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Pitching a priority for O's in Hot Stove season

Looking to get to postseason in 2016, club will also have to analyze situation with Davis

BALTIMORE -- Baseball's offseason officially started on Monday, and the Orioles will face some tough decisions in a pivotal winter.

What the club is trying to accomplish is simple: Get back to the postseason after a disappointing finish to 2015. But how Baltimore, a mid-market team with several high-profile free agents, goes about that will be much more compelling. Here's a look at where they are and what they stand to lose as the Hot Stove season gets going.

Free agents: INF/OF Chris Davis, C Matt Wieters, SP Wei-Yin Chen, RP Darren O'Day, OF Gerardo Parra, INF/OF Steve Pearce.

Needs: Pitching will be a top priority, with both executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter stating last month that rotation upgrades are in order. The Orioles' lack of pitching depth was exposed in 2015, and in a perfect world, they'd add several Major League-ready starters. There's also the case of Davis, who will leave a sizable hole in the lineup and send a message to the team and fanbase should the O's let him walk. The O's will need to add power if they lose Davis and an outfielder if they are unable to retain Parra.

How to fill them: Duquette has traditionally been a GM who likes to find value in places other than the free agent market, so it would be a big shock if the Orioles made a splash there. It's more likely, particularly without a whole lot of upper-echelon prospects, that the O's try to trade to fill their holes. They should be a popular Minor League free agent destination again as their ever-changing roster affords a lot of opportunity.

Trade assets: Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey, the Orioles' top two pitching prospects, are both coming off of injury. That doesn't mean they couldn't be dealt, but their stock isn't particularly high. Still, there are players like Jomar Reyes and Chance Sisco who are thought of highly in other baseball circles.

Financial situation: The O's, who opened the season with a $118 million payroll, have approximately $42 million in contract obligations, mainly Adam Jones, Ubaldo Jimenez and J.J. Hardy, but that number will go up considerably when factoring in arbitration-eligibles. There hasn't been anything to indicate a big jump in money for 2016, unless ownership decides to open the checkbook for someone like Davis.

Bottom line: The window is closing on the Orioles' current group of players, and it'll take a strong offseason -- both in finances and scouting -- to put Baltimore back in contention.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.
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