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Orioles' Dan Duquette looking to trade for starters

Hours before this year's winter meetings began in Nashville, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette called the dollars being spent on top-tier starting pitching this offseason "staggering." But now Duquette is hoping to take advantage of those big-money moves to help upgrade the Orioles starting rotation.

Adding starting pitching is the club's greatest need, and as the winter meetings opened at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, Duquette said the Orioles are focused on orchestrating trades with some of those big-spending teams that suddenly find themselves with a surplus of pitching.

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Duquette said the trade market for starting pitching appears to be much more fruitful than the market for outfielders, another prime area of need for the Orioles.

"A lot of the activity is focused on the pitching market right now — a lot of it," Duquette said. "The prices of pitching is pretty steep, but after the first tier of pitchers signed, there's another tier behind them and then there's another tier right behind them. There's some pitchers on the trade market from some of the teams that are signing some of these other pitchers, so that's where some of the activity is -- the redeployment of their resources to another club."

The Orioles don't necessarily have a surplus of trade chips — players such as Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop are going nowhere — and the club dealt one of those chips, backup catcher Steve Clevenger, to the Seattle Mariners to acquire slugger Mark Trumbo and left-handed reliever C.J. Riefenhauser. Prospects such as first baseman Christian Walker and right-hander Jason Garcia have drawn trade interest, Duquette has said, but the team isn't eager to move its prospects.

"We're involved in a couple trade discussions, focusing on the pitching market, which seems to be moving pretty quickly, as you guys have been following," Duquette said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to [acquire] a couple of them this week."

The exorbitant amount being spent on free-agent pitching has been the story of the offseason so far. David Price's seven-year, $217 million deal with the Boston Red Sox was followed by Zack Greinke's six-year, $206.5 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Jordan Zimmermann signed a five-year, $110 million deal with the Detroit Tigers, and Jeff Samardzija inked a five-year, $90 million deal with the San Francisco Giants.

And those teams began to unload their extra arms Monday, as Boston dealt right-hander Wade Miley, who became a luxury following the Price signing, to the Seattle Mariners along with Jonathan Aro for relievers Carson Smith and Roenis Elias. The Red Sox are also reportedly open to moving right-hander Joe Kelly.

Besides gauging trade interest, the Orioles prepared for Thursday's Rule 5 draft and spoke with some agents regarding free agents, Duquette said.

The club also finalized the negotiating details of their four-year, $31 million deal with right-handed reliever Darren O'Day, pending a physical.

For now, Duquette appears to be content gauging the market for the left-handed outfield-first base bat the Orioles need to balance a righty-heavy batting order. Several attractive free-agent options exist and retaining fan favorite Chris Davis is still in the mix. The Orioles added two right-handed bats — Trumbo and L.J. Hoes — this offseason.

"There's a lot of availability on the outfield market," Duquette said. "That's an area that we addressed with the two right-handed hitters. We'd like to address it with a left-handed hitter if we can. So, I think we'll be able to do that. But again, some of this is going to be groundwork laid this week and will happen shortly thereafter."

Over the past 24 hours, Duquette sounded more optimistic that the Orioles would be able to make an acquisition other than a Rule 5 selection before the meetings end Thursday.

"I think we'll be able to do some things to help the team that we'll work on this, try to get them done by the end of the week," Duquette said. "If not, I think they'll come to fruition next week. There's a few things we've got in the works."

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