The trade of Manny Machado to the Dodgers will be the first of many for the Orioles, as executive vice president/general manager Dan Duquette told reporters in a conference call Wednesday night that the Orioles are set to embark on a rebuild of both their on-field product and their baseball operations and scouting staffs (links via Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com and Rich Dubroff of Baltimore Baseball.com).
Duquette plainly used the word “rebuild” five times over a 20-minute conference call, Meoli notes — something which he’d previously been reluctant to do. The veteran GM called rebuilding a “grueling process” but also made clear that there’s a consensus among the front office on the need to do so, as well as support from owner Peter Angelos and his sons, John and Lou.
Critically, Duquette acknowledged that the team’s complete lack of a presence in Latin America has served as a roadblock to maintaining a competitive organization and declared that the Orioles will “become more active on the international market and invest in our facilities and strengthen our overall baseball operation.” As Meoli points out, the Orioles are still the only team in all of baseball who’ve yet to sign an international prospect on this year’s market (which opened on July 2), according to Baseball America’s signing tracker. Baltimore’s operational and philosophical changes, though will extend beyond an increased commitment to the international market.
“It’s a multi-dimensional plan,” said Duquette of the Orioles’ rebuild. “You have to do a number of things well to compete in professional sports, but we had identified the areas that we needed to improve in — technology, international scouting facilities, the draft, strengthening our analytics, investing in our international scouting, investing in more front office staff to be more in line with our competitors, expanding our nutrition and wellness resources at every level of the organization.”
Though that presents a clear long-term approach to upgrading that’ll require years to fully implement, there are also a number of pressing issues more immediately facing the Orioles. Namely, the front office has fewer than two weeks to determine who else from the roster they’ll trade prior to the non-waiver trade deadline in an early effort to continue to restock their farm system.
“We’re going to take a look at trading the veteran players…the ones that are nearing free agency,” said Duquette. Certainly, it seems that impending free agents Zach Britton and Brad Brach are virtual locks to be moved. Veteran outfielder Adam Jones is also a candidate, though his 10-and-5 rights grant him the power to veto any trade.
The question beyond that, however, is one of whether the Orioles will undergo a more significant roster overhaul. Starters like Kevin Gausman (controlled through 2020) and Dylan Bundy (through 2021) would almost certainly fetch significant returns on a trade market that currently has a dearth of controllable arms. Setup man Mychal Givens, too, is controlled through 2021, has already drawn some trade interest and would command a notable return in his own right. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop, meanwhile, is only controlled through 2019, though his value is probably down after hitting .229/.263/.389 through the season’s first half.
To be clear, there has yet to be any indication that the Orioles will consider moving talent from that group. But with the O’s unlikely to catch up to teams like the Yankees and Red Sox over the next couple of seasons as they restructure the organization, there’s certainly a case to be made that the Orioles should be looking at moving more than just their impending wave of free agents as they look to return to contention in one of the game’s toughest divisions.
However the Orioles proceed, Duquette, whose contract expires at season’s end, made clear that he hopes to remain on atop the team’s baseball operations stucture:“Like I’ve said before, my heart’s in Baltimore and I’d like to make the Orioles into a top, contending organization again.”