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Orioles' Duquette eyeing second-tier pitchers as winter meetings get under way today

The Orioles had a few meetings with agents and clubs late Sunday after arriving at the Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, but their efforts to land players really begin today with the meeting's official first day.

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette called the top end of the starting pitching market staggering, and yes, the deals inked by David Price and Zack Greinke set a remarkable precedent for spending. Duquette also said he didn't know if that kind of market could sustain itself.

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He has to hope it doesn't. If it continues, the Orioles are likely to be left empty-handed.

Starting pitching is the Orioles' biggest need, but they weren't in the mix for arms like Price and Greinke, so Duquette has his eyes on the second tier market of starters.

Pitchers should steadily move off the board this week in Nashville. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma's reported three-year, $45 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers should begin to dictate the market on that next tier of starters. Iwakuma is 34 years old, so his $15 million annual average salary will serve as more of a barometer than the three-year length he received.

The Orioles have known interest in a few pitchers on that list, including ex-Texas Rangers right-hander Yovani Gallardo and former Washington Nationals right-hander Doug Fister. Gallardo, 29, is younger, so he could command a four-year commitment. Fister, who was demoted to the Nationals bullpen last season, might be a better bargain and less of a commitment given his recent struggles.

The Orioles aren't a team that makes those long-term offers in free agency. Darren O'Day's pending four-year, $31 million deal is just the second four-year deal to a free-agent pitcher in club history, joining Ubaldo Jimenez's deal before the 2014 season.

That deal, however doesn't necessarily indicate a change in philosophy in offering those lengthy terms. Both O'Day and Jimenez's deals took 11th-hour decisions to add a fourth year to get them done.

Duquette said the Orioles are willing to offer four-year deals on a "case-by-case" basis.

Orioles free-agent left-hander Wei-Yin Chen is also in that mix of second-tier starters. He might be one of the better ones and one of the few left-handers.

So if the Orioles weren't interested in engaging him in a four-year commitment, whether it was by extension earlier this season or in free agency, it doesn't speak well that they're willing to spend in a pricey starting pitching market.

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