With the nonwaiver trade deadline approaching Thursday afternoon, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette reiterated Tuesday that he expects to improve his team, but he doesn't want to do it at the expense of jettisoning his top prospects.
"We'd like the star players to come up [from the minors] and make an impact on the team. In 2012, we brought up Manny [Machado], and he made a difference in the pennant race," Duquette said. "In 2014, we've got Kevin Gausman on our team, and we hope he will impact the race. So that's really the first choice, to have those really talented players play for us and prove themselves in the big leagues."
Duquette said he has had "conversations with a number of teams, and we've been looking for some pitching depth. That's primarily what we're focused on."
With a cadre of competent major league starters but no consistent ace, the Orioles' biggest need is seemingly a top-of-the-rotation starter. Several are rumored to be available including the Boston Red Sox's Jon Lester, the Tampa Bay Rays' David Price, the Philadelphia Phillies' Cliff Lee and potentially Philadelphia's Cole Hamels.
All would require trading top prospects, however, and that seemingly would eliminate the Orioles from the discussion. Duquette said as much when he was asked Tuesday whether his characterization of "pitching depth" ruled out front-line starters.
"I think [it's] more pitching depth, I would say," Duquette said. "It's more realistic that we could make a deal for pitching depth."
The Orioles could strengthen a strength by dealing for a relief pitcher, or they could add another mid-level starter to their current group of six (which includes injured right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who is on a minor league rehab assignment for his sprained right ankle).
Offensively, the Orioles could use a boost at both second base and catcher, but Duquette said the solid defense provided by Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Flaherty at second base and Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley at catcher can't be overlooked.
"If you look at it, those are a couple areas where we could improve [offensively]. I got to say, there's tradeoffs in everything," Duquette said. "Our guys have done a nice job defensively at second; have done a nice job defensively catching.
"They've contributed offensively, although it hasn't been consistent. Ideally, we'd like to have a more consistent contribution from those positions, but given the choice, we'd much rather have the defense first."
That doesn't mean an offensive addition at second base or catcher has been dismissed.
"If we could add to our offensive team, that would probably be something we could take a look at," Duquette said.
Overall, Duquette said he is pleased with what his club, which entered Tuesday with a 58-46 record, has done in the first four months of the season.
"So far, so good. Every team has strengths and areas we could improve upon. Our team is like that," he said. "We have been able to get more consistent starting pitching, which will cover up a lot of areas of your team. We've been able to execute defensively, which has helped us win the close games.
"This is a good ballclub. We'd like to try and improve the ballclub because [Thursday] is really the last chance you can do it unilaterally without somebody else's permission. So we're trying to do what we can."
Duquette said he did not believe any deal involving the Orioles was imminent, but he said industry-wide things could heat up soon.
"Once these deals start happening, they happen pretty quickly," Duquette said.