Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said Monday evening that the club has met with numerous teams and agents at this week’s general manager meetings to lay the groundwork for any trade talk or possible signings in the coming weeks.
“There’s a lot of moving parts now so there’s a lot of opportunity,” Duquette said. “Our staff has worked hard to identify players who can help the club and hopefully we can sign a few and we should be able to identify which ones we match up with other clubs with potential trades.”
Duquette said more meetings will continue Tuesday and Wednesday. He’s brought one of his most trusted lieutenants, special assistant Lee Thomas, to help him.
Monday’s deadline for free agents to accept qualifying offers from their former teams came and went. And all 13 players declined the $14.1-million qualifying offer for 2014. Now teams that sign those players will have to give their former teams with a compensatory draft pick for next season.
Duquette said Monday that won’t stop the Orioles from pursuing those free agents. While the Orioles are determined to sustain success through player development, a free agent who could help the O’s remain competitive might now be worth losing a pick.
Hearing Duquette talk, he believes the Orioles aren’t far away from competing for a World Series, and he will treat free agents – both those who could require a draft pick or not – on a case-by-case basis.
“We’re going to look at every opportunity to improve the club,” Duquette said. “We know who we are in Baltimore. We’re a hard-working ballclub and I think the fans respect that. I think we added to the luster of our ballclub as a top defensive team by the way our guys were recognized at the Gold Glove awards. The fact that Manny [Machado] took the top defender award gives us a lot of pride.”
-- In hiring Braves special assistant Dom Chiti as their new bullpen coach, the club added someone who is not only familiar with 'The Oriole Way,' but has used it as the foundation for a coaching career that spans three decades.
Chiti spent his final season as a player pitching for the Orioles’ Class-A affliate Hagerstown Suns in 1981. He retired after that season and was hired by former Orioles longtime player development director Tom Giordano to become a minor league pitching coach for the rookie-level Appalachian League Bluefield Orioles in 1982.
He said he learned immensely from Giordano, who was farm director for the Orioles from 1976 to 1987 and developed the home-grown pieces of the 1983 World Series championship team, and Ken Rowe, a former roving pitching coordinator who later became the O’s big-league pitching coach in the mid-‘80s.
“I can only say this,” Chiti said. “When people talk about the days of Cal Ripken, Sr. and Elrod Hendricks and Jimmy Williams and Ralph Rowe and Earl Weaver, I was a young coach in those days. The Baltimore tradition, 'The Oriole Way,' I was there as a young coach to see all of that first hand. And that’s important.”
He spent nine years working in the Orioles system as a pitching coach and roving pitching instructor before moving on to the Indians, where he worked under two under men with Orioles tied: Hank Peters and John Hart.
-- Orioles manager Buck Showalter will be in Daytona Beach, where he will be inducted into the Florida State League Hall of Fame, on Tuesday.
Showalter began his playing career playing in the Florida State League for the Fort Lauderdale Yankees. He hit .362/.458/.429 in 58 games in his first pro season. He had greater success when he returned to Fort Lauderdale as the club’s manager, going 153-118 in two seasons in 1987 and ’88 before he was promoted to Double-A. Showalter’s 1987 team was 85-53.
Other inductees include Mets third baseman David Wright and Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
Duquette plans to attend the induction ceremony on Tuesday and then return for the final day of the GM meetings on Wednesday.