Orioles remain focused on starters, interest in closers cooling

Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Baltimore could look to add to their rotation sometime after Masashiro Tanaka signs.

The Orioles will focus on improving their rotation rather than pursuing a premier closer in free agency, as The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly reports.

The free agent market for starting pitchers is currently bottlenecked by Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka, so the O's might have to be patient. Teams have until Jan. 24 to negotiate with Tanaka, something the O's have steadfastly declined to take part in. After he comes to an agreement, things should pick up for players like Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, and Matt Garza.

General manager Dan Duqette says his team is "talking about a couple of pitchers," but guys like Santana, Jimenez, and Garza are likely to command deals of at least four years or more. Baltimore has been hesitant to commit that kind of longevity to starters in the past, so their attention may shift to someone like Bronson Arroyo -- whose age, 37, might lend itself to a shorter deal.

The Orioles have some of the best pitching prospects in baseball, but it appears as though the team would like to add a veteran into the mix. Guys like Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are a significant part of Duquette's future plans, but it might take some time for them to mature into the aces some project them to be.

If the Orioles move forward with what they have in the bullpen, former starter Tommy Hunter could be in line to take over in the ninth inning. Although that decision wouldn't get as many exclamatory headlines as signing a guy like Rodney or Grant Balfour, it could pay off. Last season, he put up a 2.86 ERA in just over 86 innings.

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