So many ways to finish no higher than 3rd next year, as the Baltimore Sun’s Roch Kubatko surveys the scene.

Pitcher Carl Pavano and his representative, Scott Shapiro, will fly into Baltimore the night of Dec. 5 and meet the following day with Flanagan and executive vice president Jim Beattie. Shapiro is hopeful that his client also will be introduced to majority owner Peter Angelos and pitching coach Ray Miller. The crab cakes can wait.

Pavano will be the first free agent to visit the Orioles, but he has already stopped in Boston and also is scheduled to meet officials from the Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners and Anaheim Angels.

Not much has changed for the Orioles since they left the general managers’ meetings last month in Key Biscayne, Fla. They still want to add at least one front-line starter, with Brad Radke, Derek Lowe and Eric Milton also on their radar. They still want a first baseman, and regard Carlos Delgado, Richie Sexson and Troy Glaus as possibilities — though Glaus wants to stay at third base. They are sorting through their options in center and right field, which keeps Carlos Beltran and Magglio Ordonez in play.

Presented with these names over the weekend, Flanagan said: “Those haven’t changed. They have not been eliminated — by them or by us.”

Former Oriole Steve Finley, 39, would be a solution in center field, though shorter-term than Beltran, and the two sides have talked.

It’s believed that Finley will command a two-year deal with an annual salary exceeding the $6.75 million he earned last season. The Tigers have been aggressively pursuing him, but an Orioles source said, “He’s not a major player for us right now. They touched base with us and we haven’t eliminated anything, but it hasn’t gone any further than that.”

Like many teams, the Orioles appear to be keeping Finley on the back burner until determining whether they can sign Beltran, who most likely will string along teams for most of the winter. The Orioles don’t want to wait too long and lose out on other players, and Finley eventually should be in hot demand.

The Orioles need bullpen help after Jason Grimsley underwent ligament-replacement surgery on his right elbow. They’re still deciding whether to add a closer and return B.J. Ryan (above) to a setup role.

They never inquired about free agent Troy Percival, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Tigers, and aren’t expected to bid for former Oriole Armando Benitez because of the expected cost, which soared after he posted 47 saves and a 1.29 ERA with the Florida Marlins last season.

One team official described Benitez as “a long shot.”

In any event, you can count on the Orioles to sign their 3rd or 4th choice in most instances, either that or grossly overpay for the guy they really wanted.