The Orioles’ primary focus right now is finding another starting pitcher. It takes precedent over a designated hitter.
Unfortunately, they still don’t know whether A.J. Burnett wants to pitch in 2014.
The Orioles can’t wait around on Burnett, the Monkton resident who turned 37 yesterday. They most definitely have interest in him, as I reported at the Winter Meetings, but they still haven’t heard whether he’s going to retire, stay with the Pirates or give them a chance to sign him.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette said he’s still trying to “do something to help the pitching staff between now and when we open.”
“We’re still working on that,” he said.
Duquette indicated that the Orioles are more likely to sign a free agent than make a trade, though he’s open to bolstering the rotation by any means.
“We’re trying to find more pitchers,” he said.
Again, you can forget Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana. No sense going there. It’s a wasted trip.
Here’s the complete list of free-agent starters, courtesy of MLBTradeRumors:
Alfredo Aceves (31)
Bronson Arroyo (37)
Dylan Axelrod (28)
Scott Baker (32)
Erik Bedard (35)
A.J. Burnett (37)
Chris Capuano (35)
Bruce Chen (37)
Jeff Francis (33)
Freddy Garcia (37)
Jon Garland (34)
Matt Garza (30)
Chad Gaudin (31)
Jason Hammel (31)
Tommy Hanson (27)
Aaron Harang (36)
Jeremy Hefner (28)
Ubaldo Jimenez (30)
Jair Jurrjens (28)
Jeff Karstens (31)
John Lannan (29)
Paul Maholm (32)
Jason Marquis (35)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (33)
James McDonald (29)
Jeff Niemann (31)
Roy Oswalt (35)
Clayton Richard (30)
Ervin Santana (31)
Johan Santana (34)
Joe Saunders (33)
Kevin Slowey (30)
Masahiro Tanaka (25)
Jake Westbrook (36)
Jerome Williams (32)
Suk-Min Yoon (27)
Barry Zito (36)
I don’t get the sense that there’s much interest in Williams, despite some rumors.
Duquette said adding another reliever is “a possibility,” though a starter is clearly his priority. And yes, they could bring in a set-up guy such as Francisco Rodriguez who has closer experience.
What about a designated hitter? Well, the Orioles’ interest in Kendrys Morales appears to be waning. That’s my read on the situation.
Quite simply, the Orioles would much rather hold onto their first-round pick. It would take a special player for them to surrender it, and a full-time designated hitter who turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Mariners just doesn’t seem like a fit, no matter how much I’ve beaten that drum.
Morales may be able to land a first base job elsewhere, but not in Baltimore. He’s apparently seeking a four-year deal. I’d be surprised if he’s running down the orange carpet at Camden Yards on opening day, but I’ve been wrong in the past.
There’s some interest, but the draft pick and the cost seem prohibitive.
The Orioles could choose to go the DH platoon route again. A healthy Nolan Reimold would factor into that equation. Same with Steve Pearce and Henry Urrutia. I just know that it won’t be Danny Valencia and Wilson Betemit.
I asked Duquette whether the team as currently constructed is good enough to make the playoffs.
“I think we have some more work to do to accomplish that, but we’re making progress,” he replied. “We added a couple left-handed hitters and there are some opportunities to help our pitching staff. Hopefully, we’ll be able to help ourselves there.
“It’s nice to win the offseason, but that’s not always what it takes to have a competitive team. I would encourage fans to look at the players who are returning, and we have a very established starting pitching group. Our starting pitching is improving. If we could add another starter in the mix, that would be great.
“We have some more work to do, but we’re progressing. I think (pitching coach) Dave Wallace will get the most out of the pitching staff.”
Shameless plug alert: I’ll be appearing on “Wall to Wall Baseball” from noon - 1:30 p.m. on MASN. You can get your Quintin Berry fix.