Orioles remain focused on pitching (Greinke to Angels)

The Orioles continue to actively look to upgrade their starting pitching staff with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette saying Friday that the organization has multiple conversations going with other clubs in advance of Tuesday’s Trade Deadline.

“We are more focused on a pitcher,” Duquette said of a rotation that is short on experience and has been inconsistent this season, particularly without right-hander Jason Hammel, who is expected to be sidelined until September.

“We’ve got several conversations going, whether they bear fruit or not, we’ll have to see.”

The Orioles have been rumored in all kinds of negotiations — including seeking a corner outfielder and leadoff hitter — and Duquette didn’t rule out the acquisition of a position player on Friday, calling it a “possibility”. Still it seems Baltimore’s preferred upgrade remains with the pitching, a competitive market around baseball as the extra Wild Card has made the buyers pool bigger with bubble teams still within reach of the postseason.

Without sacrificing top prospects Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado — who the club has already told teams are off the table– the Orioles don’t have enough chips to acquire a top-caliber arm.  And it’s a market that is all but dried up with Cole Hamels signing an extension with the Phillies and the Brewers sending Zack Greinke to the Angels.  Multiple outlets have reported that the Orioles have inquired about Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano and they also have shown interest in Seattle’s Jason Vargas, neither of whom would command close to what getting Greinke would.

But how much of an upgrade would it be?

Chris Tillman has pitched to a 1.66 ERA in four starts since joining the club, Tommy Hunter is coming off consecutive quality outings and Zach Britton –who made his third start Friday night – is also healthy and in the rotation. The Orioles have had trade interest in all their young starters, particularly right-hander Jake Arrieta, and Duquette won’t make moves simply to make them.

“The idea is to add and to be additive. So, anybody that we add we’d like to be an upgrade,” Duquette said.

“I was encouraged with how Tillman threw and Britton coming up from the Minors. Hopefully we can do some good work and [Triple-A Norfolk’s] Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta can work out whatever they need to work out there. And if they’re back here, they can give us a shot in the arm.”

As for what the Orioles could give up, it’s unlikely they would deal any of their young starters without getting back a Major League-ready arm and Duquette said Friday there has been a lot interest in the club’s pitching depth both in the Majors and Minors. It’s far more likely the club parts with relievers and any prospect not named Machado and Bundy in any deals made before the Deadline.

“The important thing to keep in mind is the Trade Deadline, that is when you can add without a waiver,” Duquette said. “There will be some deals made after that. Again, I think we have some solutions already here with some of the people that we have here. And hopefully we can get it going.”

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