Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette held an interesting discussion on 105.7 The Fan today, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com documents. Pitching is, of course, still the key to the winter. Duquette talked about his desire to add at least one lefty to the rotation. He also indicated a need to be “resourceful” in adding arms. There’s plenty more to unpack from the interview and it’s well worth reading through the full story. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Broadly, Duquette suggested there isn’t much appetite in the organization to embark upon a rebuild. “We still have a pretty good core group,” he said. “And I’ve got to tell you, that rebuilding, that’s not very much fun.” Duquette did credit other organizations for making good choices when they did undergo a full teardown, but said he’d rather deal with the challenges of remaining competitive year-in, year-out. “[F]rankly, I’d just as soon draft late and have a good ballclub and do as good as we can with the players that we have,” said Duquette. Many outside observers have suggested it’s time for the Orioles to think about prioritizing the future, particularly with a few key players entering their walk years. But the club is heavily invested in a few big names for the future — Chris Davis, in particular — and understandably is hesitant to give up a chance at putting together a competitive roster now even if it means foregoing an opportunity to gather up significant prospects. And it’s fair to note that a mid-season pivot is always a fallback possibility.
- One major element of the team’s long-term plans, of course, is star third baseman Manny Machado, who’s set to reach the open market at the end of the 2018 season. Duquette says that the O’s have to decide “this offseason” whether Machado is “going to be a long-term fixture in [the team’s] lineup.” Of course, even if the team decides to make a real effort at striking a big new contract, they’ll face an uphill battle to convince Machado to sign on for a palatable rate. The 25-year-old was not at his best in 2017, but still managed to hit more than thirty home runs for the third-straight season and is widely viewed as one of the game’s most talented overall players. Machado certainly does not need to give up his shot at the open market to secure significant earnings; he played for $11.5MM last year and MLBTR projects that he’ll cost $17.3MM through arbitration for the season to come.
- Closer Zach Britton was understandably a key topic of conversation, as his trade availability has arisen early in the offseason after the O’s explored talks over the summer. Duquette says he thinks it’s likely that Britton will remain with the organization to open the 2018 campaign, though he said “there’s a lot of interest in him” and acknowledged that the organization “was looking at some options around the trade deadline” involving Britton. All said, the take-away seems to be that Baltimore remains willing to discuss its star reliever but also isn’t exactly aching to move him. The central issues for the Orioles, with regard to Britton, seems to be resource allocation and risk. If he can return to his 2016 levels of dominance, he’d be a screaming bargain at his projected arb salary of $12.2MM. But his contract rights could be turned into other useful assets and his payroll space allocated to other areas of need. And it’s at least arguable that other organizations are better equipped to take on the uncertainty that arose during Britton’s injury-limited, less-than-stellar 2017 campaign.
- There was some chatter yesterday that the Orioles could be looking into a long-term deal with second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who had a big 2017 campaign. But even as he cited one source that indicated contract talks had begun, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi shortly thereafter cited another to deny that “anything of substance” had yet occurred (Twitter links). Duquette further downplayed that idea, at least in the near term. While he credited Schoop and said the team would “love to have him for the best part of his career,” Duquette also said that a long-term deal is “a conversation for another day.” Of course, many extension talks occur during Spring Training, and this could still be a matter to be revisited, but it certainly sounds as if there are no immediate plans for a push. Schoop is yet another player who is about to receive a big arb payout — we project him at $9.1MM — which reduces the team’s leverage with two seasons to go until Schoop qualifies for free agency.