David Samson, who was the president of the Marlins from 2002-2017, joined Glenn Clark Radio May 27 to discuss the Orioles’ rebuild and whether the club should trade Trey Mancini or John Means. Samson is now an analyst for CBS Sports and can be heard on his podcast, “Nothing Personal with David Samson.”
PressBox: It has been an unbelievably difficult stretch for an Orioles team that is now in Season Three of a rebuild. Is it safe to say, “Stay the course, don’t panic. When you do something like this, you’re going to have to keep taking lumps for a while?”
David Samson: I think that there’s plenty of time to panic and it may be almost time because the question you have to ask yourself is, “Are the people doing the rebuild in your particular city, do they know what they’re doing, and is the owner willing to let them do what they’re doing if they do know what they’re doing in the first place?” Those are the questions you should be asking yourself.
PB: Do you have questions when it comes to Mike Elias in particular about whether or not he knows what he’s doing?
DS: Rebuilding became cool when teams like the Astros did it, when the Cubs did it, and it resulted in a World Series for each of them, but it’s a copycat league. Many, many teams have tried to rebuild and have ended up rebuilding into mediocrity or have ended up rebuilding into a point where they didn’t know they were done with the rebuild and they start to rebuild again. And I would know because I ran a team for 18 years and we were perpetually rebuilding, building it up and then tearing it down and building it up. We didn’t let the windows go long enough because we didn’t have the patience to do it. And even if we had had the patience, I’m not sure whether we were smart enough to let the baseball people choose the players and put the money in the right place and get the right players. You have to ask yourself with the Angelos ownership and the way it’s operated, will they be able to let this play out? You’re going to know here shortly because you’ve got to start seeing some progress and right now you’re just not seeing it.
PB: What’s the time frame for that? How long into this thing before you say, “There needs to be something that can be seen, specifically at the major-league level?”
DS: I love that you asked that because most people don’t ask that because they just hear what the GM or the president or what the owner says. “Hey, it’s going to be two to four years or three to five years.” There is no such thing as a rebuild timeline because if you get better players in trades than people predicted, then you can start winning at the major-league level sooner. If your draft picks are better than other teams, then you can start winning at the major-league level sooner. If your coaching staff, if your manager, if all those things are better than your competitors, then you win sooner. The longer the rebuild, then that means the worse job you’ve done at rebuilding. But everyone who’s in the later stages of a rebuild will tell, “It’s normal, it’s fine, we’re ready to start now,” because that’s what you have to say when you build losing season upon losing season upon losing season.
PB: I’ve been the type to not tell you it’s good or acceptable, but this is kind of what I expected. I think they were behind the eight ball with how things got started before this regime arrived. But it sounds like maybe we shouldn’t be as willing to give a pass, that we should be demanding more?
DS: No, I think you’re misreading a little bit because I’m not going to blame a GM or an owner or a manager. I like Brandon Hyde very well. I like the Angelos sons fine. I’m not blaming them. I think what I’m saying is the lines that the fan base is fed — and I know these because I’ve done it — are totally disingenuous. They’re meant in order to keep people having faith and hope and buying tickets. And all I’m saying is that you shouldn’t take it at face value that this team is toward the end of a rebuild because there may not be an end. There may not be a time when they’re willing to invest on the major-league side or that they’ve invested properly on the minor-league side. They may get a good player here or there, but I just don’t want you to get snookered into thinking that whatever is happening is part of this big plan.
PB: Trey Mancini is beloved in this city and just went through a hell of a fight. There is an argument that at this point you should still just be trading away everything versus going to the ballpark and seeing a player you like and want to root for. How do you handle that personal side when you’re making baseball decisions?
DS: You have to be very careful not to get emotional about players, and the Trey Mancini story is such a great story, but when you are looking at maximizing your assets in order to improve your team, you can’t let any human interest stories be a part of your function or a factor at all. You have to look at what teams are looking for at the deadline versus what they’re looking for during the offseason. I would tell you that pitchers are worth a lot more during the deadline than position players, and position players are worth a lot more in the offseason versus pitchers. [Baltimore] has to look at every single player on their roster. They have to say, “When is the best time to trade that player?” … There’s no reason to trade him now, but there certainly would be a reason to trade him during the offseason if he can show health and he can continue to perform because the odds are you’re going to get more for him as GMs and owners and presidents are sitting in their offseason meetings trying to create a lineup.
PB: John Means looks like he might be the best asset the Orioles have. There are still three more years of team control with Means, and at times this year he’s pitched as well as Jacob deGrom numbers-wise. Shouldn’t this be what you’re looking for in a rebuild? Shouldn’t you be trying to find a John Means during the course of rebuild? But are you going to extend this guy? Are you going to end up spending the money in three years? Or are you going to end up doing the same thing that happened with Manny Machado — not win and then have a guy walk away without getting anything for him?
DS: If you have good scouts and you’ve got someone like Means, this is when you move him because teams who are trying to win — just even take a look at the Yankees. With a deep farm system, they could give up quite a lot to get a performing starting pitcher to help them in October, especially if [Corey] Kluber’s hurt, if [Luis] Severino doesn’t come back. There’s all sorts of things that could easily happen. If you’re running a team, what you’re looking at are your assets. It sounds cold, but the way we looked at players, they’re assets, and you have to maximize your assets. I didn’t do a good enough job of that because we traded players one year too late versus one year too early.
Tampa’s an example. You’re competing with a team in your division who is the best in the business at trading players a year too early and not holding on to them — not picking up an option when they don’t need to and cycling more players through and they keep on winning. Which is why I say, “How come Tampa doesn’t ever have to rebuild?” They have a smaller payroll than anybody and they win all the time. That means they’re doing something differently than the Orioles are doing, different than what the Marlins did under me or what they’re doing now. So it can be done, but when you’re not doing it as an executive, you have to have a story for your fans and for your sponsors, and that story is, “Hey, we’re in Year Two of a four-year rebuild or Year Three of a five-year rebuild, so hang in there.”
For more from Samson, listen to the full interview here:
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