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Yovani Gallardo would finally make Orioles better than last year, but at what price?

Texas Rangers starter Yovani Gallardo throws against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning of Game 1 of the American League Division Series in Toronto on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015.
Texas Rangers starter Yovani Gallardo throws against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning of Game 1 of the American League Division Series in Toronto on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. (Fred Thornhill / Associated Press)

If multiple reports are true and the Orioles are closing in on signing free-agent pitcher Yovani Gallardo, the pending deal will answer one last big question about the team's determination to get back into playoff contention this year ... and raise a few others.

Gallardo would complete the starting rotation that struggled last year and lost solid left-hander Wei-Yin Chen to free agency. He's a solid, experienced pitcher who would allow the Orioles to keep their minor league depth in the minor leagues until pitchers such as Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson are better prepared for prime time.

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He would also allow the Orioles to finally arrive at spring training with a team that is better -- on paper -- than the one that finished .500 last year.

Finally, it would confirm that owner Peter Angelos is willing to do what it takes to maintain the organizational momentum that Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter have sustained for the past four seasons -- albeit with a slight downturn in 2015.

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The price, however, will be high on two fronts. If Gallardo signs a three-year deal worth $12 million per year or more, it would raise the Orioles' payroll above $140 million, and that's without including the deferred portion of Chris Davis' first $23 million season.

And, since Gallardo was given a qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers, the Orioles will have to cede their first-round choice in this year's draft. That's something they seemed very reluctant to do earlier in the offseason, because they have a high number of picks in the early rounds of the draft and are hoping to take full advantage of the opportunity to restock the minor league system with a bunch of quality prospects.

It would represent a bold change of philosophy, but there is obviously a lot of risk involved. The Orioles gave up similar compensation when they signed Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez late in the winter two years ago. The Cruz deal paid off big time, but Jimenez struggled badly in the first season of a four-year, $50 million contract and still hasn't pitched well enough to justify the cost or the loss of the 17th overall pick in the 2014 draft.

A source confirmed to The Baltimore Sun that the Orioles continue to be in dialogue with Gallardo. FoxSports.com and CBSSports.com have reported the sides are moving closer to a deal.

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Baltimore Sun reporter Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this article.

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