With the player the Orioles called their priority, slugging first baseman Chris Davis, now officially locked up, executive vice president Dan Duquette said the team is still in the market to bolster a pitching staff that regressed in 2015.
"We're still looking for additions to our pitching staff," Duquette said. "It takes a lot of energy to sign a star player. We are always cognizant of what we need to add to our pitching staff. We haven't found the pitching that we really like at the prices we like. That has been a very, very expensive market this offseason. But I'm confident we'll be able to come up with the pitching that we need to compete."
Davis himself, in the midst of answering questions about the richest contract in club history, was asked about the team's remaining needs and cited a pitcher to replace Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Miami Marlins.
Right-handers Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kevin Gausman, and Miguel Gonzalez are returning in the rotation in 2016. Tillman is coming off his worst full season with the Orioles, with a 4.99 ERA in 173 innings last year. Gonzalez, too, stepped back from strong 2013 and 2014 results to settle at 9-12 with a 4.91 ERA in 144 2/3 innings.
Jimenez rebounded from a difficult first season with the Orioles to go 12-10 with a 4.11 ERA, while Gausman finally seized a full-time rotation spot by the end of the season and was 4-7 with a 4.25 ERA in 112 1/3 innings.
Much is expected of Gausman in 2016, while improvement from Tillman, Jimenez, and Gonzalez would greatly improve this year's version of the team, the depth behind them is unproven. Options include stretching out left-handers T.J. McFarland and Brian Matusz, or using Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright, or Vance Worley in that spot.
Davis' agent, Scott Boras, said the pitching market was the one that played itself out first this offseason, perhaps putting a deal for sluggers like his client on the back burner. Zach Greinke, David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, and Johnny Cueto all got big pitching contracts earlier this year, and then the next tier, which included Scott Kazmir and Chen, were signed.
The options remaining for the Orioles include Yovani Gallardo, Doug Fister, and Mat Latos, among others. Duquette said that both earlier in the offseason and now, the market for a quality starter to round out the Orioles' rotation is pricey and scarce.
"There are some pitchers out there we like, and we've also talked to some other teams about pitching," Duquette said. "The problem in the pitching market is that there are more teams chasing fewer pitchers. There are not enough to go around. That is an age-old problem. But it was very acute this winter."
Otherwise, Duquette likes the construction of this year's Orioles team.
"We should have a good defensive team," Duquette said. "We got a lot of the core back. We should be strong up the middle. We have Buck's leadership in the bullpen, and I think those are all strengths of the team we can build on. We are going to have to get some performances from the pitchers that we have and then continue to add to that."