In an announcement that would only shock the most optimistic of Orioles fans, MASN's Roch Kubatko has written that the Orioles are not going to go after one of the high-priced starting pitchers on the market. Per Dan Duquette:
If we're going to be successful, we're going to have to develop additional starting pitchers to come up through our farm system to make an impact on the major league team. That's where the Orioles are going to get value from their pitching program. It's not going to come from high-priced free agents. So, if people are expecting the Orioles to go out and sign a significant pitcher, I think it's more realistic to look for good pitchers to come up through the farm system.
It sounds like Duquette is subscribing to the old Andy MacPhail mantra of growing the arms and buying the bats. The problem with this is that a few years ago the Orioles had a whole crop of starting pitching prospects, and the only one who has turned out at all is starting pitcher Chris Tillman. Currently in the system are young studs Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, but Bundy won't be ready for most, if not all of next season after having Tommy John surgery. And while Gausman will be considered for this year's starting rotation, it's not a given that he'll be able to help the team in 2014.
Kubatko indicated that the Orioles have made offers to free agent pitchers (none good enough for them to accept, apparently), but we should give up any hope we may have had for pitchers like Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez. If the Orioles sign any free agents this offseason, they will be pitchers they can get on relatively inexpensive or short contracts, or both. Perhaps a reclamation project like Gavin Floyd or an older player they can get for one year, like Bartolo Colon.
I always find myself conflicted with news like this. On one hand, I don't necessarily want the Orioles to tie up a large percentage of payroll on a player that might not be worth it through the entirety of his contract. But on the other hand, there is definitely a time to overpay for players that can help push your team ahead in the standings, and this could be that time for the Orioles. Adam Jones, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, etc., aren't going to be in their primes forever, and spending money on a pitcher that can help them get to the playoffs in 2014 and 2015 would be worth it even if that pitcher doesn't pull his weight afterwards.
There is also the issue of the Orioles crying poor since the offseason began, and that could be another reason they'd balk from signing a high-priced pitcher. If Duquette's hands are tied due to budget (regardless of if the team could afford more, he can only spend what he's authorized to spend), then he'll need to get creative. It seems more and more like that's what he'll be doing.
I can still hope that the Orioles are saving their pitching dollars to go after a big bat like Shin-Soo Choo, and I'll hold onto that until the inevitable article comes out from MASN about how the Orioles aren't planning on doing that either.