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David Price, Wei-Yin Chen and the Orioles' need for lefty starters

Who are the top free-agent lefties in the upcoming class?

The Toronto Blue Jays will try to stay alive in the playoffs tonight with Game 6 of the American League Championship Series being held at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

Left-hander David Price will be on the mound for the Blue Jays in a potential elimination game for Toronto, which trails the Royals in the best-of-seven series, 3-2.

This is exactly why the Blue Jays gave up three left-handed pitchers, ages 24, 22 and 21, to the Detroit Tigers to land the 30-year-old Price, a pending free agent at season’s end.

Price has pitched in eight postseason series in his career -- and hasn’t fared particularly well. He’s 2-7 with a 5.24 ERA in 13 games (seven starts), and has allowed 13 runs in 16 2/3 innings (7.02 ERA) in three postseason games in 2015.

But he was 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA in 11 regular-season starts for the Blue Jays after the trade. He is a certifiable ace -- no doubt. Every time he takes the mound, even in the playoffs, you know it’s possible he can toss a gem.

And did I mention he is left-handed and a pending free agent?

Price is sure to get a huge payday on the open market. So much that Orioles center fielder Adam Jones laughed when asked earlier this month whether he thought his club had a chance at landing Price.

“He's going to be commanding $25 to $32 million [per year]. I don't foresee that happening in Baltimore. That's reality. And he's definitely earned it," Jones said at the end of the season. “I'd love to play with David Price. He's one of the game's best people and best pitchers, but I'm going to probably be an opponent of his for my entire career.”

The truth is the Orioles badly need an ace in their rotation -- and they badly need a left-hander. Right now, the only true left-handed starter the Orioles have is Wei-Yin Chen, and he also is a free agent.

It’s possible the Orioles could be without a lefty starter in 2016; the only lefties with big league starting experience on the Orioles’ current 40-man roster are Zach Britton, Brian Matusz and T.J. McFarland -- all relievers currently.

The cupboard is just as empty on the free-agent market.

In fact, an easy argument can be made for Chen, 30, being the best lefty not named Price on the open market. He was 11-8 with a 3.34 ERA in 31 starts for an American League East team.

Although the Orioles used him carefully, giving him extra rest whenever possible, Chen has made 31 or more starts in three of his four seasons with the Orioles. That’s a durability not quite reached by other available lefties such as Scott Kazmir, Brett Anderson and Jaime Garcia (who could remain with the St. Louis Cardinals if they pick up his $11.5 million option).

Other lefty options include 36-year-old Mark Buehrle, 37-year-old Chris Capuano, 33-year-old J.A. Happ and 35-year-old former Oriole Rich Hill. There’s also 37-year-old Cliff Lee, who didn’t pitch at all in 2015.

The bottom line is that if the Orioles don’t re-sign Chen -- and I think it’s highly unlikely they bring him back, especially if he gets a five-year offer -- and since they won't land Price, they are going to be scrambling for an effective left-handed starter (or two) this winter.

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