What is the priority now for the Orioles?

So, what should the Orioles priority be now that we are about five weeks from the start of spring training? Should it be a starting pitcher? A closer? A DH? Or all three?

To me, you almost always go for the pitching. The Orioles tied for fourth in the American League in runs scored last year, and while their offense could certainly use help, the pitching is a bigger priority.

I’m fine with Kevin Gausman starting the year in the rotation. But I also have no problem with him working on his slider and his command at Triple-A because the club added a starter.

Will they be pursuing A.J. Burnett or Bronson Arroyo? There are things to like about both, but also some concerns.

Burnett went 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA for the Pirates last year and pitched 191 innings, going at least seven innings in half of his 30 starts. By comparison, Chris Tillman did that in 13 of 33 starts. Plus Burnett’s 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings led National League starters. He also had a 56.5 groundball percentage.

But Burnett last pitched in the AL East for the Yankees in 2010 and 2011 with ERAs of 5.26 and 5.15. He has had 11 career DL stints and he is thinking of retiring. Is his heart not into playing this year?

Arroyo went 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA in 202 innings for the Reds. If you want innings, he’s your guy. Had he not pitched 199 innings in 2011, he would now have nine straight 200-innings seasons.

Arroyo and Burnett are very different pitchers. Arroyo is a low-strikeout, pitch to contact pitcher, but his 1.5 walks per nine innings ratio and WHIP of 1.15 last season gets your attention.

Both pitchers could come on short-term deals, which, as we know, is right in the Orioles’ wheelhouse. If they are going to sign a free agent pitcher, it is likely to be someone on a one or two-year deal.

As for a closer, I’ve written that I’d like to see the club add someone to maintain bullpen depth. The O’s didn’t want to pay Jim Johnson or Grant Balfour $10 million a year and they were going to get Balfour for less until the medicals came back.

Now, do the O’s need to pay more for a closer than they had intended? They may be in that situation. If they want to contend, they may well need someone with a proven record. Perhaps they go for Francisco Rodriguez on a smaller dollar deal.

As for the DH, Kendrys Morales would be a nice addition if the price is right. If he wants a three or four-year deal, would the O’s do that and give up their first-round draft pick? Going to guess that answer is no.

But Morales is a switch-hitter and could be a full-time DH. He could add some pop to the order but he is a poor defender and slow runner. To me he’s not the player to lose a draft pick for.

So as the 2014 year begins, how busy will the Orioles be over the next few weeks and where should the priority be?

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