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Rotation help tops O's list ahead of Meetings

Baltimore could explore starting options at annual gathering
December 5, 2017

BALTIMORE -- Under executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, Baltimore has often waited until deep into the offseason, after the Winter Meetings, to make moves in hopes of landing a bargain or two. (Some have worked out better than others.)Still, the O's need multiple starting pitchers, and the

BALTIMORE -- Under executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, Baltimore has often waited until deep into the offseason, after the Winter Meetings, to make moves in hopes of landing a bargain or two. (Some have worked out better than others.)
Still, the O's need multiple starting pitchers, and the club will at the very least begin to explore its options next week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in hopes of restocking a team that finished last in the American League East and that is facing a very small window with this current group.
Hot Stove Tracker
After all, this could be the final season in Baltimore for Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Brad Brach and Zach Britton. Duquette and manager Buck Showalter are also entering the final year of their respective contracts.
In advance of the Winter Meetings, here's a look at what the O's needs are, where they stand on trades and what's coming in the pipeline.
Club needs
Starting rotation
If there was a list of their top three needs, starting pitching would be all three. That's how badly the Orioles need to fill out their rotation heading into 2018. A group that ended as one of the worst in baseball will return just two guys in Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. While Gausman was erratic, Bundy was the lone stabilizer for most of the year, and Baltimore figures to add at least two arms from outside the organization for the rotation.

Improved defense
Gone is the sure glove of shortstop J.J. Hardy, leaving a large hole in the middle of the infield. Hardy's role will be filled by Timothy Beckham, though there are some concerns about Beckham's glove and beliefs that he would fit best as a designated hitter. It's not just shortstop: The O's played below-average defense for the first time under Showalter, and -- particularly with their pitching woes -- they have to find a way to get better.
Who they can trade if necessary
Britton and fellow reliever Brach's names circulated through July's trade rumors quite heavily, and there's no reason to think the O's won't at least explore the notion with opposing clubs. It would be tough to envision a scenario where a team trying to win trades away its closer, though you can make the case that Brach is a more expendable piece.
Can they? Should they? Will they? No, probably not. There's little to suggest the O's would deal Machado before the season starts or otherwise. Still, as a long-term extension to keep him becomes less and less likely, if the Orioles fall out of contention early, they may have to consider getting whatever they can before Machado walks.

Top prospects
Per, the O's top two prospects are catcher Chance Sisco and outfielder Austin Hays, and both were already September callups and should factor into the 2018 team. Hays will try to win a spot out of camp, while Sisco figures to split time with Caleb Joseph given Welington Castillo's departure.

Other guys who could help sooner rather than later include Baltimore's No. 6 prospect, lefty Tanner Scott, and No. 7, righty Hunter Harvey. The O's Minor League system has improved in recent years, making swinging a trade for an impact player much more plausible than it would have been in offseasons past.
Rule 5 Draft
It seems the annual Winter Meetings finale is a rite of passage for Duquette, who has been incredibly active in the Rule 5 Draft in his time with the O's. With plenty of room on their 40-man roster, the Orioles could once again take a chance on a Rule 5 pick (or two).
Big contracts they might unload
In a perfect world, the O's would look to get some reprieve for Chris Davis' $161 million deal, though that remains unrealistic for multiple reasons. Davis has underperformed in the first two years of the mega-deal, he has a partial no-trade clause and he is owed the kind of money that would financially hamstring many clubs, including the O's.
Mark Trumbo's contract would be easier to unload, though the slugger is coming off a down year and doesn't play a position. Trumbo -- who had a career year in 2016 -- is in the second year of a three-year, $37.5 million deal. It would be tough to find an interested team unless the O's agree to swap unfavorable contracts with the other party.
Payroll summary
What Duquette does have is some money to spend. Factoring in guaranteed contracts, the team's seven arbitration-eligible players and the remaining pre-arbitration players still put the O's well below last year's Opening Day payroll. With guys like Ubaldo Jimenez, Hardy, Castillo and Wade Miley off the books, the Orioles have almost $40 million (according to MLB Trade Rumors) before they would hit last year's mark of $164.3 million.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.