The Orioles main priority heading into July 31's non-waiver trade deadline is adding a starting pitcher, and the club has been actively scouting potentially available arms, according to several sources.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette would only say, "We're looking," when asked about his team's pursuit of a starter earlier this week.
As is his policy, Duquette won't reveal names, but, according to several industry sources, the Orioles are currently monitoring a group that includes Miami's Ricky Nolasco, San Diego's Edinson Volquez and Andrew Cashner, the Chicago Cubs' Matt Garza and Scott Feldman, the Chicago White Sox's Jake Peavy and Houston's Bud Norris.
Frankly, if a starting pitcher is being dangled, the Orioles are going to, at the least, pay attention. In that vein, they have checked in on a reunion with Seattle lefty Joe Saunders, whom they traded for last August.
At this point, the Orioles believe the asking price for Saunders, who is 5-8 with a 4.98 ERA in 12 starts for the Mariners this year, is too high.
And that's not atypical considering that there are few solid starters available on the market and plenty of teams interested. Nolasco, for instance, has a lifetime 4.43 ERA and is a pending free agent, but the continually rebuilding Marlins are shopping him to the highest bidder and are expected to get a solid haul in return.
That's another problem for the Orioles. They don't have much in the way of cheap, high ceiling prospects that they are willing to deal, especially for a rental that may not be much better than their current collection of starters. They aren't going to move 22-year-old right-hander Kevin Gausman and both pitcher Dylan Bundy and infielder Jonathan Schoop are currently injured. Clubs have maintained interest in starters Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton, but neither is widely viewed as the centerpiece for a highly coveted starter.
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect that could be available is 20-year-old lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, who was promoted Friday to Double-A Bowie after going 6-4 with a 2.85 ERA at High-A Frederick.
The sense within the organization is that Rodriguez would only be moved for a near top-of-the-rotation starter. And those types simply aren't available.
Philadelphia's Cliff Lee isn't on the block and his contract would be too prohibitive for the Orioles. Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo reportedly can veto a trade to Baltimore.
Cashner is an intriguing name, and wouldn't be a free agent until 2017. But it's a long shot that the Padres deal him and, even so, the Orioles likely wouldn't have enough to compete in that bidding war. Peavy has a track record, but is on the disabled list and is not considered a front-burner target for the Orioles.
Likely the most accomplished pitcher in their sights is Garza, the 29-year-old right-hander and pending free agent who is 3-1 with a 3.83 ERA in eight starts with the Cubs.
The Orioles love his competitiveness and AL East experience — he was 34-31 with a 3.86 ERA in three years with the Tampa Bay Rays — but he, too, will be costly in terms of prospects.
"If those types of (trades) happen, they happen. But at what price? There's always a price," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Friday when asked about deadline deals. "They don't just say, 'Hey, we're going to just send this guy over there to you and, by the way, we'll pay his whole contract too, so we're good guys.' That's not how it works."
For now, Showalter said he is going to concentrate on what the team has — and hope that internal solutions, such as Gausman and the injured Wei-Yin Chen — can strengthen the rotation.
"I just dwell on our own," Showalter said. "If you're constantly thinking there's some knight on a horse coming to save the day … I don't think it's a good mentality for us to have."