Starting the pitching speculation

One of the most intensly analyzed statements from Orioles manager Buck Showalter late in the 2013 season went something like this:

"We need to pitch better."

Sounds simple, right? But was he suggesting that the Orioles need to find better pitchers, or get better production from the ones currently in the organization?

I'm going with the latter, which puts me in agreement with the likes of Tom Davis and Dave Johnson at MASN. (And I do like them, by the way.)

The Orioles aren't going to spend big for a free-agent pitcher unless there's a huge shift in their philosophy. Former executive Andy MacPhail didn't believe in it, and executive vice president Dan Duquette has given no indication that he's on board with it.

As I've stated, a big reason why the Orioles hired Dave Wallace as pitching coach is his reputation as a teacher. They went outside the organization with all four candidates in order to get "fresh eyes," as Showalter put it.

Those eyes will be fixed on Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, Kevin Gausman, Steve Johnson, T.J. McFarland ... I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

The Orioles need more starters who can pitch 200 innings, and I don't mean over two seasons. Chris Tillman turned into a workhorse of sorts. OK, that's one. What else have you got?

Matt Garza and Ervin Santana are free agents. CBSSports.com's Mike Axisa predicted here that Garza will sign with the Orioles. Danny Knobler predicted Santana will do it, saying that the Orioles will pay more than the Royals.

Every winter, big-ticket free agents are linked to the Orioles based on the club's needs and the idea that it has money to spend. Prince Fielder and Josh Hamilton immediately come to mind. Neither one was going to sign with the Orioles, no matter how many times it was speculated, but those names kept the hot stove burning.

I just can't see the Orioles making a serious run at Garza or Santana and outbidding other clubs for them. Unless, again, something has changed.

MLBTradeRumors.com lists Santana as the sixth-best free agent in its power rankings. Santana could be seeking a five-year deal, and he'll cost the team that signs him a draft pick.

The Orioles don't want to surrender their picks.

Garza also will seek the kind of deal that turns off the Orioles - five years is probably out of the question. He's had success in the American League East, as MASNsports.com's Steve Melewski pointed out this morning, and he won't cost a draft pick.

Santana has exceeded 200 innings five times in his career. Garza did it in 2009 and 2010 with the Rays, and just fell short (198) the following year with the Cubs.

They're exactly what the Orioles are looking for, and exactly what they traditionally have avoided.

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