The 2012 Baltimore Orioles, with their impossible record in one-run games, an endlessly turned-over roster handled brilliantly by general manager Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter, and a lockdown bullpen that covered up other deficiencies, were supposed to be the start of something new in the Charm City.

The 2013 Baltimore Orioles, who regressed as expected in those one-run games, actually used the exact same number of players as in 2012 (but with far less fanfare) and featured a middle-of-the-road relief corps, reminded the world that trajectory in the American League East is not always linear and takes year-in, year-out supplementing.

Life amid the Bostons and New Yorks and Tampa Bays of the baseball world demands constant action and evolution, and as the Orioles are learning, a great core alone does not guarantee continued glory. Though such a nucleus remains, the Orioles' refusal to come even close to matching their payroll of last season – especially with the influx of cash from a new national TV deal and Camden Yards attendance jumping to its highest point in eight seasons – leaves them vulnerable to an even greater drop-off than last year.

Needs exist for the Orioles, and their cornucopia of itsy-bitsy maneuvers have only inched them in the right direction. Signing Ryan Webb to a two-year deal to shore up their bullpen? Smart. Taking a flier with a 40-man roster spot on Francisco Peguero? Sure. Dealing backup infielder Danny Valencia for backup outfielder David Lough? OK. It's like rubbing Neosporin on a cut, only the Orioles don't have a cut – theirs is a gash that needs stitches.

A number of impactful starting pitchers remain free agents, including Matt Garza, who comes without draft-pick compensation. And yet Baltimore seems compelled to walk into the season with legitimate rotation questions. Kevin Gausman could be the fifth starter, alongside Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris and Wei-Yin Chen, as could Zach Britton, though adding a free agent would show a sense of exigency that decidedly was not there when Baltimore passed on Nelson Cruz to sign Delmon Young to a minor league deal.

It's that lack of urgency, especially from owner Peter Angelos, that makes the Orioles' offseason so frustrating. Trading Jim Johnson to Oakland made sense in a vacuum; a $10 million closer is a luxury. Oakland's approach, though, is that now is its time to win, and when you want to win, you treat yourself to luxuries. Angelos put the kibosh on Johnson's replacement, scuttling an agreed-upon deal for Grant Balfour because of nebulous health concerns and showing once again why so many around the league cast aspersions on Baltimore ownership.