This is probably the most intriguing thing to watch this winter. The Orioles have been relegated to third-tier status when it comes to free agency in the past decade. Simply put, the most coveted free agents had no interest in joining Baltimore's losing atmosphere and the mid-level targets seemingly used the Orioles' interest as negotiating leverage when dealing with other teams. The common wisdom was that free agents wouldn't come here unless they had no other alternatives. But now the Orioles are coming off a playoff season, retain an impressive nucleus and play in Camden Yards, still one of the best venues in sports. So free agents may kick the Orioles' tires more sincerely this year. And there's some belief that the Orioles need to strike in free agency while their iron is still hot. But will the Orioles open up their doors -- and checkbook -- for the first- or second-tier guys? Duquette didn't answer the question head on after the season, but his tap-dancing answer made it seem like he is more apt to continue down his road, and not look for a quick, costly fix. "I've said all along the way to build a good ballclub is from the ground up. It's not from the top down," he said. "We are always looking for opportunity, but I'm going to tell you this: The core players are going to come from our minor league system." The Orioles, under owner Peter Angelos, have never signed a free-agent pitcher beyond three years. Duquette, who is big into risk-reward analysis, for the most part agrees with that philosophy. The guess is that they add a couple free agent pieces, but may leave the marquee guys alone.
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