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Orioles start building pitching depth

Orioles start building pitching depth

Orioles start building pitching depth
DALLAS -- The Orioles leave the Winter Meetings at the Hilton Anatole better off than when they arrived, but with still a long way to go.

What Baltimore did accomplish over the four-day span, most notably, was adding left-handed starter Dana Eveland -- who figures to compete for a spot in the team's Opening Day rotation -- and selecting infielder Ryan Flaherty from the Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft.

"I don't think we are giving up significant talent to add to what we are building at the Major League level," said executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who gave up a pair of Minor Leaguers to net Eveland. "And we still have an opportunity to add some other players through the free-agent market. So things are coming along."

With Duquette laying the groundwork in Dallas for possible future trades and with several free-agent offers already out, it's fair to say the Orioles' best moves are probably still ahead. But in trading for Eveland -- who eclipsed the 180-innings mark between Triple-A and the Majors last season -- they did start to add depth to a pitching staff in dire need of upgrades.

Asked if the focus would continue to be on acquiring starting pitching or if it would turn to revamping the bullpen, Duquette said he's concentrated on simply adding the best arms possible.

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"It's really about adding pitching depth," Duquette said. "If you get a number of good pitchers in there, then the [coaching] staff can decide how to utilize them. Get the pitchers in there, get as much depth as you can, and you can decide what their roles are once the season starts."

While Duquette didn't envision another trade being imminent, the club will be busy this week on the international front, with a small contingent headed to the Dominican Republic this weekend to watch Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes work out. The Orioles are also in the market for a designated hitter, although the preference would be to find a player who can still play the field, to add bench flexibility.

Still, with the big splashes by clubs like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Miami Marlins, along with the continued hefty payrolls of division rivals like the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, can the Orioles pull off a successful winter? Duquette seems to think so, saying earlier this week that the club's budget isn't a constriction to fielding a much-improved 2012 squad.

"There's appropriate funding to field a competitive team here, but we have to make good choices," said Duquette, who has made it a priority to allocate resources internationally and upgrade the organization's farm system.

"It doesn't matter what the budget is. It doesn't matter to the fans," Duquette said. "They are interested in seeing the product, they are interested in seeing the players. And our job is to put out the best team we can, within the constraints of the market. So you are not going to hear me talk about the budget or numbers. Because to me, it's not important to the fans. They want to see a good product."

Keeping that in mind, here's a quick recap of what the O's got done over the past four days and what's still on the agenda ...

Deals done: The 28-year-old Eveland adds depth to the Orioles' pitching staff, without giving up much in return. Signed to a split contract by the Dodgers last season, Eveland spent most of 2011 with their Triple-A club, but he performed favorably after a September callup, going 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA in five big league starts.

The club also completed the trade with Texas for backup catcher Tayor Teagarden, sending Minor League infielder Greg Miclat to the Rangers as the player to be named.

Rule 5 Draft activity: The Orioles selected Flaherty from the Chicago Cubs with the fourth pick in the draft, and he's expected to compete for a roster spot, along with recently signed Minor League free agent Matt Antonelli.

The club also selected left-handed pitcher Andrew Loomis from the Phillies' Double-A Reading roster during the Triple-A phase. Baltimore picked Gaithersburg, Md., native infielder Matt Sweeney from Tampa Bay's Class A roster in the Double-A phase.

Goals accomplished: Adding Eveland should at least help foster more competition in the starting rotation, while Flaherty could vie for one of the team's final roster spots this spring.

The Orioles also announced manager Buck Showalter's staff, adding new hires Demarlo Hale (third-base coach) and Bill Castro (bench coach) to a group that includes pitching coach Rick Adair, hitting coach Jim Presley, bench coach John Russell and first-base coach Wayne Kirby.

Unfinished business: There is plenty for the O's to do moving forward, including continuing to add depth to their pitching staff. With Eveland the only signing, the team will look to add more starters and upgrade the bullpen.

The Orioles, who have several free-agent offers out, are also looking to add a left-handed-hitting outfielder and a designated hitter.

GM's bottom line: "We want to be .500 or better this year. We want to build, but we definitely want to be over .500." -- Duquette

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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