With just more than five weeks to go before pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota, Fla., for spring training, the question remains whether the Orioles will improve their starting rotation, which was the club’s biggest weakness in 2013.

There are still plenty of starting pitchers available, including some of the highest-profile ones: Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, among others. The pitching market seemingly has been held hostage by the Tanaka situation, which should be resolved by Jan. 24, when his negotiation period ends. It’s pretty obvious that teams have been reluctant to sign big-money starters with Tanaka still on the board. That should be cleared up soon.
Here’s a quick look at some of the available starters and which ones are possible fits with the Orioles.

Tanaka: The 25-year-old right-hander from Japan’s Rakuten Golden Eagles is the biggest prize left on the free-agent market, no matter the position. And he won’t be coming to Baltimore. The Orioles, who have never given a contract beyond three years to any free-agent pitcher, know the price tag for Tanaka will be exorbitant and the contract lengthy. Therefore, executive vice president Dan Duquette said early this offseason that the Orioles wouldn’t be putting up the refundable $20 million posting fee to talk to Tanaka.

Garza, Jimenez and Santana: All are expected to get deals beyond three years, putting them out of the Orioles’ comfort zone. Plus, signing Jimenez and Santana would cost the Orioles their 2014 first-round draft pick. Duquette has said that he would consider forfeiting the draft pick for the right player, but it’s highly unlikely he would do that while also giving a contract of four years or more to a pitcher. Bottom line: forget about these guys unless their stocks’ plummet and one can be snagged at three years or fewer.