direction,” club executive vice president Mike Flanagan said.

Palmeiro and Sosa, who were featured on the cover of the Orioles’ 2005 media guide along with shortstop Miguel Tejada, have indicated that they would like to return to baseball in 2006.

Meanwhile, Flanagan said he felt that last week’s major league general managers meetings were productive in formulating his plans to improve the club.

“I would say a lot of groundwork was established in a lot of different directions with clubs and agents,” Flanagan said. “We had a very heavy schedule.”

He estimated that the Orioles’ front office met with about 20 major league clubs and representatives of about “40 to 50” free agents to discuss options.

Among those he talked to were agents for pitchers A.J. Burnett, Kevin Millwood, Paul Byrd and Jarrod Washburn, as well as hitters Ramon Hernandez, Bengie Molina and Nomar Garciaparra.