NEW YORK — In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette repeatedly said the club would do everything it could to remain in contention this season.
So the Orioles’ decision to allow the 4 p.m. deadline to come and go without making a deal was a surprising non-move.
Duquette admitted he would have liked to have made a trade or two before the deadline, and he was active in trying to do so until the end. According to several sources, Duquette and the Orioles checked on just about every available pitcher and hitter on the market.
At various points during the past two days, it looked as if the Orioles were close to acquiring Philadelphia Phillies right hander Joe Blanton.
But Duquette was unwilling to mortgage any part of the Orioles’ future for a two-month loaner he wasn’t certain would help the team reach the postseason for the first time in 15 years.
“The opportunities we looked at had a cost,” Duquette said by conference call Tuesday . “And I wasn't convinced that they [were] a lot better than the people we had in the organization and, hence, we weren't able to make some of the deals we had on the table. There will be some other opportunities in the month of August.”
For the next month, players on 40-man rosters can be dealt if they clear trade waivers. Most players are put on trade waivers — even All-Stars such as Matt Wieters and Adam Jones — and teams are allowed to pull each player back once if he is claimed by another club.
Often times players like Blanton, pending free agents on losing teams with sizable salaries, get through waivers. Or they get claimed and the waiving teams let them go, leaving the claiming club responsible for those players’ remaining salaries.
The Orioles initially balked at sending a player to Philadelphia while simultaneously absorbing roughly $3 million — the remaining amount of Blanton’s $8.5 million salary. The sides resumed negotiations Tuesday, with the Orioles more willing to eat a portion of the contract, but an agreement was never reached.
“I thought we might be able to get something done today,” Duquette said. “You know, at this time of team of year, it's cost of talent, and you know, cost of adding salaries to your roster. Those are the two costs. We had resources set aside on both ends, you know, players that we could trade and money that we could add. You know, it didn't work.”
Instead of adding the 31-year-old Blanton, who is 8-9 with a 4.59 ERA in 21 games this year and is 81-71 with a 4.35 ERA in a nine-season career, the Orioles will stick with their current inexperienced rotation: 26-year-old Tommy Hunter, rookies Wei-Yin Chen, 27, and Miguel Gonzalez, 28, and a pair of 24-year-olds, Chris Tillman and Zach Britton.
Right hander Jason Hammel, an offseason acquisition who has emerged as the staff ace, will soon resume baseball activities after arthroscopic right knee surgery and has a timetable for a September return. Also, they hope demoted starters Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz will be able to contribute down the stretch.
“I think we have significant solutions to some of our issues here already in the organization,” Duquette said. “My experience is that you need to recognize that. Some teams like some of our young pitching, you know. Our job now is to get that young pitching to the point where they can pitch productively for us in Baltimore.”
The Orioles have traded for a few key pieces. They traded for future Hall of Famer Jim Thome in Jne, but the 41-year-old veteran landed on the disabled list before Tuesday’s game with a herniated disk. The O’s also acquired infielder Omar Quintanilla from the Mets for cash after Brian Roberts and Robert Andino went down with injuries.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the club’s inactivity Tuesday should send the message to the club and fans that the front office believes the O’s already have the pieces to win now.
“They should take it that way,” Showalter said. “What other way is there to look at it? Somebody was asking me, talking about the wild card last night and that game and what impact. I said ‘We’re trying to catch the Yankees.’ … The biggest thing clubs can do is know their own, know thy self.”
Duquette, whose philosophy this year has included stockpiling player inventory at a dizzying rate, also acknowledged that he may be able to make a move through waivers.
“There will be other opportunities to add to the team,” Duquette said. “We've been adding to the team steadily as the season has come on. We would have liked to have done a deal or two today, but I don't think we're done adding to the team.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article.