Former Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette joined Glenn Clark Radio May 18 and talked about why it’s so important for MLB and the MLBPA to strike a deal to return to play in 2020. He also discussed myriad topics related to his time in Baltimore running baseball operations for the Orioles from 2012-2018. Here’s what he had to say …
Trey Mancini, who has become one of the faces of the club’s massive rebuilding project, is undergoing chemotherapy treatments for stage 3 colon cancer and is unlikely to play for the Orioles in 2020 if there is a season. Duquette said it broke his heart to learn Mancini, 28, was battling cancer.
Mancini was drafted by the Orioles in 2013. Duquette explained that former Orioles scout Kirk Fredriksson had known Mancini well because he had recruited him to the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Holyoke Blue Sox in 2011. (Fredriksson was the GM of the Blue Sox at the time.) He later recommended the Orioles draft Mancini, which they did in the eighth round.
“Trey’s a stand-up player. He’s been the face of the organization. He’s been one of the more consistent players on the club. Beyond that, he’s from a great family. I got to know his mom and his dad,” Duquette said. “… I just go out and pray for the guy that he beats this. He’s got a battle ahead of him. He acts like he’s got a muscle pull. His attitude is terrific. I hope that he gets the result that he’s hoping for and the doctors are helping him accomplish.”
The Orioles re-signed first baseman Chris Davis to a seven-year, $161 deal entering his age-30 season after he had hit .256/.342/.533 with 159 home runs for the club from 2012-2015. That stretch included a 53-homer season (2013) and a 47-homer season (2015). Since signing the contract, Davis has hit .198/.294/.385 with 92 home runs. The club will be paying him until 2037 due to deferrals.
“That’s been painful for everybody,” Duquette said. “We had some other options that we could’ve pursed on the market. The ownership thought it was important to sign Chris Davis because he had hit so many home runs. We presented some other options that I thought were more cost-effective, but be that as it may, it’s been painful to watch. That’s a tough one for everybody.”
Since taking over as general manager of the Orioles, one of Mike Elias’ chief tasks has been building up the club’s international program. Baltimore signed 27 free-agent amateurs during the previous international signing period and is preparing to build on that during the upcoming cycle. The Orioles have been connected to Venezuelan shortstop Maikol Hernandez and Dominican catcher Samuel Basallo by Baseball America.
Prior to Elias’ arrival, the Orioles were the least active team in baseball on the international front, but an increased Latin American presence seems to be part of the vision that John and Louis Angelos have put forth for the club since they took on more responsibilities with their father, Peter, in declining health.
Duquette explained that ownership “didn’t allow us to go into that market with any kind of vigor” when he was in charge. Though Baltimore faces some challenges in getting their international program off the ground (prospects agree to deals well before they actually sign them), Duquette is confident the organization can still find quality talent.
“The Orioles are going to have to build up some trust in that international market with the trainers down there because the Orioles weren’t active in that market,” Duquette said. “That’s going to take some time, but I’m going to tell you this: There’s some talent on that market and there’s some talent that can be had not just at the upper echelon of players that you sign but some value-based signings down the line because there’s a lot of hungry ballplayers on the international market that want to be big leaguers. So there’s some talent that can be signed and developed by the Orioles.”
If there is a 2020 season, the Orioles will take the field with plenty of players who were originally acquired by Duquette, including pitcher John Means (2014 draft), outfielders Austin Hays (2016 draft) and Anthony Santander (2016 Rule 5 draft) and designated hitter Renato Nunez (waiver claim in 2018). Duquette also left Elias with some quality pitching prospects, including Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall, Michael Baumann and Dean Kremer.
Even though he’s not involved with the organization any longer, Duquette keeps up with the team from his Cape Cod home.
“I thought we did a pretty good job in player development and leaving the foundation there for them,” Duquette said. “Of course, we started the rebuild by picking up some young talent before we left. What’s happened here has been just really tough. It paints a tough picture for all sports to come back, but yeah, of course I’d love to see the guys do well and perform. I’m really heartened by some of the reports and performances by some of the young pitchers that we picked up. They should do pretty well in the long term to help the Orioles get back into a competitive mode.”
Duquette also left Elias with a solid outfield prospect in Yusniel Diaz, whom Duquette acquired as part of the Manny Machado deal in 2018. Diaz, who hit .265/.341/.464 with 11 home runs across three levels last year, figures to get an opportunity to become a long-term solution in a corner outfield spot in Baltimore at some point. He played for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League this offseason and was poised to start 2020 at Triple-A Norfolk before the shutdown.
Duquette is optimistic about what Diaz’s future holds.
“He’s got some good talent. I think that he needs the top stage to show his talent,” Duquette said. “I went down to the Dominican this winter. I was staying at a hotel as the same winter league team that Diaz was staying at. I saw Diaz, I talked to him. He had his father there from Cuba, and we had breakfast together. I followed him. He’s got really good ability. He’s got power to all fields. He can run, he can throw. He’s a five-tool player. I think it’s just a question of getting him interested. It looks like he gets disinterested if he’s not challenged. That will resolve itself as he moves up.”
To hear more from Duquette, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credits: Kenya Allen/PressBox and William Vaughan/Bowie Baysox