SEATTLE -- Last year, the Orioles successfully added to their pitching staff, upgrading the rotation with right-hander Bud Norris in a last-minute midseason deal with the Houston Astros. And while Baltimore is looking once again to add pitching, there's a lot less certainty that it will be able to acquire an arm that's significantly better than what the team already has.
"The starters, the way they've been pitching the last six weeks, that's encouraging," Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said of a rotation that has chopped a half-run off its collective ERA in pitching to a low 3 ERA since June 9. "So I guess I don't know if we would acquire a top starter, but we would be looking for pitching depth."
The O's have been incredibly active in trade discussions in the weeks leading up to Thursday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, and there's been no shortage of names linked in Baltimore's pursuit of pitching. Ian Kennedy, Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett and Jorge De La Rosa are among the names the club has kicked around. There's also been a wealth of interest in the young arms Duquette and Co. have accumulated, a high cost that likely takes any kind of marquee trade for a starter off the table.
"We have some really talented young prospects, [like] Kevin Gausman, who is now pitching for the big leagues. Obviously other teams are interested in having a pitcher like Kevin Gausman on their team," Duquette said of the 23-year-old righty, who is on several opposing teams' radar, including Colorado. "[There's] a lot of interest in Hunter Harvey, Eduardo Rodgriguez is pitching pretty well, and of course Dylan Bundy. There's a lot of interest in our young pitching from other teams."
Duquette has been hesitant to part with the team's top pitching prospects in the past, and by all indications, that continues to be the case, as the Orioles -- who are in first place in the American League East -- know the importance of building from within. They also know how fleeting success can be, and Duquette wants to get something done in the next few days. If the club can't land a starter, there's also the need for bullpen help in the sixth and seventh innings -- preferably left-handed -- and potential offensive upgrades at catcher and second base.
"The way I look at it is we have an opportunity to add to our team and continue our path to the postseason," Duquette said. "So it's a little bit more challenging to add to your team after the first [of August]."
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is an interesting name that figures to command a nice haul, while Twins veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki has been linked to the club in recent days. The O's had interest in Padres outfielder Seth Smith, but his recent contract extension makes the chances of acquiring the lefty pretty slim. There's also the case of how to fit in another left-handed bat on the team's roster with David Lough currently serving as Baltimore's backup center fielder.
Duquette, like most GMs, is waiting for the asking prices to drop as Thursday's Trade Deadline inches nearer. The Orioles have already made a minor move in adding outfielder Jimmy Paredes from the Padres last week -- and sending him to Triple-A -- but they could be poised to add someone to the big league roster in the next few days.
"We've had some active discussions with a lot of clubs, that have been ongoing for the last couple weeks," Duquette said. "We've been maintaing dialogue for a number of things."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.