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Dan Duquette: Orioles May Have To Be More Aggressive In Free-Agent Pursuit

December 11, 2017
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As the first day of the MLB Winter Meetings ended Dec. 11, Baltimore Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette indicated the team might have to pursue free-agent pitchers more aggressively.
"There are so many teams looking for pitching," Duquette said. "We might have to be more proactive. ... We've probably got to move a little bit quicker."
The Orioles are looking to replace free-agent starters Jeremy Hellickson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley and Chris Tillman.
"Our focus is to sign some pitchers," Duquette said. "Some starters, and then we're also trying to trade for a left-handed hitter to give us a little more depth and complement in the outfield."  
Duquette said the Orioles had looked at free-agent outfielders, but the team "hasn't quite found the right fit."
He said the New York Yankees' acquisition of outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who led baseball with 59 home runs last year, would not alter the Orioles' approach.
"The rich got richer," Duquette said. "That makes it even more challenging for our ballclub. We have our own challenges."
In February 2014, the Orioles signed Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million contract. It was the first time the team signed a pitcher from outside its organization to a deal that long.
Because of Jimenez, who was 32-42 with a 5.22 ERA with the Orioles, they're not likely to try and sign a top-tier pitcher for four or five years, Duquette indicated.
"Those haven't worked out that well for the club," Duquette said. "I'm not sure I would recommend that."
Duquette said the Orioles could sign good pitchers for two- or three-year deals.
"There's been some pretty decent pitchers in this market who aren't going for four or five years," Duquette said. "There's been some signings already where pitchers have signed for a couple of years." 
With right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman the only incumbent starters on hand, the Orioles will have to find three replacements.
"That's going to be tough," Duquette said. 

He said he hoped one of the pitchers who started for the team late in 2017 could be converted into a starter, specifically mentioning right-handers Miguel Castro and Gabriel Ynoa.
Duquette didn't heartily endorse a reunion with Tillman, whose 2017 was marred by injury and ineffectiveness. The right-hander had a 1-7 record and 7.84 ERA.
"His name seems to come up all the time in our market," Duquette said. "I think because he was a good pitcher for a long time. That's certainly could be considered by the club, along with some others."
It's important the Orioles also add a left-handed starter, Duquette said, and the team is interested in getting another left-handed reliever to go along with Zach Britton and Richard Bleier.
Another area of interest is adding a veteran catcher to go along with Caleb Joseph and rookie Chance Sisco. Duquette said the team had been interested in retaining Francisco Pena, who had short stints with the club in 2016 and 2017, but he'll be signing elsewhere, Duquette said.
The Orioles' areas of depth are the bullpen and young outfielders, Duquette said. They've been getting interest from other clubs in left-handers Alex Wells and Keegan Akin.
Wells, an Australian native, pitched for Low-A Delmarva and was named the team's top minor league pitcher, and Akin, who pitched for Class-A Frederick, was the team's second-round pick in the 2016 draft.
In each of Duquette's first six Winter Meetings, the Orioles have made at least one selection in the Rule 5 draft, and he said the team is studying possible targets. The Dec. 14 draft will conclude the Winter Meetings.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox