Wearing a black suit and a bright orange tie, Dan Duquette stepped to the podium at the Warehouse, nearly knocked over a bottle of water when he set down his notepad and fiddled with the microphone for a second.
When he finally spoke, he first talked about his Orioles ties and the Oriole Way. He thanked Peter Angelos, who wasn’t in attendance, for the opportunity. He reminisced about pretending he was legendary Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson back when he swung for the lilac bushes while playing Wiffle Ball as a kid.
After introducing himself to a packed house of media members and Orioles employees for about 10 minutes, the franchise’s new executive vice president of baseball operations then began answering tough questions.
Tucked into a barrage of queries about the farm system, his philosophies on scouting both here and abroad, and his history building teams in Montreal and Boston was a request for his take on the free-agent market.
Will the Orioles enter the free-agent sweepstakes for marquee players such as Prince Fielder and C.J. Wilson?
“Everybody wants to look at the established major league player to come in here and help your team,” Duquette said. “When your club is in a position where you can get over the top, where you can get a player that will be a core player for a long period of time, I think that’s the right time to go into the free-agent market. … I don’t know that it’s a terrific use of the club’s resources to go into the free-agent market just to say that I’m out there.”
He didn’t say he had ruled out trying to sign Fielder, the husky slugger who hit 38 homers for the Brewers in 2011, or Wilson, an All-Star lefty previously of the Rangers. But it sure sounds as if the Orioles won’t be factors.
“We will be active in a lot of markets, a lot of talent markets to field competitive and winning teams. We will be active in several of those markets,” he told my Baltimore Sun colleague Dan Connolly. “The major league free-agency market is probably the riskiest one, right? I’m much more comfortable operating with less risk.”
My apologies in advance if you already ordered that authentic XXXXL-sized Prince Fielder Orioles jersey.
Though he didn’t go into great detail, Duquette spoke at great length about the need to improve the scouting system, specifically when it comes to mining for international gold. He said the issue in that regard isn’t how much money the Orioles have to spend; it’s how they spend it. And Duquette also talked about the importance of player development. His toughest task might be getting everyone in that front office on the same page.
But after nearly a decade out of the majors, he is ready to take on the mess that is your Baltimore Orioles.
“This challenge is the kind of challenge that I look for,” Duquette said. “I’m a builder.”
So that means he isn’t likely to be a buyer, at least not this offseason.