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Duquette on Day 2: Don't expect offers beyond three years to free-agent pitchers

Dan Duquette said he is not officially ruling out any potential free agent at this point in the offseason.

But an organizational philosophy, which the team's new executive vice president of baseball operations endorses, likely takes the Orioles out of the running for highly coveted starting pitchers such as C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle.

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In the past, the Orioles have avoided agreeing to free-agent deals longer than three years for pitchers. Under Duquette, that is expected to stay the same.

"That's smart," Duquette said Wednesday during a phone call from the general manager meetings in Milwaukee. "I don't see any reason for that to change."

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Recent history shows that long-term deals for starting pitchers rarely pan out – with a significant drop-off occurring as the seasons and innings pile up.

"I think having a limit for pitchers is a good thing," said Duquette, who said he had a similar philosophy when he served as GM in Montreal and Boston. "I think that's healthy to have a deadline [for contracts to expire]. It's prudent. It's smart."

With a limited number of quality choices in the free-agent market, it would be exceptionally surprising if Wilson, for instance, settled for anything less than a four-year deal. He likely is seeking a five-year contract.

Still, Duquette said, the Orioles' No. 1 priority is to improve their pitching staff. That might have to come via trades or the signing of lower-level free-agent pitchers to shorter contracts.

"We need to focus on improving our pitching staff, no question," he said. "We are talking to a number of different [free-agent] pitchers, and we are looking at trade options, too."

Although not going beyond three years takes the Orioles out of some pitching sweepstakes, Duquette said: "We haven't ruled anybody out. We need to be interested in all the capable players we can get."

In his second day at the meetings, Duquette said, he met Wednesday afternoon with four clubs and several player agents. He expected to have several more meetings in the evening. He hoped the club was closing in on a few minor league free agents to provide depth but didn't necessarily anticipate any 25-man roster moves by the time he leaves Milwaukee on Thursday – which is typical of most clubs.

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