Dan Duquette on Orioles’ window of opportunity

Is the Orioles’ window of opportunity closing after the next season or two?

Shortstop J.J. Hardy will be a free agent after the 2014 season, which could also be Nick Markakis’ last season in an O’s uniform. Matt Wieters and Chris Davis can be free agents after the 2015 season.

Those are four key Orioles starters that could be gone after the 2014 season or the year after.

That has led some reporters and fans to look at the next season or two as the Orioles’ window of opportunity to make a real run at a championship.

At this point, even though so far he has made only what could be termed minor acquisitions, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette seems to concur that the proverbial window is there for his team right now.

“I hope the opportunity is always there, but there is something to be said with the core players that we have and the opportunity we have to win a championship. There is a window of opportunity here and we are going to do everything we can to maximize that,” Duquette said yesterday.

Are the Orioles close - to the point where one or two key acquisitions could put the team over the top?

“You know, everybody thinks their team is close and they always think it’s one or two pieces, but you need to have some depth,” he said. “And you need to have players that have good years. We’ll keep working at it.”

Duquette is not a fan of talking about the Orioles’ payroll or shedding any light on exactly the budget he is working with. He does strongly contend that the projected $10 million the club saved in trading Jim Johnson will be spent on other players. He said the club is prepared to increase payroll, but he won’t put a number on it. The team will not just pocket Johnson’s 2014 salary and any notion of the club’s payroll actually going down is false, he said.

“The team is not reducing the payroll, the team is reallocating resources,” Duquette said. “Any perception that the team is lowering payroll, that is not the case. The team has increased the payroll last year and is prepared to do that again this year. ... We are going to go sign some other players. You’ll see in the next couple of weeks that we’ll reinvest that money.

“I don’t think, frankly, it’s productive to talk about payroll. I don’t think the fans want to hear about it. I really don’t. We have enough resources here to field a competitive team. We’ve done that the last couple years and we plan on doing it again next year.”

That is truly the issue when you get down to it: Do the Orioles have enough payroll to produce a playoff team? Duquette said the answer to that question is yes.

“Yeah, we have to put together a team that wins over 90 games. We’ve got our eye on that prize,” he said.

In keeping with the theme of today’s blog, Jon Morosi of Fox Sports 1 tweeted this late last night:

“Sources: Orioles active in free agent talks for bats and arms; have interest in Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez.”

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