Baseball's free agent market is open for business, and it always starts with the Orioles facing the same question.

Is this the year that they hurl caution to the wind and throw around some real money to get over the top in the American League East?

Manager Buck Showalter pondered that possibility in an interview session on Friday night, and his response probably isn't going to warm the hearts of O's fans who have been fantasizing about Robinson Cano or Jacoby Ellsbury.

"At what price … at the expense of not having [Matt] Wieters or [J.J.] Hardy or [Chris] Davis or [Nick] Markakis?'' he said. "I like our guys. I don't covet a lot of people's players. I don't. It's a lot more fun doing it this way. It may require a little more confidence in the process you have to have. We didn't get where we got overnight. We need to have another good, competitive year. I know where I want it to end."
That would be next year's World Series, of course, but is that realistic barring outside improvement after a season in which the starting rotation suffered from a chronic innings shortage and the homer-happy starting lineup too often was one key single short in a tight game?

Showalter thinks it is, but only after explaining just how much work will be required to solidify the starting rotation, which he hopes will be the secret to next year's success.

"Yeah. How else would I look at it?,'' he said "That's my job. I look at best-case scenarios. Take a look back at St. Louis's starting pitchers this year and what was thought of them last year. The kid that was at [Texas] A&M (Game 6 starter Michael Wacha). What was the other guy who won 15 games? (Shelby Miller). They were sitting at a table talking about them like this last year."

The Orioles are hoping that Kevin Gausman, who was chosen 14 slots ahead of Wacha in the 2012 draft, is ready to pop. They have some ideas about tweaking the repertoire of Wei-Yin Chen. They're very high on left-handed prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, though it would be quite a leap to put him in the major league rotation next season.

Showalter conceded that the rotation could use "a presence," but seemed skeptical that any of the top free agent starters in this year's market would fit that description at a reasonable price.

Back when he was introduced as Orioles manager, Showalter said that he was assured by owner Peter Angelos that when the team was close enough to the mountaintop he would be able to say "Let's go" and the franchise would move aggressively to put the final pieces in place for a World Series run.