Schmuck: Once again, the Orioles rule the Rule 5 draft

Well, there’s one thing you can say about Orioles baseball operations chief Dan Duquette on the final day of the winter meetings: He never comes home empty-handed.

The Orioles drafted three players in the major league phase of Wednesday’s Rule 5 draft and picked up another minor league pitcher to flesh out their 40-man roster.

They were the only team to choose three players and Duquette took two of them from the New York Yankees, undoubtedly hopeful that the depth of the Yankees’ minor league system is as good as advertised.

There’s nothing wrong with grazing the rosters of other teams. The Rule 5 draft is intended to assure that organizations don’t hoard prospects that might be ready to play in the big leagues, and the Orioles have given several players that opportunity during the Duquette/Buck Showalter era.

The draft was not, however, intended to be a cure for poor player development or an inability to acquire quality players through significant trades or free agency, but there are going to be a lot of fans who will view this one through that prism.

Duquette went to Florida and shopped superstar Manny Machado because the Orioles seriously doubt their ability to re-sign him, then picked up a few more players on the cheap on his way out of town.

He has had some success doing that in the past. T.J. McFarland was a serviceable long reliever for several seasons and Ryan Flaherty was a pretty good utility guy on some pretty good Orioles teams.

But in the wake of the first losing season of Duquette’s tenure, the Orioles need to do a lot more than that unless they want to throw off all pretense and settle into a rebuilding period. The Yankees already have pulled further ahead of the Orioles and the Boston Red Sox aren’t going to stand pat after winning the the division last season.

The $350 million question right now is whether Duquette will go through with a Machado deal that might actually upgrade the pitching staff at the expense of the infield defense and a big chunk of production at the plate.

If so, the Orioles might have a chance to remain competitive in 2018 if they use a fraction of the money they won’t have to spend on Machado to sign or acquire a productive, dependable third baseman to take his place.

Enough money came off the payroll at the end of last season to do that without busting the budget or precluding an attempt to sign Jonathan Schoop to an extension before he gets much closer to free agency.

Right now, all Orioles fans have gotten for Christmas is the consolation of knowing that their team leads the major leagues in Rule 5 draftees.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

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